“The Art of Self-Reflection” on the Take Care Podcast

Listen to Episode 3 of Sierra’s new show on the McKissick Health Podcast Network.

Sierra J. McKissick


What does it mean to do the work?
Why does it matter if you know why you act in specific ways?
Isn’t journaling about gratitude, my day, or feelings enough?

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

In this episode, I discuss one aspect of becoming self-aware: self-reflection. Using a few therapeutic tools, I dive into the importance of honest self-talk, expanding your self-knowledge, and deciding whether your values and actions align.

If you are ready to follow through on the plans and goals you set for yourself without slipping into old habits, this episode is for you.

Things I mention in this episode:

I have no rights to the audio in the intro and outro; its use is only for education. This audio includes: “Lotus Pond” song by Aakash Gandhi; a compilation of Maya Angelou interviews (The Paris Review as The Art of Fiction №119⁠ and Bill Moyers Journal 1973); Midge’s Late Night TV Set Finale from the filmThe Marvelous Mrs. Maisel written and directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino and produced by Amazon Studios, Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions, and Picrow.


We’re Millennial-friendly, so using media as a third language is acceptable.
Remember that scene in Mulan where Mulan feels ashamed and insecure, and the song Christina Aguilera sings, “Reflection,” is playing? Should I sing it? I want to sing it. I shouldn’t sing it. Okay, I won’t sing it.

If you haven’t seen it, I want you to take this moment to reclaim your childhood right to joy, questionable cultural expressions, and really good music and watch it later.

For now, the lyrics go…

Look at me
You may think you see
Who I really am
But you’ll never know me

Every day
It’s as if I play a part
Now I see
If I wear a mask
I can fool the world
But I cannot fool my heart

Who is that girl I see
Staring straight back at me?
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?

The older I get, the more I think about that song and realize how much messaging gets internalized despite a person receiving direct instructions. In Mulan’s case, she internalized her family’s disappointment that she didn’t fit the traditional mold within their culture, and she was a little clumsy in that tea house. Her and that cricket tore it up!

Because she felt trapped by the gender roles assigned to her and her overbearing father, she hid her power. She hid her desires and dreams.

Remember in episode one when I told you how unhappy I felt in higher education and didn’t know what to do? Remember in episode two when I told you during a meditation I envisioned a girl waiting impatiently on the floor while staring at a cracked door, and the girl was me?

To understand both of those experiences, I had to do some deep reflection. I had to decide if my reflection would show the true me or the version of me I thought I was supposed to be.
That meant I had to ask myself, “Who do I want to be?” “What does everyday life look like for that person?” “What do I need to stop doing?” “What do I need to start doing?”

Last week, I said you were a coward.
This is supposed to be a safe space, but sometimes, we must name it what it is. Making our less admirable traits sound sexier won’t get the desired results we’ve been discussing or create a sustainable flow of joy.
We need to be honest to change, not because we want to destroy our self-esteem.

If you’re thinking, “Sierra, what about negative self-talk?” Well, I won’t kick someone when they’re down, but I never said healing was pretty.
Negative self-talk is a household phrase that’s becoming as common as Lysol. People who struggle with multiple internal voices that repeat insults are often told to replace the voice(s) with affirmations and tender phrases like “You’re a beautiful butterfly,” “I can do anything,” or “You are a boss, babe.”
Although ending negative thinking cycles is an excellent step toward fully loving yourself and improving your mental health, more should be involved than we think.

Internal dialogues can be a tricky thing.
Just like you can convince yourself that you are too overweight to run a 4K, you can convince yourself that you are a wild cat. Trust me, there is a whole community.
That’s why it’s important to understand the difference between telling yourself the truth and telling yourself what you want to hear.
Or being too nice to yourself.

Don’t get me wrong.

Being nice to yourself is important, but holding yourself accountable for your thought and action patterns is equally essential. For example, if a person with a health goal to improve their quality of life continues to eat unhealthy foods or skip the gym, they need to acknowledge their actions indicate a pattern of distrust and admit that perhaps they don’t value their health as much as they claim.
When our behaviors are connected to our values, we are more likely to follow through with action.

Acceptance and commitment therapy teaches that although thoughts and feelings can be upsetting, they are temporary. No experience or emotion should be able to define the totality of your human experience. The step toward acceptance agrees that the thought or emotion is limited to the moment(s), and through self-awareness, a person can commit to changing their behavior.

So, if we look at the last goal you set for yourself, would we see what you claim to value? Would your actions show your commitment to that goal? Or do you often break your promises?

As always, I’ll go first.

If you’ve paid attention to me since 2017, you know I have been trying like hell to become a member of the 5 am club. When you become an entrepreneur or listen to anyone labeled a guru, you often hear the narrative, ‘Successful CEOs get up early.’
I would set three alarms in the morning, one at 4:55, another at 5, and a reminder at 5:10. Although they made me aware that it was time to get up, I turned them all off without opening my eyes.

After four years of failing at it, I decided it wasn’t a behavior aligned with my values concerning time.
I value my time in three ways: when I commit to something, I follow through on it; when I choose to be present, I remain undistracted and give the people I am around my full attention; and lastly, I will not waste my time twice.
None of that mentions being up at 5 am every day.

Once I admitted the behavior wasn’t connected to my value, I could change it to a behavior that was.
Since then, when I am working, I am focused. I only agree to work when I feel ready to accomplish specific tasks, so I don’t waste my time. These practices help me remain faithful to my values and have allowed me to become an entrepreneur on my terms.

As youth, we spend much time exploring and explaining our preferences. But unfortunately, we live in a society that deems us picky or difficult when we maintain particular preferences as we age.
This week, take time to think about the different things you like.

Now, let’s take a closer look at Mulan. Yes, I brought up the film for a reason.

The movie's logline reads, “To save her father from death in the army, a young maiden secretly goes in his place and becomes one of China’s greatest heroines in the process.” It’s easy to simplify the narrative to being self-sacrificial — although it’s deeply troubling that that would be the storyline for a woman who becomes a great warrior.

That is not what this movie is about to me.
This movie is about a young woman who finds a way to empower herself and protect what matters to her despite her disappointment and grief that her home has never felt emotionally safe. She frees herself and reveals her most authentic self by accepting who she is not and will never be.

I’ve been using an arena as a metaphor for the mental world a person has to locate to engage in cognitive interventions. I’ve even called you a Gladiator and a fierce lioness leading her pride, but you don’t need to be any of that to have the life you want.

You can be you.
Being honest with you.
Believing in you.
Trusting you.
And most importantly, take time to consider what you want and believe.

You don’t have to order armor from Amazon or start physically training for battle. Unless that’s one of your goals, that’s your business.

But you can look closely at your beliefs and actions and decide if the descriptions fit. You may have outgrown some of the behaviors you have always done. Or the values from your youth need adjusting.
The beautiful part about self-reflection is you don’t have to do it alone. Although you are the primary subject, you can have the support of others who will remind you of who you are.
I can’t promise they will be as jazzy as Mushu, but someone who is a licensed therapist will help you unpack the challenges you want to address.

I have a poll question: Have you seen a therapist?

Share your answer in the poll on Spotify.
If you’re reading this article on Medium, leave me a comment with your answer.

If you’re listening via Apple Podcast, head to Instagram with a screenshot of the episode and tag me @smxcoaching to tell me your answer. I want to know. See you again next week for another episode, until then.
Take care.

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Sierra J. McKissick

I’m a writer and educator. I write about behavioral and spiritual health choices and inclusive creative strategies. @iamsierrajecre