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What Is Self-Reflection and 20 Questions To Reflect On

What Is Self-reflection

Self-reflection is examining your own internal mental state to gain a better understanding of yourself. It involves being aware of your thoughts, emotions, behavior, and experiences to identify areas of improvement for personal growth. With new insight, you can adopt a positive change in your mindset, make better decisions, and become the best version of yourself.

a couple self reflect

Benefits of Self-reflection

Personal growth

Self-reflection is a great tool and a learning process that can bring significant personal growth.

By taking the time to reflect on your thoughts, emotions, and actions, you can gain insight into your inner workings and identify patterns of behavior that may be holding you back.

Self-awareness can help you develop new strategies for personal growth​1​.

Get New Perspective

Being self-aware allows you to have a more open mind. When you are open to knowing others’ thoughts and ideas, you can better understand their intentions and consider their perspectives​2​.

A broadened viewpoint can inspire you to embrace new opportunities, ideas, and positive changes in your own life.

Improve relationships

Considering others’ perspectives is a crucial step in cultivating empathy.

By actively seeking to understand and share the feelings of those around you, you create a deeper emotional connection with them.

This empathetic approach allows for more effective communication, increased trust, a greater sense of belonging, and better relationships.

Regulate emotions

As you engage in self-reflection and become more aware of what activates specific emotions within you, you can develop strategies to manage and cope with these triggers effectively​3​.

Better emotional regulation improves emotional intelligence and allows you to respond to challenging situations with greater control. An emotional response that leads to reckless decisions or actions is less likely.

This self-control fosters a sense of stability and calmness, making it easier to navigate challenging circumstances and maintain a positive outlook leading to better mental health.

Resolve conflicts

Taking time to self-reflect allows you to step back from the heat of the moment and better understand the other side’s point of view.

You can identify the underlying interests and common ground more effectively and find a mutually agreeable solution​4​.

Solving conflicts collaboratively and constructively prevents competition and escalation of the problem.

Build resilience

Researchers have found that systematic self-reflection on stressors can strengthen resilience​5​.

Reflecting on stressors enables you to reframe your perspective during difficult times, turning obstacles into opportunities for growth and learning.

This empowering mindset can boost your confidence in overcoming challenges.

Improve parenting

Self-reflection is one of the most powerful tools in parenting and can help you avoid making bad parenting decisions.

Mindful parents who reflect on their own feelings and their child’s thoughts can be more empathic and attuned to their children’s needs​6​.

Self-awareness also prevents parents from projecting their negative emotions on their children. They can stay calm to learn more about the motivation and needs behind their children’s behaviors.

Parenting and teaching new behavior is easier if parents understand the root causes of their children’s problems and see things from their perspective.

Reflective Process

There are different ways to self-reflect. You can reflect on everyday life events or stressful events after they occur.

In the process of reflection, Crane, Searle, Kangas & Nwiran suggested five practices to reflect on stressful events​5​.

1. Self-awareness

The first step in the process of self-reflection is noticing your emotional and physical responses to the event. It’s fully aware of yourself as an observer, where you can watch your own reactions as if you’re studying yourself.

2. Trigger identification

Identify the particular issue that causes the initial emotional responses.

Recognizing these triggers helps you apply adaptive coping strategies and develop problem-solving capacity.

Combining self-awareness and trigger identification, you can better manage stressors and align their responses with your own values and ultimate goal.

3. Reappraisal

Your initial reaction to an aversive event is not the only way to interpret what has happened. Re-consider how you look at the event in a more adaptive way.

One way to do this is to think of what this experience has taught you and what you can learn from it. Develop a growth mindset and view stressors as opportunities to build resilience and grow.

4. Evaluation

Evaluate your response in the situation objectively and try to avoid your own biases.

Assess what was effective or ineffective in your own skills by comparing the current results with desired outcomes.

5. Future-focus

Identify what could be done differently.

Determine what can be improved or what can be learned to help you achieve a better outcome next time.

Self-reflection Exercises

Reflective Journaling

Journaling is a great way to start the self-reflection journey.

Reflective writing involves writing down your own thoughts, emotions, and experiences in your personal life​7​.

Do this in a private and safe space to explore your thoughts and emotions without fear of judgment.

After writing down your experiences and thoughts, follow the five steps listed for the reflective process above.

Think deeply about them from different angles. See if you can identify patterns, learn from mistakes, or develop new coping strategies.

You can keep a pen-and-paper or an online journal, based on your preferences.

Practice – Meditation

Meditation is a mindfulness practice that involves focusing the mind on a particular object or thought to achieve a state of calm and mental clarity. It is one of the most effective ways to ponder on a serious thought for personal reflection.

By quieting the busy thoughts in your mind and focusing on the present moment, meditation is an excellent way to examine your inner self and reflect on past experiences. It also helps you develop a stronger sense of inner peace and well-being.

20 Self-Reflective Questions

The following questions can help you get started using the five practices for self reflection.


  • What were my emotional and physical reactions to the bad situation?
  • In what part of my body did I feel the nuanced changes?
  • What was I reacting to — the situation or the people who instigated it?
  • In the course of the event, did my reaction change?

Trigger identification

  • Was there anything specific about that situation that triggered my reaction?
  • Did this event differ from previous similar ones?
  • Do other situations trigger this same response?
  • When this trigger presents itself again, how can I recognize it?


  • Was my anger justified?
  • Didn’t I learn something about human nature?
  • Did it teach me how to avoid the mistake?
  • Would that be considered the worst outcome?


  • Is there a way I could have responded differently?
  • Could I have apologized if I had taken a moment to think about it?
  • Did I upset her first?
  • Did I make a careless decision?


  • What can I do to recognize the trigger and avoid being reactive in the future?
  • What is a more effective action plan?
  • Before returning, can I find a better book deal?
  • Can I slow down my pace of life so I won’t exhaust myself?


  1. 1.
    Duval TS, Silvia PJ. Self-awareness, probability of improvement, and the self-serving bias. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Published online 2002:49-61. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.82.1.49
  2. 2.
    Dimaggio G, Lysaker PH, Carcione A, Nicolò G, Semerari A. Know yourself and you shall know the other… to a certain extent: Multiple paths of influence of self-reflection on mindreading. Consciousness and Cognition. Published online September 2008:778-789. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2008.02.005
  3. 3.
    Herwig U, Kaffenberger T, Jäncke L, Brühl AB. Self-related awareness and emotion regulation. NeuroImage. Published online April 2010:734-741. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.12.089
  4. 4.
    Ross M. Action Evaluation in the Theory and Practice of Conflict Resolution. PCS. Published online 2001. doi:10.46743/1082-7307/2001.1011
  5. 5.
    Crane MF, Searle BJ, Kangas M, Nwiran Y. How resilience is strengthened by exposure to stressors: the systematic self-reflection model of resilience strengthening. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping. Published online August 2018:1-17. doi:10.1080/10615806.2018.1506640
  6. 6.
    Slade A. Parental reflective functioning: An introduction. Attachment & Human Development. Published online September 2005:269-281. doi:10.1080/14616730500245906
  7. 7.
    Riley‐Douchet C, Wilson S. A three‐step method of self‐reflection using reflective journal writing. Journal of Advanced Nursing. Published online May 1997:964-968. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2648.1997.1997025964.x

Updated on September 28th, 2023 by Pamela Li

Pamela Li is an author, Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Parenting For Brain. Her educational background is in Electrical Engineering (MS, Stanford University) and Business Management (MBA, Harvard University). Learn more


    * All information on is for educational purposes only. Parenting For Brain does not provide medical advice. If you suspect medical problems or need professional advice, please consult a physician. *

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