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Introspection is not Insight

I just met my favorite artist. I walked out of the meet-and-greet room, my hand frozen in the sideways peace sign position it was in when I took the photo. A gesture I had never made before that moment, but Macklemore did it, so I did it too.

It was a bit of an awkward encounter. After being explicitly told to not bring anything with us, I snuck my Grandmother's cookbook into the room under my shirt as a gift from her to his Grandma. They discovered it. I drew attention to myself. There was an awkward exchange and Macklemore quasi-thanked me, telling me "it was a nice gift" as I walked away.

I think about that exchange a lot. For a few months after that, I couldn't even listen to Macklemore's music. My face still gets flush every time the encounter comes to mind. It's an instance that I am extremely introspective about. Meaning, I think about the way I acted and felt during that experience often.

I was always told that introspection was a positive thing. That it led to better relationships, higher self-confidence, and an overall fulfilling life. However, as I reflected about the way I think about myself, I realized that introspection only led to feelings of embarrassment and remorse for me.

It turns out that self-reflection, or introspection, is not the same thing as self-insight. Researchers have found that there is no relationship between introspection and insight. In fact, they've discovered that the more time people spend in introspection, the less they know about themselves. What does this mean?

This means that thinking about ourselves does not correlate with knowing ourselves.

Be wary of the thoughts you think about yourself. They can often weave narratives that lead us down troublesome paths and quite simply aren't true. Aim for insight, not introspection.


While being introspective, instead of asking "why" questions, focus on "what" questions. This will help you focus on solutions, instead of problems.


What information have you gleaned from your self-reflection? If it's not positive, consider changing your process.


“'Truth suffers from too much analysis.' -Ancient Fremen Saying” - Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah

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