Increase Self-awareness with Reflection and Self-observation

Increase Self-awareness with Reflection and Self-observation

Two key tools for growing awareness and shifting perspective are reflection and self-observation. Here we consider how these tools can help you look beyond surface behaviour and events to what lies beneath encompassing your thoughts, emotions and physical reactions.

Observation is noticing without judgement.

Reflection is looking in the mirror and really noticing what’s there.

In observing and reflecting we are not talking about correcting… but rather simply about noticing.

For awareness to grow it is enough to notice.

Based on what you notice, you may then choose to take action.

Journaling – A Simple Reflection Practice

Journaling is a simple and very effective reflection practice. Journaling can be used for specific practices such as gratitude or food journals and it can be used to empty your mind when you find your thoughts churning or simply to track your progress.

  1. For the next two weeks, make an agreement with yourself to pause at the start or the end of your day and use your journal to reflect on:
  • What’s happened
  • Your thoughts and feelings about what’s happened.146
  • Your mood
  • How you feel in your body 
  1. At the end of each week – review the week’s entries. What do you notice?

As part of your reflection allow yourself to let go of any self-judgement and simply notice.

Want to explore further?

Consider morning pages – a practice from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.

How to use Self-Observation

Unlike reflection, self-observation happens in the moment. Moving from reflection to self-observation helps you start catching yourself in the act. Remember that this is still without judgement.

325To begin observing yourself take a moment to imagine that you split yourself in two. One part of you is the active part – going about life as you normally do. The other part observes, like a camera recording what it sees.

This camera records not only what is visible but also thoughts, emotions and physical reactions that may not be visible on the surface.

Notice that the camera does not have any judgement about what it records. It just records the information ready for play-back at a later stage.

This is not about modifying your behaviour for the camera – if you notice yourself doing this just record that too.


Make an agreement with yourself to stop, once or twice a day (perhaps at lunch time and in the evening when you get home.) Take 5 minutes to reflect on what you observed and write these observations down.

Consider what happened, how you felt about it, where your thoughts took you and any physical reactions (for example perhaps you noticed that you stopped breathing, broke out in a sweat or suddenly felt very tired.)

What do you notice?

Reflection and self-observation are both powerful tools for growing awareness. Once you’ve looked beyond the surface behaviour and events to what lies below you’ll be in a better position to take action and make the shifts you desire.

If you’re having any difficulties with these practices consider what might be missing in making them effective.


What are your thoughts?