The Power of Self-Reflection

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JeriAsaroBy Jeri Asaro

[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]A[/dropcap]s the wise, old owl of this group of feminist writers and having lived 60 years, I have watched the world change dramatically since I was in my early 20s. I, fortunately, learned the importance of adjusting with the times. I take pride in understanding my role in society as I see it, and work hard to keep myself relevant in a world where relevancy changes in a flash (and I don't mean a hot flash).

This effort is a conscious one. I make a point to think about it, and take action accordingly. That process means I take the time to self-reflect. To me, being a feminist means simply being the person I want to be to the best of my ability and at times, pushing for what I want or need. I have just one life; I do not want anyone else to guide me down my path. I want to design my own directions and develop a life that works for me.

Essentially, it is about living a life of confidence but how did I get there? How did I gain the confidence to move forward steadily and quickly? Way back when (aka the 1960s), my prophetic father instilled in me that despite the fact that I was a petite, Italian 'tween girl, I could do anything I wanted in this world. His advice was simply to think it out, make a plan, move forward, take calculated risks, and do not let any roadblocks get in the way. Be steadfast; the road will eventually open.

For years, I did just that– pushing through, moving forward– yet never quite feeling I was where I needed to go, at least not at a pace quick enough for me. I viewed myself negatively. I was always comparing myself to others and ultimately, letting other's achievements or goals dictate my own. Truthfully, I was defining my life on the often dysfunctional lives of others. I was living a life which is the absolute opposite of a true feminist! Where was my own voice in my own life?[divider type="short" spacing="10"]

[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]T[/dropcap]he world we live in is now extremely fast-paced. Before you have time to get used to a new product or an improved idea, another one comes along. From social media to technology, from raising children to getting ahead, the transformation is quick and if you sit too long, you will be left behind. Empowerment comes from growth and that development must come from within.

We are all busy but to become the best version of yourself, the practice of self-reflection is a must. You must find a way that works for you and practice thinking about your life. Some people use journals, some use self-help books and highlight their way through them. Some find quiet moments in special locations. Some use their commute! Make the habit of looking at your life honestly and regularly in a way that works for you, and reflect on how you are doing.

So, what did I do to make a conscious effort to see where I was and where I needed to go? For me, the plan started many years ago with an inspirational poem by Mary Ann Radmacher entitled "Live with Intention:"

Live with intention. Walk to edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.

These short sentence statements are now very popular on signs and calendars but decades ago, the idea of charting life through short goal statements was brand new. I took these words, posted them around my home and once a month, I made the conscious effort to evaluate my progress. Even before I became a teacher, I was creating my own report card. When I realized I lacked in one area, I worked on that area the next month. It became a rotating list of goals. This practice allowed me to celebrate my accomplishments, as well as review my weaknesses.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]

Through my journey with this poem, I realized I was still living my life through someone else's "list" and the whole point was to learn to live my life. So I added my own statements to the poem. My personal version of this poem now reads like this:

Live with intention. Laugh; giggle; smile. Love my family. Appreciate my friends. Take some "me" time. Listen hard. Give back. Remember to relax. Practice wellness. Be gentle on myself. Play with abandon. Walk to the edge. Choose with no regret. Cherish my children. Continue to learn. Work hard every day! Do my best. Engage in what I love. Live as if this is all there is.

Before I go on, I’ll say that I will always be thankful for Radmacher's poem. It inspired me to learn to think about my life and become the person I am proud to be. From thinking about my life, evaluating what was working and what was missing, I decided to quit my 23-year lucrative career in publishing– which I enjoyed– and take the calculated risk to become a public school English teacher. I can tell you now, it is my calling! Yes, it's true; I make a ton less money and work harder than I ever did in my life but there is no place I would rather be than in my classroom of 13- and 14-year-olds. Crazy, but true.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]

[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]T[/dropcap]aking the time to self-reflect is a skill that can be improved if practiced regularly. You examine your habits and faults, hone in on your needs and wants, review your practices, and begin to formulate your own life based on the qualities you expect of yourself. It becomes easy to see the character traits which are holding you back and work on them to find resolutions. It allows you to step back and feel the much-deserved sense of accomplishment for what you did well, and set goals for what needs improvement.

In the end, you develop the identity which is you, and become your best self. Confidence builds, and it is at that point you can find ways to relate to the larger world around you– whether that be in a romantic relationship, a parental relationship, or a social media relationship.

There has never been a time in my life where I was held back by society or its treatment of women as "lesser" because I simply did not allow it for myself. I made a plan, worked it out, and pushed through, all in my own way. My slowly growing confidence always took over and I fought what might be the stereotypical life of a woman my age for one which I've developed for myself. I do not compare myself to others. Instead, I reflect on my own actions and improve from there.

Television producer and creator of the television series "Judging Amy," Barbara Hall, once said, "You are in control of your life. Don't ever forget that. You are what you are because of the conscious and subconscious choices you have made." For me, these words could not be more applicable.

My humble and gentle dad was absolutely right. Despite being a petite, Italian, very nearly 60-year-old woman, I still feel I can do anything (like writing this blog). So take the time to self-reflect! It’s worth it.