Embracing Introspection

A former colleague recently did me the great favor of reading my book manuscript.  We had lunch last week, and he brought with him one paragraph had copied from the book:


“The particular issue that afflicts us repeatedly through many life stages might have emerged out of a family pattern rather than a wound.  For example, a home where appearances are prized over the truth suggests, subtly but inescapably, that the truth is not good enough.  Children from this kind of environment might acquire a habit of embellishing on the truth, a habit that could lead to a pattern of lying.  Underlying the deceit is a feeling of inadequacy–what I really am is not good enough.  It might lead to a life pattern of overachieving, exaggerating achievements that are impressive without magnification, and still feeling inadequate.” 

My friend has seen extraordinarily success by any measure.  He has several family members with remarkable accomplishments as well.  He enjoyed a loving and supportive upbringing, and yet this idea of inadequacy resonated with him.  In his early twenties he had felt drawn to exaggeration, a tendency he decided didn’t serve him well as he matured into his thirties, but he realized when reading this paragraph that that the feeling of inadequacy had stayed with him through his many accomplishments. 

Everyone has something to overcome from childhood—a wound, a family pattern, or a bad habit.  Overcoming those things is a part of growing up.  Although we all face the challenge, it should not be trivialized.  Personal growth takes commitment and work, and the job is not done when adolescence ends.  Honest introspection is not as easy as finding answers in external sources.  It’s not a lotion we smooth on to erase wrinkles 30 days.  It’s not a powder we sprinkle on our food that makes us lose weight effortlessly.  It’s not a quick fix and it’s not skin deep.  Indeed, introspection can cut to the core of our being.

Especially when we are comfortably situated in mid-life or later, we may resist doing the work of introspection.  I might resist it because I fear losing part of myself if I discover something need to change.  If I’m guarding secrets, I might fear confronting openly that which I have an old habit of hiding.  I might prefer keeping a painful past in storage rather than unpacking the lingering aftereffects.    If I have negotiated an uneasy peace with myself, I might fear that I won’t be able to live with the person I find if I’m honest.  Above all of these, if I feel pretty good, I might not realize how much bigger and fuller my life could be.

When facing these fears, the experience of my friend can give us hope.  It’s when we make time for introspection that we discover opportunities for healing and renewal.  He framed it perfectly: “Even though it doesn’t weigh me down, how much more joyful would life be if I were free of this feeling of inadequacy?”

Join the conversation.  What has been your experience of introspection and life change?  What motivated you to do the work?

Copyright 2011 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved.  Visit www.AcrossTraditions.com.