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Session 1: Defining myself and how I feel about my present situation


People walking down street
Figure 1.1

Reflection is a process that involves thinking and understanding – undertaking an honest exploration and examination of our previous roles and experiences.

The process of working out what you have learned will help you understand the person you are now, your qualities, what you are capable of and what you want to do. This kind of thinking can be helpful for anyone, at any time of life, whoever they are and whatever situation they are in.

The scope of your reflection can vary. For example, you might want to reflect on what you’ve learned from your caring responsibilities, or recent work or study experience, or you might want to just take stock by taking an overview of your life as a whole.

Learning outcomes

After working through this session you will have:

  • a clearer understanding of the experiences that carers could reflect on, including their roles, actions and decisions

  • the ability to use information technology (IT) to carry out reflective activities in writing and communicating

  • the ability to explore and use new ways of expressing ideas.

My roles and responsibilities

This section asks you to think about the various roles you have in your life and what these involve. To help you do this, carers Jade, Janet and Dean have shared their experiences with you. Read and listen to them and see how they have summarised their roles and responsibilities.


Jade, who’s 19, cares for her dad and is learning to be a youth worker. She left school and started training in childcare. She left her college course after the first year but knew she needed to do something else, so she decided to volunteer. Having gained experience of youth work through volunteering she was then accepted onto a training course and later offered a paid job. She is part of a supportive group of young adult carers who learn, have fun together and share and support each other in their caring roles.

Listen to Jade talking about her caring role.

Download this video clip.Video player: jade_snippet_1.mp4
Skip transcript


I care for my Dad who has a few things. Em he’s got sleep apnoea, where he stops breathing during the night, so he’s got to wear an oxygen mask. Em he also suffers from depression, em so I’ve got to make sure he takes his medication and stuff. And just quite recent the past couple of weeks, he’s had heart problems. Em so, he’s got loads of meds for that. Em, but I’ve got to go along and do the shopping and stuff for him, help manage money, the kinda things that he’d be able to do for himself.
Em I didn’t really realise I was a carer. Em, I just kind of seen it as life. That was, I was actually working and I’d seen a leaflet about young carers, and I was like aw that sounds like a couple of people in my work. And I was reading it a bit more thoroughly and I’m like wait that actually sounds like me as well! So I phoned the number on the back, I remember it quite clearly because it was the day before my 18th birthday, and they’re like oh yeah pop down to the centre and you can have a wee chat with the group worker - Em you’ll actually fit into the young adult category. I’m like oh this actually sounds quite exciting!
Definitely having someone to go to, like the group’s brilliant because it kinda made me see I’m not the only young adult carer out there. That it’s not just actually life. Because I just knew it as normality. So it’s having someone that’s been in your situation and you can go and talk to them and they know exactly how you’re feeling and they can even offer you a bit of advice. But it’s good for it to be someone around your age as well. Because it’s quite often like there was adults like telling me ‘oh you’ll get through it’. But it was at the time I needed the comfort of someone there and that’s what the group’s brilliant for. Like the day I joined it, I have never felt so welcome. And everybody that’s come into our group has said ‘oh wow, I didn’t expect it to be so welcoming’. It’s definitely brilliant!
End transcript
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

The following table sets out Jade’s roles and responsibilities.

Table 1.1 Jade’s roles and responsibilities

My main roles in lifeWhat I do
Daughter, carerCare for my dad, take care of household tasks.
Young adult carer championWork with the Carers Centre to support other young adult carers, including developing a website for young adult carers.
Employee, colleagueWork as a youth worker supporting young people; communicate with my colleagues and manager.
StudentStarting a Professional Development Award in Youthwork.
Friend Support and encourage my young adult carer friends, as well as keeping up with other friends.


Figure 1.2 Janet (Library image)

Janet, 42, had not studied since her son was born. While caring for her son over the past 19 years she’s learned a lot through volunteering at his school and also at SenseScotland. Now that her son is becoming an adult she has a little more time to herself and is in a position to consider what paid work she’d like to take on in the future. She’s clear that she’d like to work in services for people with disabilities and would like to do further study to get there. Knowing that distance learning is the only practical way forward for her, Janet is studying Health and Social Care with The Open University and fitting that in around her caring and volunteering responsibilities, which can be a tricky juggling act at times.

