Self Reflection is not Simple
I walked past it.
But the corner of my eye caught it. ‘Mm,’ I murmured. So I took a few steps back and looked really well. ‘Damn! I look good today,’ I said as I stared into the mirror and fondled my beards.
You’ve caught yourself lost in thought in front of a mirror before.
I’ve not had a haircut in about a month and a half because of the then-lockdown (maybe that’s just an excuse) but damn, I still look good.
It wasn’t long before I was gone.
Yes, I was still standing there but my thoughts had gravitated towards some distant past experience. I just stood there for how long now? I don’t know but I’m sure I wasn’t thinking about my beards anymore.
I was gone…
Every time I look in the mirror, I always end up reflecting. Of course, the mirror is reflecting my image but that’s not what I’m talking about.
I always end up reflecting on something from my past in the mirror. And this isn’t just me. You’ve caught yourself (more than once) lost in thought in front of a mirror.
There’s just something fascinating about looking back at yourself. Especially undressed. It takes a lot of willpower, at least from me, to ignore looking at my reflection.
When you walk past that building made of glass, you look. When you walk past that car packed on the street, you look. When you bend down to take water from a stream, you look.
Ok, maybe scratch that last part about taking water from a stream; that rarely happens these days.
My point is, it feels almost natural to look at your reflection — It’s instinctive.
But if it is that instinctive, why don’t we actively reflect on ourselves often?
This question bothered me for a while.
Could it be because when we are reflecting on something, there’s usually no reflective surface?
I mean, the mirror, gives you no other option than to focus on just yourself, but in the absence of it, where’s the imposing force?
Right? What makes you want to reflect? What makes you want to think?
When we are reflecting, we are bouncing off information between two states of self — our self and the reflected image — without a physical mirror and that can be hard to keep up with.
But don’t be fooled. There’s a mirror. And it’s your mind.
Your mind is that reflective surface.
In fact, the reflection you get is dependent on the texture of your mind — the reflective surface. Because, if it is rough and unrefined, it scatters reflection. What that means is you get no clear image.
If the surface is non-reflective, it absorbs most of the wave energy (light, sound, etc., which in this context is your thoughts) that falls on it and doesn’t reflect anything significant.
Again, no clear image.
With that, I highlight three clear reflections of my own:
1. The quality of your reflection is largely dependent on the state of your mind.
Harvard Business Review surveyed and interviewed over 740 leaders around the world and found that calm, happy and energized states of mind are the three states that drive the greatest levels of effectiveness and performance amongst them.
Self-evident, huh? But how conscious are you? How happy are you? How involved does your response sound? Were you even listening to yourself? Were you listening to the person talking?
All these states of mind together with the things you know, the things you don’t know, and how you pose questions and answers to yourself matters.
I’ll give you an example.
One cold Saturday morning, my siblings and I were having one of our random chitchats. You know how chitchats go — from one topic to a seemingly unrelated one, then some silence that nobody really feels awkward about, then another uproar of ideas and the cycle repeats itself. When it seemed as if we had come to a natural end of the session, one of my sisters did something that completely blew me away:
She retraced our conversation to the very beginning.
She highlighted the connection between almost every jump we made between topics. We were talking about the Afrofusion star, Burna boy then somehow we switched to talking about visas and then switched again to how Nigerian celebrities try to ensure their children have foreign citizenship.
Have you tried retracing conversations before? That thing requires you to be very present and involved. But of course, anybody can retrace conversations. The thing is none of us even thought of that.
It’s not even in the retracing, it’s how well she brought our attention to the jumps from topic to topic. That kind of reflection and level of detail is a function of your state of mind.
It definitely has an impact on the outcome of your thoughts.
2. You are yourself (of course), your mind is the mirror, and you’re also the reflected image.
Yes. I said what I said. All three of them belong to you.
I’m no psychologist or doctor, but hey, your mind is that bridge that helps you interface between yourself and any state of self you are currently exploring.
Do you dream of being something in a few years? Your mind is there to help you imagine away.
You think back to how you messed things up in the past so you can learn from it? Your mind is there to help you dig into that memory too.
That weird mirror we carry around is a useful tool.
To buttress on the health-state of your mind, doesn’t it make sense to take care of it?
Doesn’t it make sense for it to be as healthy and strong as possible?
For without your mind working in optimal condition, the output you’ll get — what you think of yourself, and what you think of other people — might be distorted.
3. Self Reflection is not a simple thing.
This is why most people would rather sleep than think.
Don’t get me wrong. Sleeping is healthy. I sleep a lot and I don’t ultra-monitor how well I sleep. If I feel sleepy, I find the time to sleep.
But taking the time to think clearly about things is not a simple thing. It needs an effort from you. It requires concentration. It requires deep focus.
The process mostly helps you notice those parts of you you’ve not explored. They were there; you just didn’t see them well or hone them yet.
And you know, the bigger the reward from any exercise, the higher the difficulty level.
Thinking in front of a mirror could help. I find it easier to at least get myself to start to think in front of it. It can get distracting after a few minutes but the deed has been done — I’m already thinking.
So, I just discard the mirror.
…and that’s it from me today.