This is a question that is almost always on our minds. I personally believe that discovering your identity is very challenging, and is most difficult as a teen. We often don’t know what we’re doing and how to act, are thrust into situations where we feel like we need to adapt our identity in order to belong, and aren’t embracing who we really are because we’re afraid of how people will react.
When we first ask the question, “Who am I?”, we often are at a loss. To be fair, it’s a pretty big question to ask, and its not exactly something that can be figured out over a lunchtime by talking to your mates about it. It can take years. I myself still don’t really know who I am, and I ‘ve been thinking about the issue of identity for years. I now think the majority of my identity (as seen by others) is my appearance, my opinion, and how I voice it. All of these things I’ve had problems with, which I don’t think is that different from the rest of you. Image is one of the key issues we as teenagers have, which directly links to our identity, as we often feel like our image is apart of who we are, like I do. A few years back, I always seemed to dress in black and wear a LOT of eyeliner. Looking back, it didn’t really summon an accurate interpretation of who I was. I looked moody and annoyed, and not like someone you could talk. At first I wasn’t like that, but my personality soon moulded to fit my image. My appearance had formed my identity. In the 1990s movie, ‘Looking for Alibrandi’, Josie feels like she is defined by her heritage, and can’t escape it, so she denies it, which left her quite empty. From this both Josie’s and my experiences, I have learned that I need to be more honest and accepting in all aspects, in order to embrace my identity.
A common feeling that we get as teenagers is a feeling of loss, or being torn. Sometimes, we don’t know what to believe. I often feel torn between the identity I am given within my family, and the one I have chosen with my peers. The use of nicknames in John Green’s novel, “Looking for Alaska”, is an accurate example of this. As soon as Miles (the main character) came to his new school, he was immediately given a new name, Pudge, by Chip, also known as The Colonel. This is the most obvious example of us identifying ourselves within our family, and identifying us as part of a social network, that we keep separate from our family. We act differently around our family than around friends. We also bring forth a different opinion. I often find myself in a situation where I would initially go along with what my parents say, and then completely oppose it after talking about with my friends. Sometimes the role is reversed, where I think that an issue isn’t that serious around my friends, and is suddenly blown up by my family. In ‘Looking for Alibrandi’, John felt torn between who he wanted to be, and what was expected of him by his friends and his father. I think many of us can relate to John’s situation. Have you ever felt so unsure of what to do? So torn to the point of where it hurts you head? Almost suffocating in how much you are looking into it? Not knowing how to act, or who to be is hindering, and is trapping your identity with the overwhelming influences and opinions of those around you.
What really holds us back from embracing our identity is our fear of how we’ll be viewed. We feel as if we are constantly being judged, when the only real critic is non other than ourselves. We are afraid that if we decide to pursue something we love, it might define us, and we will be forever labelled by it. Josie hated her Italian heritage, but in the end, she accepted it and this made her a happier, healthier and more positive person. For many years, I was very shy and I didn’t speak up or voice my opinion in class. Nowadays, I never seem to shut up. I’ve learned that it’s not my fault if people don’t like who I am, but it is my fault if I hide away, and choke my identity before it can establish itself. I was a different person a few years ago than who I am now. I may even change again. But for now, I’m quite happy with who I am, even if I not sure what that it just yet.
In conclusion, discovering your identity as a teenager is a challenging journey, but it really is all in our heads. Believe it or not, this is a relatively short period in our lives, in the scheme of things, though it is an awkward one. We don’t know how to act or appear, are often torn between the influences of our family and friends, and are scared of how we’ll be viewed when we embrace our identity. As humans, all we want is to belong.
The best way to do that it to be ourselves, and accept our identity. Then we’ll really know where we belong.