Janet says:

Thinking back to the person that I used to be, that has all gone, everything. I've taken on a different role.. Well, so many different roles. I’ve got all these other roles that you’re going right, OK what did I use to do before I did everything else? … It has, it’s changed me as a person. And I’d probably say for a better person.

Table 1.2 Janet’s roles and responsibilities

My main roles in life What I do
VolunteerI help out weekly with SenseScotland
Carer and parentCare for my 19 year old son with complex learning difficulties
StudentStarted studying health and social care


Dean, who’s 28, cares for his mum, brother and grandad. He has decided that he’d like to find ways to develop his career. He knows that the better employment he finds, the better placed he is to support his family and fulfil his caring responsibilities. Combining his paid work and his caring role has been challenging and he has felt unsupported by his employer and trade union, despite being a workplace union representative. In order to progress his career, Dean has decided to reduce his work to four shifts a week so he can combine his employment with his Open University studying and his caring roles. He faces continuing challenges with his own health, but is clear and focused on his long-term aim to work in IT.

Listen to Dean talking about his caring role.

Download this video clip.Video player: dean_snippet_1.mp4
Skip transcript


Eh I’m the full time carer of my grandfather, also look after my brother, mother and sometimes my uncle. Eh I work at a supermarket for over 8 years now.
Em, I had a few problems at work, eh they weren’t very flexible with, with what was happening eh? My uncle, sorry my granddad had a heart attack and a stroke. Um my mum was diagnosed with cancer. It all happened roughly at the same time, so I was in and out of hospital all the time. Um needed a lot of time off work. They werenae being very flexible. Quite threatening and um just decided I needed to, to better myself really. Just to get a better job so I can help out a wee bit more, maybe be more at home to help out more. That’s the goal anyway. [Laughs]
I reduced it to three days, but I’ve just recently knocked it back up to four for financial reasons. [Laughs]
Yeah. Most of it was eh like I say it was financial reasons, there was a lot of financial reasons that I couldnae go to university unfortunately. But I’ve gathered my pennies, I’ve got the missus helping me, so I felt this is about, as right a time as ever. It’s the best time I’ve had so far anyway to, to really focus on my studies because I did go to college when I was, well after high school. And em I had to drop out for the same financial reasons, even at that age.
Eh I’m enjoying it the now. I’m enjoying it a lot actually. I thought it was going to be more um, school like, you know it’s no like that. I’m comfortable in the house you know em, I can concentrate. Doing all my caring for my mum, because I have to take her shopping. My brother, take him to the hospital. And my granddad I look after full time. So basically get all the housework done. And then at night is my time to do all my studying. And so I wouldn’t be able to do that in a brick college. It’s just not possible.
Em well I’m slowly learning to cook. [Laughs] That’s, that’s a start. Eh I’ve been learning to cook because my granddad’s not one for em fast food. Likes his homemade meal eh and I’ve been trying, and failing quite a lot, but I’m slowly learning. Em, which the missus also likes. But aye eh I’ve been doing that, I’ve been looking after the time, you know, ’cos it’s alright only looking after one person’s hospital appointments and doctor appointments, but I’ve got three to deal with. So juggling all of them, I’ve learned how to prioritise and organise and all that stuff and then em doing letters, so many letters. [Laughs] Having to do all these letters, eh loads and loads of letters that I’ve, I didnae ken how to fill in but I’m slowly learning er how to do it and banks and all, juggling my granddad’s bank and doing all the kind of, I’m doing his finances and all so, I’m learning bits and bobs. It’s coming, coming.
End transcript
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As well as his multiple caring roles Dean has other responsibilities as a trade union representative:

I was back and forward to the hospital and work basically said we cannae help you any more, you could end up losing your job if you take any more days off. I got in touch with my union, because I’m a union representative. They basically said we’ve got no agreements when it comes to carers.

Activity 1.1

The examples of Jade, Janet and Dean show how we have different roles in life. In fact we all have many roles in which we use a variety of skills and abilities. Now think about your own.

Activity 1.1 Roles and responsibilities

Timing: We suggest spending around 20 minutes on this activity.
  • Do you share roles and responsibilities that are similar to or different from Jade, Janet or Dean?
  • Carers often describe juggling and balancing a number of different roles. Is that an experience you’re familiar with?
  • Have you got goals you’d like to achieve?

Now define yourself as you are now and list the roles you fulfil. Open your Reflection Log  and go to Activity 1.1 to fill in the table there. Once you have completed the activity make sure you save the document again. You can also complete the table using this document, but don’t forget to save it.

