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Learning about me: Understanding and managing feelings

To explore the different ways we can come to understand ourselves better and the powerful feelings that we experience daily.

by Vicky Scott

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore the different ways we can come to understand ourselves better and the powerful feelings that we experience daily.

Preparation and materials

  • Quote: ‘Some teenagers think that showing feelings is a sign of weakness. However, the contrary is true. Those people that have the courage to share their feelings with their peers are likely to have healthier, happier, and longer lasting relationships.’
  • Find a relevant poem, such as Lauren Steele’s ‘Relationships and Egg Shells’.
  • Play a song such as ‘Unpretty’ by TLC or ‘Ugly’ by the Sugababes.
  • You might like to rehearse some simple dramas to underline the impact of a few words, such as people barging past; butting into queues; calling names. Use these at the beginning of the assembly, and refer back to them as you talk.


  1. Feelings and emotions are not to be ignored; they are our way of processing a situation and finding a way of dealing with it. For example, if we were confronted with a lion, we would experience a strong sense of fear and our basic instincts would be to run and protect ourselves. However, there are times where we may need to manage our feelings; their existence alone is no excuse for letting them run out of control.

    Perhaps you fancy a girl on your bus and believe you have fallen in love. The reality of this emotion does not equate with you running up to her and confessing your undying love. There needs to be balance and control of feelings and actions and in this case some actual conversations first would be preferable!

    Or perhaps you have been barged into in the dinner queue by someone behind you. Your feelings of anger may tempt you to shove them back, or worse still hit them, but really it would be better to ignore the mistake and enjoy your day. We have choices as to what emotions to notice and act on and which to be aware of but then ignore.
  2. Why do we need to be aware of feelings? It is very important to be aware of our own feelings as well as those of people around us, because this information will allow us to deal better with situations.

    It is often easier to see what is going on in someone else’s life than in our own lives. For example, you may notice that a friend is looking a bit down and is not talking as much as usual, so you ask them if they are all right, or need to talk. Or perhaps you are playing football and your friend is acting much rougher than usual and seems to have forgotten that the game is meant to be a bit of fun.

    In both of these examples there is a change in someone’s behaviour and it is crystal clear that something is not right. However, it is not as easy to see how feelings are affecting our own lives. Have you ever had one of those days where everyone else seems to wind you up and you don’t have any patience with anyone? This behaviour shows everyone else that something is wrong, but to you the blame lies elsewhere.

    If this is the case with you, the way you’re dealing with an issue in your life may not be the best one. Stopping and doing a bit of self-examination may help you see that you feel stressed because of an entirely different situation.
  3. If we are unaware of our feelings, then we may trivialize other people’s feelings. As human beings we are all unique: we look different, sound different and act in different ways. This is a good thing and should be celebrated.

    However, it is not uncommon for us to expect everyone else to function in the same manner as we do ourselves. If we are hurt playing sports, some people around us may expect us to get up and just carry on, whereas others may be more sympathetic and realize we are in pain.

    And our individuality runs much deeper than just the physical; we all have varying tolerances, both physical and emotional. Some people can physically pick themselves up and carry on while others struggle. Some people are able to take criticism or be made fun of in public, whereas others feel deeply affected by such ridicule.
  4. There is a mentality that believes that men should never express emotions such as crying or being upset. There is the common saying: ‘Boys don’t cry.’ It is seen as unacceptable for a male to show such so-called ‘feminine’ traits.

    But crying is actually a way of releasing emotion and can be very helpful in a situation. It enables the individual to outwardly express an inward pain and by doing so they may be able to move on from their dark place into a more rational, hopeful position.

    However, if the male population are told from a young age that they cannot show their emotions in this way, then we are actually stopping young men from releasing their feelings. The end result can be that boys bottle up how they really feel about things.

    Feelings can be quite confusing and hard to cope with, especially if we are deprived of the naturally human outlet of tears to release them, or the ability to speak about them to a friend. Internalized emotions can seem bigger and more difficult to deal with, but when shared with someone an alternative perspective may be found, which can be very freeing and reassuring. Thus, the saying ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ is well founded.
  5. There is real power in words and this can simply be shown by reflecting upon a common scenario. You are having an OK day – nothing amazing has happened, but equally nothing horrid has happened either – but then someone pushes past you and makes a throwaway comment like, ‘Out the way, fatty.’ Only four words have been spoken, but their effect could be devastating.

    If this doesn’t resonate with you, then this next hopefully will. Have you ever been paid a compliment? Maybe it was something simple like, ‘I love your hair today,’ or ‘Cool trainers!’ but the power behind these words can be amazing. However fleeting, there will be a slight warm glow inside any of us who experience such a compliment, because it shows that someone has noticed us and then bothered to tell us so.

    These simple examples show the power of words. If a small compliment can affect us positively, how much more can a negative or insensitive throwaway remark harm us?

    We need to consider the power of our words and that means paying genuine compliments as much as it does thinking before we utter negative words.

Time for reflection

Feelings and emotions are intrinsic to our humanity and they serve a vital role in our day-to-day living. They alert us to danger and protect us from harm, but only when acted upon. They differentiate us from robots, because with feelings we can experience and enjoy life.

Words can either heal or harm us, because they may have a powerful effect on our feelings. Therefore we should use them wisely and speak and act towards others in a way we would appreciate ourselves.

We need to be aware of our feelings and manage them so that we don’t upset others or shut other people out. It is right to express feelings. It can be harmful to lock them away.


Lord, help me today

to treat others as I would have them treat me.

Help me to think before I speak

and think before I act.


Publication date: June 2009   (Vol.11 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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