Arianne Brown: The value in a moment of self-reflection

For nearly a decade I have had a public voice when sometimes I probably shouldn't have. But I'm learning that a moment of self-reflection can lead to a greater understanding of self.

For nearly a decade I have had a public voice when sometimes I probably shouldn't have. But I'm learning that a moment of self-reflection can lead to a greater understanding of self. (Arianne Brown)


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Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — There was a time when I thought I knew what people were thinking. Yeah, crazy, right?

Remember the time when I went to the store with my five kids (at the time) in tow and then wrote all about the things people said that were offensive? Things like, "You have your hands full" or "Are these kids all yours?"

Oh, and there was that one time when, after having my ninth baby, I wrote about the things people have said to me about having a large family. Things like "Are you done yet?" or "Do you know what causes that?" were some specific questions I drew attention to that I had heard over the years — and got offended by.

One awful day I wish I could take back, I wrote about "the flip side of infertility" where I had the audacity to compare my ability to have children to someone's inability as equally challenging. This article was based on the assumption that others thought the same distorted way I did — and I was terribly mistaken and incredibly insensitive.

Even recently, I wrote an article asking my readers what they thought about when they saw a large family vehicle. In that article, I made note of similar observations and comments as I had in the other published pieces. In this particular one, some of my own perceptions of how I thought large families were viewed were interjected as evidence that "you outsiders" see us large families as terrible anomalies.

Yeah, I said it, and I own it.

I actually wrote about the way I thought people thought about me. In other words, I thought I could read a person's mind and I wrote those thought projections as truth for tens of thousands to read.

How utterly embarrassing.

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If you can't see the proverbial tail between my legs, I assure you it is there — and it comes fully equipped with a genuine apology for my childlike ways.

If you are a regular reader of my column, you may or may not have noticed that I have taken a break from writing. And in that break, I have done a fair amount of self-reflection. I have looked inward at the person I was with the intention of deciding if it is the person I truly want to be.

I have looked back on the anxiety-filled, defensive and self-conscious person I was and how that way of being affected my world view and how I saw myself as a part of the world around me.

In my moment of reflection, I came to realize that my perception of how people saw me and my life choices was merely a reflection of my own fears and insecurities. I saw the world with glasses that I now call "skepticals."

If a person told me that I had my hands full, that must have meant that he thought I wasn't capable of taking care of all my children, right? If someone asked me if I was done having children, that must have meant that she thought I'd had too many of them, right? If I was struggling with whether or not I should have more children, I must defend that struggle by putting another person's struggle down to justify my inner guilt, right? If I passed another vehicle while driving a 12-passenger van with a Utah license plate, and that person looked back at me for longer than three seconds, he must've been thinking that I was a typical Utah mom with too many kids, right?

Uh, no. The answer to the above questions is no, probably not— probably not even close. This, I have come to realize.

One thing I have come to understand is that during the times when I would start thinking that I knew what others were thinking, the real question I should've been asking myself was: What do I think of myself?


One thing I have come to understand is that during the times when I would start thinking that I knew what others were thinking, the real question I should've been asking myself was: What do I think of myself?

If I'm totally honest with myself, I do have my hands full and am quite overwhelmed and unsure of my abilities a lot of the time. And when someone tells me I have my hands full, it ignites an inner realization that I'm not all the way ready to face. When I was in my childbearing days, I wasn't sure if I was done having children yet and was (if I'm honest with myself) guilt-ridden. If I stopped having kids when my body was perfectly healthy and capable, then I wasn't grateful for my reproductive system (i.e., what I saw as my purpose as a female). If I am totally self-reflective when I think about driving our massive "purple people mover," I haven't always done so with a total sense of pride, but with a hint of insecurity. Was I the typical Utah mom that I was led to believe the world looked down upon?

And while I love beyond measure each and every one of my children, and would never even think about giving a single one of them back or of doing things differently, if I'm honest with myself, I have lived decades of insecure and distorted thinking that I have placed on the world outside my own. These insecurities, I saw as the world judging me, and I convinced myself that the world was in fact looking down on me.

Now, why do I tell you this? Is it to teach you to be more self-reflective? No. That's not my job.

As a writer, it is my job to be honest, and if that means acknowledging that past versions of myself were misinformed and still in developmental stages, so be it. Because I hope beyond hope that today isn't the last self-realization I have, and I also hope we can all learn together in our individual development stages of this journey we call life.

What is something you have learned about yourself, that you have or are making a conscious effort to change? Let us know in the comments.

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About the Author: Arianne Brown

Arianne Brown is a mother of nine awesome children and a former collegiate runner who is blending those two worlds one written word at a time. To read more of her articles, visit Arianne's KSL.com author page.

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