I set up my Life Coaching practice to help people prevent burnout and one area we work on a lot is reflection, in particular how self-reflection can make you happier. This isn’t exclusively for those who over-work, it’s also for those who cannot manage their overthinking. Striving for perfection and trying to do so many things all the time. Mainly to distract from the things that they are unhappy with in their lives.
Here’s my journey. I didn’t have a traumatic childhood but I did have unrealistic expectations of myself and others which led to my breakdown in 2012. Throughout my life, I had milestones that needed to be achieved. From having a good education, the jobs, the promotions, the house, the partner, the kids. I had achieved all of these (except a child) by the age of 28. I then met my now husband and completely lost myself.
You see, I had wanted all these things but I didn’t really know what they would be like once I had achieved them all. During the first few years of my relationship, I completely lost myself. I didn’t recognise myself anymore. I was such an independent and strong person. However, once I had everything I ever wanted, I didn’t know what to do with it all. In all this confusion, I tried to re-invent myself as a way to manage what was happening inside my head.
However, this just contributed to me hurting myself more because I couldn’t control my thoughts. It’s at this point that I lost control fully and headed down the road to depression.
When I was on my healing journey, I learned many things that I hadn’t really thought about. I guess my life was on auto-pilot from when I was a teen. Just striving and striving for more and for what life should look like. All the while not really enjoying it in the process. I had never really understood what made me happy, or what being happy meant. What I didn’t understand was I was striving for was an unrealistic picture of happiness unless I could first make myself happy.
It’s funny because I did actually get to the point of understanding what it meant to me to be happy but I didn’t take the time to reflect and appreciate it. I then got caught up with the boy and continued to lose myself in the process. At this point, I don’t think I could have accepted that self-reflection could make me happier.
The same year I met him, I had also finally won the battle of weight loss and went from a size 22 to a size 10. This was my biggest achievement for myself. I had always been a big girl and I always wanted to take back control of my health but needed to do this on my own.
So in 2007 when I bought my first home all by myself, this was my opportunity. After a year of living alone and hearing all those thoughts whirling around my mind day in day out, I decided to take action. I managed to lose this weight over the course of a year and I was so happy. Then I realised that I was generally happy with everything in my life. I loved living alone – the freedom of being able to do what I wanted – I loved my social circles and I loved my work.
That dark cloud that always hung over me was about my weight and not being able to take control of it. So that May, when I did take control back, I was so proud of myself. And then I met my now husband. I always joke that I wish he had come a long a year after. So that I could have been used to the new physical me but hey ho. It’s actually been quite the battle ever since to gain the control back on my physical body (but that’s come with other challenges because of a traumatic pregnancy.) However, since being on my healing journey, I have had complete control of my mental wellbeing.
Being with my partner actually helped me feel safe. So I guess whilst with him, it was as if I knew that I could break and someone would catch me. This is not a recommendation which is why I’m sharing this story. I just wish I had that time after my weight loss goals to reflect and understand myself better. I wonder how much more I would have gained from us being together? How much less fighting, how much more joy? Anyway, hindsight’s great but that wasn’t my journey.
This is how self-reflection can make you happier, so this is what I do. I help you navigate your work and personal life. Those many thoughts that whirl around your mind that make you feel terrible. I provide support with the things you’re embarrassed to talk to your friends or family about without judgement. And generally just help you truly feel happy by understanding what this means to you.
So much of what we want our lives to look like are unrealistic expectations. We can absolutely have it all. It’s just important for us to understand that it may not look the way we thought it would. And that that’s ok. Re-framing your thoughts through NLP activities and positive psychology really helps to create the right picture of your life, for you. Self-reflection can make you happier when you allow yourself time to reflect and review the moments that you actually did achieve happiness.
It’s always about our mindset. No matter how many self-help books you read or short courses you go on. Videos you watch by leading coaches like Tony Robbins and Jay Shetty, you will never be able to apply the teachings fully. Until you can truly apply it all to your actual life. Remember we are all unique and all of our lives have different experiences. So any general applications will never work. You need to work with someone to uncover the best of you, specifically.
Puja McClymont is a certified Life Coach supporting ambitious women in senior-level roles, entrepreneurs and high profile individuals to be empowered by who they are and what they want from love, life & work.