Take Time for Self- Reflection

Take Time for Self- Reflection

I recently read two books that heightened my awareness of a theme that is important to me. The two books, Uneducated and A Woman is Not a Man, told stories of women who came from backgrounds that encouraged them to not move on in their lives. Both were very intelligent and not supported in their interest in education. And neither was presented options to leave their family environment. 

All of us come from backgrounds where we learned a way of viewing the world. We were taught values, a moral code and priorities of what we would achieve in our lives. For many the code includes an education, marrying or finding a significant other and establishing a career. For many it includes having children and taking care of ourselves to remain healthy. In many cases, the priorities are more specific, such as what course of education we should pursue, who we should marry and what career we should seek. 

In my experience of people personally and professionally, many follow the designated path encouraged by others. The others may be family, friends, coaches or teachers. They do not take the time to reflect on the options and ask themselves whether it is what they truly want. I know people who have pursued professions they ended up not being happy in, those who have been dissatisfied in partnered relationships and some who regretted having children. I have met people who have remained living in locations they are not pleased with. 

I have been working with two high school students: one a sophomore and the other entering senior year. When they mentioned their futures, I have asked if they intend to go to college. They each said “yes.” I asked them if they have ever considered not going to college, and in each case, the expression on their face was one of confusion, as if to ask, “Why would I do that?”

I indicated that I was not opposed to anyone pursing advanced education, but I thought it was appropriate to always consider the options. Many people do not have a career path out of high school. That makes sense to me. And so, what are some interests and possibilities? And, if they are not clear, how can one explore choices?

Most of us do not consider options, nor do we periodically ask ourselves if we are happy and fulfilled in our lives. We do not question our work, relationships or where we are living. We do not contemplate wishes or dreams and think about what it would take to fulfill them. 

I do not have a problem with someone doing the self-reflection and deciding they are content or deciding they are discontent. Just considering either option can provide great insight into ourselves.We can change course if we choose to. Or, we may end up with a heightened appreciation of where we are in our lives. 


Dr. Natalie Gelman is an Alameda-based therapist. Submit questions to drnataliegelman@gmail.com or through her website, www.drnataliegelman.com.