Another way of doing this would be to search magazines or the internet for text and images that illustrate your roles and responsibilities and compile them into a collage, or montage.

If you are working in a group, you might want to share your answers and discuss your roles with each other. Similarly, if you are working one-to-one with a mentor, use this time to share and discuss some of the ideas above.

Thinking about myself

Woman and child spending time together
Figure 1.3

The next stage is to start thinking about yourself. A good way to do this is to ask yourself four questions:

  • How do I see myself now?
  • What am I most proud of?
  • What makes me happy?
  • How would I like to see myself in the future?

Have a look at the following examples first.

We know that Janet is studying health and social care now that she has a little more time to herself. Her choice of study is influenced by her longer-term plan, as you can see by looking at her notes about herself.

Table 1.3 Janet: thinking about myself

How do I see myself now?What makes me happy?
I care for my son, and I volunteerI enjoy volunteering
What am I most proud of?How would I like to see myself in the future?
Being a carer for my son. It changed me as a person. I’d probably say for a better person.I’d like to be a manager for a services provider, for people with disabilities

Jade has found paid work that she enjoys and that she can combine with her caring role. While she knows what she’d like to do, she has plenty of work ahead to achieve her aim of becoming a qualified youth worker.

Look at Jade’s thoughts about herself in the table below and listen to what she has to say about herself.

Table 1.4 Jade: thinking about myself

How do I see myself now?What makes me happy?

I’ve found the work I’d like to do after a difficult start

I’ve got great support from the carers’ centre and other young adult carers

My dad’s health is up and down but my work is supportive about me balancing work, caring and studying

The close relationship between me and my dad

My work with young people – I can’t believe I’m actually getting paid to do this now

My friends

What am I most proud of?How would I like to see myself in the future?

Gaining an A in Art when I was at school even though I felt discouraged by my teacher

Gaining my job, through my volunteer work


A qualified youth worker

Managing caring, work and further study

Listen to Jade talking about her situation.

Download this video clip.Video player: jade_snippet_2.mp4
Skip transcript


I’d left school like I’d been getting bulled really badly so I was leaving and um with my caring role it was quite difficult to study and stuff, so I wasn’t doing very well. Em, but I left with as many qualifications as I could. And, and I went onto college. I did a kind of introduction to childcare. It was NPA, Playwork and Childcare.
And the college tutor said ‘Oh well I don’t think you’re going to manage the next year’, em so instead of encouraging me to go on and do more studying and keep battling on, she kind of said no, you’re not really good enough. So that kind of put me down a bit. Em but I’d got told from a couple of friends, look that’s not right. You should go and see someone. But by the time I actually kinda went and seen someone, it was a bit late to go back to college. So I was like well I’ll try next year. So I was like well I’m not sitting doing nothing. I need out the house. I’ll go and see if I can get voluntary work, because getting a job’s not very easy.
Em I’d phoned up Capability Scotland and I’d said look are you looking for any befrienders or any volunteers to do anything? They said yeah come on down for an interview. I went down, the woman’s speaking to me and she was like, she was asking my interests and I was telling her about my caring role and stuff. She said well that’s really inspiring. I actually know someone who might actually be able to help you get into education, em or employment. So I went along to the employability hub in Paisley and they took me on a six month course called TOPS which is Training Opportunities in the Public Sector. Em, they took me in and they kind of helped boost my confidence a bit more as well, while looking for jobs, and being able to say I don’t think this is right. And the training placement they put me on was with the council and the job that I actually do now, em. So it’s really great to be like, yeah, I started off this was just training and then I didn’t want to finish it so it was voluntary. And they said ‘Oh well we’ll take you on as an employee’ and I’ve been working there for a good couple of months now.
I’m hoping to do my PDA in Youth Work to kind of progress and get a qualification in the job that I actually enjoy. Um, and they are really understanding of my caring role. So it’s brilliant to have someone that understands that if you don’t turn up, or you turn up a little late, then they’re not going to shout at you and go ‘Oh well you’re kicked off the course – you just can’t be bothered.’ They actually know that there’s something going on, and they work around it.
End transcript
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Now listen to Dean’s thoughts about his situation. You might also want to review Dean’s earlier film clip too.

