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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Self-reflection is the greatest gift you can give yourself

Try the VIA Character Strengths Survey


By YASMEEN O’BRIEN — yjobrien@ucdavis.edu


I have found self-reflection to be one of the secrets to my happiness. For some, it’s exercise, nature, music, meditation, friends or sunshine. It can take some time to figure out what your secret is, but regardless, I believe self-reflection is helpful for everyone.

The Berkeley Well-Being Institute describes self-reflection as a mental process you can use to grow your understanding of who you are, what your values are and why you think, feel and act the way you do. When we self-reflect and become more conscious of what drives us, we can more easily make changes that help us develop or improve our lives.

Last year, I took a class called Health Psychology (PSC 126) with Professor Kelly King (which I highly recommend) where we were assigned to take the VIA Character Strengths Survey. I thought it was just another personality quiz and didn’t think I’d have to take the assignment too seriously, but I was wrong. It ended up being an educational and worthwhile experience.

The survey encourages genuine self-reflection rather than giving the quiz-taker passive praise. It asks you questions about how you see the world, how you see yourself, how you believe others see you and how you treat others.

This survey is a frequently utilized tool in the field of positive psychology that assesses the character strengths of an individual. The VIA Institute on Character talks about how knowing the strengths of your students, clients or employees allows you to guide them more effectively and authentically. It can help you bring out the best in others.

But the survey isn’t just useful for guiding others — you can also use it to bring out the best in yourself. Both the questions and the results inspire self-reflection, which I think is always a good exercise. Sometimes it can be hard to see our flaws or give ourselves credit for our strengths. But taking this survey, interpreting the results and reflecting on them are some great first steps.

Similarly, self-reflection can seem abstract, and it can be hard to know where to start. This survey is a quick and easy way to get into it and is one tangible example of self-reflection that can lead us to understanding and developing ourselves. 

Some other forms I have found to be therapeutic are journaling, listening to music, going on walks outside, talking to my close friends, meditating and reading meaningful books. 

Self-reflection has helped me feel more connected to myself and be more in touch with my boundaries, which is something I have struggled with (and sometimes still struggle with). As a young person, it can feel difficult to create and respect my own boundaries, which is one way to gain self-respect and feel self-confident. 

But the beauty in self-reflection is that it can help you, no matter what your struggles are or where you are in life. And this survey is a great way to start. Self-reflection has helped me, and I hope it will help you too.


Written by: Yasmeen O’Brien — yjobrien@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.