Is it seriously December already? How did that even happen?
Quite a bit happened in 2017. The United States inaugurated a new president. We experienced a full solar eclipse. The world went through more natural disasters than we could keep up with – hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey; earthquakes; mudslides; monsoons; wildfires and more. Voices of the marginalized and their allies took up megaphones to advocate for equal rights: #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, #WomensMarch, #WeJustNeedToPee, #TakeAKnee, #Dreamers, and more. The list is greater than I can even scratch the surface with here.
In the midst of all the events happening nationally and in the world this year it can sometimes be difficult to see through the fog of the news cycle to reflect on our own lives. Because of this I felt it was important to write about how to self-reflect well.
Staying positive while self-reflecting.
It’s often tempting to focus on the negative while reflecting on our past. We like to notice the ways we fall short rather than celebrating the good and the bad together. Here are a few strategies to help you stay healthy and positive while you self-reflect:
Identify what inner voices are getting air time.
All of us have several tracks playing in our mind in constant conversation with each other. The movie Insight Out portrays this inner dialogue well. We usually have two or three internal voices that get the most air time in our brains. It’s important to notice those voices and to get to know each of them individually.
Identify your inner critic.
We all have one. Our inner critic is a valuable asset, offering constructive feedback and stopping us from making harmful or unhealthy choices. However, if left unchecked the inner critic can steal the megaphone of our minds and can drag us down. Get to know what your inner critic sounds like so you know when it “has the floor” of your internal dialogue.
Foster healthy internal dialogue.
Sometimes our internal dialogue can be chaotic, with different parts of ourselves shoving each other out of the way or getting trampled over like a bad episode of The Real Housewives. To help your inner voices dialogue well, it’s often helpful to write down your internal dialogue allowing each voice to take a turn. I suggest writing the name of who’s speaking first and then write that voice’s dialogue from a first person perspective – think like how the script of a play would read. Make sure all of your internal voices are getting equal amounts of airtime. It can feel a bit clunky and uncomfortable at first, but you may be surprised at how clarifying even a brief conversation on paper can be.
What to do with all these reflections?
As you take some space to do this exercise you may find that there are good things to reflect on as well as difficult experiences and possible areas for growth. You may be helped by taking some space to grieve some of the parts of 2017 that haven’t gone well before trying to prematurely jump into a “bubbly” mindset.
I wrote about grieving in my post Good Grief…Preparing for the Holidays, which you may find helpful to begin this process. You may also find some lament-focused advent reflections helpful at this time of year. Amena Brown and Ann Voskamprecorded a wonderful spoken word piece in 2014 titled Advent Lament, Brave Merry Christmas that you may also find helpful. Feel free to watch it here:
It’s only when we allow ourselves to grieve our losses and our pain that we can be freed to celebrate the wins, gifts, and joys of life. I hope you can find a clearing from the fog to take space and experience gratitude.
Dr. Marie’s 2017 reflections
Lastly, amidst my own reflections of 2017 I’m grateful for the opportunity to move into my San Jose practice full-time, while experiencing bittersweet feelings as I say farewell to my San Francisco location, where I’ve worked at San Francisco Christian Psychotherapy Services for the past 5+ years. I will miss my wonderful workplace environment, including my clients, colleagues, and the peaceful calm the office space provides.
Whatever may have transpired in your life for 2017, I wish you well as the year comes to a close.