Skip to main content

Reflection in personal essays

Watch this to unpack how to reflect on direct experience for your Personal Writing in Higher English (and why you shouldn’t go too close to the mirror)

search thinkfour.

Have you ever made the mistake of looking at yourself in one of those magnifying mirrors? It’s a pretty horrifying mistake to make, but also strangely fascinating.

You get to examine every facet of your face in extraordinary detail: every pore, every hair, every blemish, every line...

This is a difficult thing to do; but examining yourself in this way is a very important part of the process of Personal Writing and I’m going to tell you why.

Let’s take a good look at ourselves…

This is Thinkfour.

When you have written Personal Essays in the past, you have most likely focused on the event or experience but not spent much time reflecting on how it changed you in some way.

When you look in the mirror, you may at first only be able to focus on your flaws; however, if I were to force you to tell me what you like about yourself, I have no doubt that you could find something that you appreciate: your hair, your eyes, your nose, your smile, perhaps...

If you apply this same technique to your Personal Writing, you might only criticise yourself or question your actions at first; however, when you look more closely, you should be able to see that certain experiences have molded and shaped you into the person that you are today.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. How many times have you heard that expression? Well, that’s because it’s true. We learn from our past and our past shapes our present and who we become in the future.

When I was six, I stole a Cream Egg.

I was in a shop with my family and I remember, there was one of those displays with hundreds of eggs sitting there in a big bowl. There was one egg on the top with no wrapper, and I stole it.

Once outside, I trailed slowly behind the rest of my family and, feeling the egg begin to melt as I clutched it inside my pocket, I stuffed the whole thing in my mouth.

I threw up, I was found out, my father was furious.
I was marched back to the shop; I was humiliated.

When I reflect on this, what do I see?
Just a greedy child? Or the youngest in a large family craving a bit of attention?

At the time, I would have certainly claimed the former. I loved chocolate – what child doesn’t? - and the naked egg seemed to be fair game.

However, looking back, on reflection, in retrospect, with hindsight, I see that I was also attention seeking. I didn’t need the chocolate; I certainly didn’t enjoy it. But for that brief moment, I was the sole focus of my parents’ attention.

So, why do children shoplift?

If I were writing a Reflective Essay about this incident, this is a question that I would consider for wider reflection.

Wider reflection is where we consider how an experience has taught us something about life, about society or about people in general.

I might take this experience and consider the other reasons for shoplifting...
A need? A rush? Peer pressure?

Is it a rite of passage that all children go through at some point, in order to fully understand the difference between right and wrong?

I might consider how incidents such as these are dealt with by parents.
How should we punish such misdemeanors?

And then, I would return to my personal reflection:
What did I learn about myself?
Did I learn my lesson?

Well, for one thing, I can tell you that I still get a stab of fear when I see the shoplifters will be prosecuted signs, and Cream Eggs make me slightly queasy!

And what do I see when I look in the mirror?

I see someone who has made mistakes, of course. But I also see someone who has learnt an awful lot; someone who has been shaped by her past and is better equipped to face her future.

So when you look in the mirror, really look and see the person looking back at you. And if you’re brave enough, use the magnifying side of the mirror and take a really close-up look.

Because it’s only with deep reflection that we are able to see beyond our flaws and make a change for the better.

This was thinkfour, thanks for watching.