This emotional life: everything I need to know I learned from “Inside Out”

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, Pixar came out with another stellar movie that really resonated with me. “Inside Out” depicts the story of a young girl, Riley, who moves from her hometown and everything she is used to. We, the viewers get a glimpse into her emotions throughout the entire film. The five main emotions- Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger, and Sadness all form Riley’s thoughts, emotions, and actions. The film creators relied on real brain science and psychology to inform their ideas about how the brain works. The movie is filled with teachable lessons and there are strong reminders that growing up also means letting go- and experiencing life to its fullest means feeling the lows as well as the highs. Which is exactly what this blog is all about. Below are some things I learned while watching this movie.

Vulnerability is a superpower

In the beginning of the movie, it’s clear that Joy is the leader of Riley’s emotions. She takes over the controls as often as possible, so Riley can be happy. However, as the movie progresses, there are three key moments where Sadness is actually the hero. The first and most illustrative of these is when she and Joy are lost among Riley’s memories and need to find their way back to Headquarters, which houses Riley’s control panel.

Along their journey, they come across Riley’s invisible friend from early childhood, Bing Bong, who knows the way back to Headquarters. When he loses something precious though, Bing Bong is overcome with sadness, such that he is unwilling to give Sadness and Joy directions. Knowing that this is their only hope, Joy tries to cheer up Bing Bong in different ways, but that doesn’t work.

This is where Sadness shows off her superpower for the first time. She sits down with Bing Bong, acknowledges his feelings, and shares his grief with him. Sadness allows herself to feel with Bing Bong; she empathizes with him.

Bing Bong feels better and guides them further along their journey. Sadness allowed herself to be vulnerable, shared in Bing Bong’s sadness, and helped him find his strength.

Lead without Ego

As Riley’s first emotion, Joy leads the others by taking control as much as she can. Especially when Sadness appears, Riley’s second emotion. Joy physically pushes Sadness away from the controls.

On the challenging first day of Riley’s new school, Joy tries to ensure her own success by assigning the other emotions tasks that keep them away from Riley’s controls. Joy even instructs Sadness to spend the day inside a chalk circle on the floor.

By monopolizing command, Joy keeps the rest of the team from contributing, and it makes Riley’s first day of school a disaster. While lost away from Headquarters though, Joy has to rely on her companions, Sadness and Bing Bong, and learns to appreciate that others can do great things, too.

Sadness saves the day again when her and Joy come back to Headquarters to find out Riley is in the process of running away from home. Sadness unlocks the control panel and guides Riley to get off the bus and go back home to her parents. Joy, as the team’s leader, recognized what needed to be done, knew who was best fit to do it, and enabled her to succeed.

Be true to your feelings

It’s best for us to be honest about what we’re feeling. While Joy and Sadness are away from Headquarters, the rest of the team remains at Riley’s controls. Disgust, Anger, and Fear try to do things the way Joy would. While they are pretending to be Joy, Riley tries to appear happy but ends up lashing out. Emotionally isolated from her friends and family, Riley withdraws into melancholy.

All this changes when Riley returns home from almost running away. Joy and Sadness have returned to Headquarters, and Sadness gets control. Riley admits to her parents that she feels sad and misses their old home, and her parents respond by sharing that they too feel the same way. Because Riley stops faking happiness by hiding her sadness and anger, she finally embraces how she feels and enriches her relationship with her parents.

Always be kind

Obviosuly this movie is all about empathy. Everyone we encounter has their very own inner world and the conflicts that go with that. The movie shows us this by taking us inside the heads of various characters in Riley’s life, even her antagonists.

From our teachers, to our bosses, to the girl who serves us broccoli pizza with organic cheese, to the dog we meet on the street, we all struggle. So in being kind to others, we are also being kind to ourselves.

Overall, this movie simply showed me why I started this blog in the first place- to allow everyone to feel all of their emotions fully. Because when we do we grow, our relationships thrive and we are emotionally healthy as a result.

Now, I’d love to hear from all of you. Have any of you seen “Inside Out”, I’d love to hear your reactions. Please share any lessons you may have learned from the movie below.

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See you all next week! Thank you so much for reading!


A 20-somethibg girl on a journey to find herself with hopes of helping others feel their feelings.