Reflection is important.
That sounds so ridiculously obvious, I’m sure.
In fact, probably a lot of what I’m about to say is obvious, but it hasn’t always been for me.
There is a right way and a wrong way to deal with self reflection. For most of my life I did it the wrong way.
As long as I can remember, I have always been hyper aware of my “self”. I don’t believe I’ve ever been too egotistical, narcissistic, or overly confident or anything, but I’m always reflecting on myself. That being said, I’m sure there are some people out there that would ascribe some of these attributes to me. Perhaps rightfully so based on my interactions with them, but I know deep down they are mostly untrue. If I had shown any of these characteristics it was surely out of insecurity or an attempt to hide my flaws. I’m confident making that claim, as most of my awareness has been hyper focused on the negative attributes of myself and almost zero directed towards the positive.
For most of my life, guilt has been my most treasured annoyance. I have written about it here excessively, so I won’t go into too much detail, but the debilitating nature of my guilt held me back from some pretty amazing things: Relationships, career opportunities, everyday life, etc.
I was constantly aware of my past sins and unable to forgive myself. There was a running tab of all the horrible shit I had done playing through my head 24/7 -weighing me down each and every day.
Want an example?
In second grade I scammed a fourth grader named Tyson out of a foil Blastoise Pokemon card by convincing him that the less evolved squirtle was “cuter” and therefore more valuable to him. I knew the monetary value of both cards as I had a magazine that listed the current trading prices and he did not. If you know anything about pokemon cards, you know just how maniacal I had acted. He didn’t know that a Squirtle was one of the most common cards (non valuable) and that the foiled Blastoise was deemed a “rare” card (valuable). I took advantage of his ignorance and have felt guilty ever since.
I use that as a pretty “cute” example of my guilt, but it’s not when I think about it. It’s a perfect example of how unhealthy my guilt had become. I carried that with me my entire life. In high school, Tyson’s mother passed away and my immediate reaction was immense guilt over a Pokemon card. As illogical and ridiculous as it is, I couldn’t stop thinking, “Oh no, I screwed him over a Blastoise and his mom died.” I know these are unrelated and would never ever register as comparable, but that was my honest reaction. I held onto my sleight against him without ever rectifying the situation allowing my guilt to build and build.
I have struggled with depression most of my waking life and a big part of that was feeling guilty about things I had done. I never once thought of a happy memory. I just associated my past with the negatives and would solely focus on those experiences. I would get so down on myself for my past behavior, that I wouldn’t exist in the moment. Because I was too busy wallowing in the past I failed to make corrections in the present which naturally doomed the future. I was aware at how the circle perpetuated itself, yet I couldn’t seem to forgive myself enough to change it.
I have since made some enormous changes in my life, my attitude, and my relationship with the past. In talking with so many patient people in my life, I was able to get to a point where I could start forgiving myself a little bit. I still hold on to a lot of things, but I hold onto them because I’m not done with them yet. If I look back at something I don’t like, I make sure I don’t repeat those behaviors in the future. I actively strive to become better as a friend, brother, significant other, and person alive in this day and age. The things I still hold onto, I haven’t figured out a way to adjust, but I’m confident I will.
I am still hyper aware of my flaws and shortcomings, but I promise I’m working on them. I’m not sure I’ll ever be “done” becoming the person I think I should be, but I enjoy that thought. Who I am right now is a much better person than I was just one year ago. I hope that I look back in a year and acknowledge the strides I’ve made this coming year, but recognize some more of the things I’m still holding onto.
I think I may finally be to a point where I’ve got this whole self reflection thing down to a healthy and manageable way.
Reflect on past behaviors/situations.
Identify what is immoral, unwanted, or cringeworthy.
Accept that it was me.
Either make amends, or forgive myself.
Make adjustments immediately.
Be aware of the adjustments and practice them until it’s my nature.
Move forward a better human.