Download this video clip.Video player: dean_snippet_2.mp4
Skip transcript


In the future I would like to have a, a safer career. And something that’s maybe financially a bit better right now, because right now I’m just, I wouldnae say I’m making the breadline, that would be a lie but I’m making just enough to get by. And em it would be nice to have one that’s no as physically demanding because my body is falling apart. And em, it would be nice to have a more secure job, basically. Any sort of career that’s eh, and then that allows me to look after the family, and all that, just to be able to have more time to look after everyone plus no have to worry about if I’m off work.
I started studying IT back in high school. Um and I was really good at it. So I took it up at em, at college. And em it was going really well. Eh passed it, I passed it actually really fast, really quick. I was finished a lot faster than everyone else. But em we were hitting some financial difficulties so I had to leave. I’ve always kept my hands in a bit of IT, thereabout s, taking computers apart , putting them back and fixing software that have got problems. Em but yeah it’s always been a hobby of mine that I would thought that I could turn into a career because it was something that I was quite passionate about.
Yeah, well I’ve started off on the ‘My Digital Life’, that’s part one, and I’m going to the, well I’m hoping to go on to the software development route and maybe after that hardware. For now, software, that’s the main important one.
Eh, well I’m most proud about the fact that I can pay my bills, that’s the important one. Everything that I own is mine. I’ve worked hard for everything that I’ve got
Eh yeah basically everything that I own, pay bills, eh that’s important. Looking after my family, that’s, it’s almost like its expected of me, but it’s no something that I try and dodge, it’s that, because I know they would do the same for me. I know they have done the same for me. Um, I’m a relatively decent guy I suppose. [Laughs]
End transcript
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Now think about the following questions:

  • Do you have anything in common with Jade, Janet or Dean?
  • What is different about your situation and how you feel?

Activity 1.2

You’ve set out your roles and responsibilities, now start thinking about yourself. Think about where you’re at, what makes you happy, what you’re proud of and where you want to be.

Activity 1.2 Thinking about myself

Timing: We suggest spending around 15 minutes on this activity.

Open your Reflection Log again and go to Activity 1.2. Once you have completed the activity make sure you save the document again. Or you can do the activity in the table we have provided for you.

If you prefer, you could take a different approach and use a visual way to sum yourself up. You can do this at any point during the course if you’d like to.

Words aren’t the only way to capture or explore your ideas. Sometimes it helps to use pictures.

Someone cutting pictures out of a magazine to create a montage
Figure 1.4 Creating a montage

Creating a mood or vision board is a fun and creative way to get insight into your thinking. You’ll need a range of catalogues, magazines and newspapers, some scissors, glue, coloured paper, maybe even some glitter!

Just flick through the magazines until you see images or words that catch your attention. Cut or tear that page out. Before you know it you’ll have gathered pictures and words that summarise some of your thoughts about yourself and your future.

You might be surprised at the pictures you’ve chosen. Sometimes a creative activity can release thoughts or ideas that you can’t put into words.

Montage of nature and children
Figure 1.5 A finished montage

Arrange them into a collage and you have a record of your feelings, or your ambitions - whatever you choose to show. You can put it somewhere prominent to give you a daily visual reminder of your ideas, or you can use it to talk about your thoughts with others if you’d like to.


Session 1 was intended to get you started on thinking about yourself and was designed to help you recognise the many roles and responsibilities you might have and get an idea of how you feel about your situation. You probably discovered that you do a lot of things using a variety of skills and abilities. Maybe you didn’t appreciate just how skilled you actually are, or what qualities you have? One of the aims of reflection is to help you recognise your own skills and talents.

You have now completed Session 1. In Session 2 you will look at how these skills, abilities and qualities are developed over time.

Session 2: Learning by looking at my life over time


This course was written by Lindsay Hewitt, Sarah Burton and Julie Robson.

Except for third party materials and otherwise stated (see terms and conditions), this content is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Licence.   

The material acknowledged below is Proprietary and used under licence (not subject to Creative Commons Licence). Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material in this unit:


Figure 1.1: photo by Ross Finnie for © The Open University

Figure 1.2: © The Open University/Library image (model image only)

Figure 1.3: © The Open University/Library image (model image only)

Figures 1.4 and 1.5: courtesy of Sarah Burton for The Open University

Every effort has been made to contact copyright owners. If any have been inadvertently overlooked, the publishers will be pleased to make the necessary arrangements at the first opportunity.

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