Being a teenager is tough. You’re constantly trying to find out who you actually are, where you fit in, and what defines you. You probably enjoy listening to music that’s pretty different from what your parents like. Or, you appreciate different hair and clothing styles from what your mother likes.
When it comes to your friends, you may feel even more conflict when you express your preference for a different elective. If, for instance, they decide to take an art class while you sign up for that class on human rights, you may take a lot of flak. If you’re into music, you may appreciate stringed instruments, like the viola or cello, while your friends are all about electric guitars. That’s all good, because when you’re able to express your individuality, you’re learning how to stand on your own feet, even when everyone else around you is screaming, “Why are you doing this?”
Teen and Parent Conflict: Individuality vs. Parental Wishes
Ever since you were a baby, you followed your parents’ wishes (well, mostly, anyway). You wore what they put on your bed and ate what they cooked. When they told you it was bedtime, you put your things away, got into your pjs, brushed your teeth and went to bed. Sometimes.
Now, you’re a teenager. You’re learning about all these different new things happening in the world and you have your opinions about them. If it’s an election year, you may support one presidential candidate while your friends support another one. Your blossoming individuality is also showing up in your choice of hairstyles and clothing styles. Have you chosen clothing that is radically different from what your friends wear? Have you gotten flack for daring to be different? Don’t give into what they want you to do. Keep choosing what you like and what makes you the most comfortable. When it comes to other choices, respect yourself and what you like. If, as a girl, you prefer working on your softball pitching skills rather than walking around the mall on Saturday afternoons, work on your pitching. Who knows? You may get a scholarship to a good university.
Daring to be Different in Peer Relationships
You may enjoy writing poetry or song lyrics. Your friend wants to go out and throw ball around. When this situation comes up, you may worry that your friendship is about to die. It’s not. In fact, following your own interests may help you keep your relationship healthy and strong. You don’t want to be tied at the hip to your friends, doing exactly what they do every day.
Why does this happen? You develop your own interests based on what you’re exposed to. So do your friends. You want to feel happy and fulfilled when you write song lyrics, and not being able to do so would make you feel incomplete.
Do you want to look like every other guy in your school, indistinguishable from everyone else? Or do you want to be easily spotted? Nurture your interests and dance to the beat of your own beat box performer. It takes a lot of courage to do so—you’ll feel waves of peer pressure coming from your friends, who want you to try out for the football team.
Fitting in or Following Your Own Rhythm
If we were all identical to each other, what a boring world it would be! It’s when you respect your individuality that you spark new thought and change in your family, school and even in your circle of friends. While fitting in is highly important to you, you still may not want to look like a clone of your best friend, even if she does wear the cutest clothes in your class.
Maybe you’re interested in designing new fashions. When you’re able to follow your own passions, you’re able to bring yourself closer to your goals of majoring in fashion design, then landing a job in a fashion design company.
Maybe you’re one of the few girls in your school that’s interested in a STEM topic (science, technology, engineering and math). Go for it! Maybe you’ll get to work for NASA, developing a space station where we’ll live someday.
Hang out with your friends, enjoy the activities that you find fun… and respect who you are as an individual. You may be the next Sally Ride or Vera Wang. Who knows?
Who Am I?
This is a question that almost every teen asks themselves at some point during their adolescence. Physically and cognitively, your brain is developing, preparing for adulthood. At this stage of your life, you should be able to confront more complex concepts and abstract thoughts. Rather than “That’s wrong because it hurt someone,” you’re going to begin looking at crime from a more abstract perspective. As you begin this process, remember to ask yourself several questions:
- What you’re good at doing
- What you want to do as an adult
- How others perceive you (not just look at you)
- What are your personal characteristics
- What kind of person you are
While you may decide you want to be an engineer one day, you may change your mind several times before you make a final decision on your eventual career. This is because you’re still forming your own self-identity. Don’t be surprised to find yourself beginning to reason by asking several questions of yourself and others. As you move through this process, how you view yourself changes several times.
Watch out for the “personal fable!” This is the situation in which you begin thinking that you’re better at some things and even more important than you are. For instance, you may believe that, while someone else will get hurt trying something, you won’t get hurt. This stage will pass, so just focus on the above questions and figure out “who you are.”
Explore Yourself, Explore Your World
Begin exploring your world and yourself. What can you do already? What do you want to learn how to do? Once you have these answers, begin exploring the world, both on the Internet and by going outside your house and exploring. You’ll find things and situations that cause you to ask even more questions. Discuss these with your friends and see if you can safely learn more about the issue. It’s when you do this that you begin learning about things like homelessness and charities; bullying and homophobia; a city unable to decide whether to build a new teen center or a parking garage. Become politically active, even though you can’t yet vote.
What Others Think Is Important to Your Growth!
While your family and friends tell you not to be so self-involved, some concern about what others think about you is necessary and healthy. As you move closer to adulthood, you begin developing a sense of yourself that is based on the society around you.
After figuring out your personal characteristics, you should be able to understand more who you are—and begin getting an idea of what you want to do with your life.
As your brain matures, you’re going to begin storing what you’ve learned about yourself. This way, you’ll just have to take out what you already know when you need to do more thinking.