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Self-Awareness, Reflection, and Learning

For many of us, learning something new can feel scary.  

We engage in subconscious learning and problem-solving daily, yet it can feel intimidating to consciously broach a new learning opportunity. 

In this blog post, we will highlight the power that comes from leaning on gratitude and self-reflection to guide our learning journeys compassionately. Ultimately, this approach helps us to foster a growth mindset that empowers learning from within. 

Before we explore solutions, let’s take a moment to appreciate some common challenges associated with learning.  

Using our Mind: Self-Talk 

Our minds are powerful. 

When was the last time you took a step back from your thoughts and observed them attentively? 

New York Times Bestselling Author, Michael A. Singer, writes in his book, The Untethered Soul (2007), “If you spend some time observing [your inner] mental voice, the first thing you will notice is that it never shuts up” (p. 8). 

This is true for all of us. It’s also true that the relentless nature of our inner thoughts works against us if we are not careful. 

When we are in an unaware state, it is much harder to challenge the impact of our thoughts on our mindset. This is because our thoughts operate from a perspective of judgement. Their goal is to constantly attune to our environment and keep us safe. 

Our mind often registers a lack of safety when we enter into new situations, so it makes sense that the mere thought of learning something new can cause us to feel uneasy! 

When we become aware of our thoughts, we are embracing the opportunity to control where we allow them to lead us. 

Instead of: “I will never be able to figure this out”, we can try: “This is really challenging and new to me. It makes sense that I am not perfect, and perfection is not my goal – learning is my goal.” 

Spend two minutes observing your thoughts the next time you try something new! What do you notice? 


Inadequacy through Comparison (They Don’t Call It the Thief of Joy for Nothing!) 

Our thoughts also manifest as feelings (and vice versa). 

How many times have you caught yourself comparing where you are in your life to your friends or colleagues? 

It is completely normal to compare ourselves to others. This is especially common in our society where we so readily quantify success by things like degrees, job titles, compensation – the list goes on. 

Learning something new requires us to acknowledge that we are lacking knowledge or insight in one way or another – hence the learning opportunity! It makes sense that undertaking a new learning experience could bring up feelings of inadequacy or comparison to others. 

Painful Learning Experiences 

Learning something in the present can emotionally transport us back in time to an unsavoury learning experience. 

When we have a bad learning experience (i.e., discouraging, shaming), it can stick with us and impact how we view current learning opportunities. This is because learning is a vulnerable experience. 

As kids, this may have felt like being teased by your peers when you were attempting something for the first time (does gym class come to mind for anyone else?). 

Now, as adults, negative learning experiences can take on an intimidating nature related to our sense of worthiness. This inner dialogue might sound like, “I don’t deserve this job if I can’t figure this out” or “How did I trick everyone into making it this far?” or “Everyone else gets this, how am I the only one struggling? 

Take a moment to reflect on what learning felt like in your formative years. Have you struggled with feelings of inadequacy or comparison? Does a specific, painful memory come to mind? 

If it’s safe for you to do so, lean into these reflections. Do they help to make sense of your current emotions surrounding learning? 

Self-Empowered Learning through Gratitude and Self-Reflection 

Despite the challenges that learning something new can bring, hope is not lost! 

Establishing a practice of gratitude helps to counter that inherent sense of lack that so often accompanies learning something new. Consider re-directing your thoughts from negative self-talk to gratitude for who you are and all the growth opportunities that are meant for you. 

From a physiological perspective, feelings associated with gratitude literally make you feel better – they boost serotonin, which activates dopamine production! To learn effectively, a positive state of mind is essential. 

You have already engaged in the practice of self-reflection as you have been reading this. You inherently know what resonates with you and what doesn’t fit. This is the kind of inward attunement that we seek through self-reflection. 

For some, self-reflection looks like journaling (either with prompts or freely flowing). For others, it looks like taking a mindful walk outside in nature. 

There are countless resources available online to engage in self-reflection. Learn what works for you and tune into yourself! 

When we can make sense of our thoughts and emotions, we open ourselves up to the possibility of imagining a different way of thinking and feeling. 

When we can recognize unhelpful and unproductive patterns of thought, these thoughts lose power as we gain awareness. 

Learning something new requires us to embrace our imperfections. This can be extremely uncomfortable, but it can also lead us to greater self-compassion and compassion for people everywhere who are trying something for the first time. 

Need some help in getting these concepts off the ground? We’re here to support!  Get in touch with us at [email protected] for further information on how we can partner with you to support you in building an amazing candidate and employee experience. 

Looking for more resources to guide you in deepening self-awareness and reflection? Check out our blog on Cultivating Skills for Difficult Conversations. 

We also have an entire page full of FREE downloadable tools that you can use to improve your candidate experience in a competitive talent market – check it out!