If you have not already noticed, being a teen in 2022 is a lot to navigate. Whether it's the high school scene, exploring different friend groups, or participating in after-school activities, you are tasked with a lot of experiences in which you are simultaneously figuring out how you want to show up in the world. Discovering who you are is an exciting process, bringing a sense of empowerment and new-found independence. While seeking independence is a normal part of figuring out your identity it is often filled with a sense of subtle, or even in-your-face pressure. This brings up intense feelings for you during this developmentally decision-filled time making it easy to get lost or stuck along the way.
It can be challenging to unhook from every demand that says you have to look a certain way, behave a certain way, do things a certain way, or believe a certain way. Once you can find yourself loosening the grip of trying to fit in as a teen and learning to take others' ideas of you with a grain of salt, you can start to find your place and discover your beautiful unique interests, thoughts, and beliefs. If you have seen Netflix’s new show, Wednesday Addams you probably know what we are talking about. Wednesday marches to the beat of her own drum. She could care less about others' opinions of her, and wears whatever she wants regardless of what is “trendy” at the time. This is admirable and an inspiring way to be for a girl navigating her teen years. What would it look like if you could be more true to yourself like Wednesday?
If you are a teen currently riding the identity roller coaster (changing opinions, wants, choices, and dreams), it can be helpful to work alongside a therapist who can support you in identifying your authentic interests and values. You can begin to commit to what you enjoy more frequently and live a life doing the things you actually want.
“To know you who you are, first starts by acknowledging who you are not.”- Dana Lewis, LCSW-C
We have put together this list of journal prompts that you can work through by yourself or with your therapist. These are deep questions you can also ponder when journaling in your free time when those more unpleasant feelings come up for you.
1. What subjects do I find the most interesting in school right now? Do any of these subjects truly pique my interest or passion? Are there opportunities to take more types of these classes in high school?
2. What clubs or after-school activities am I currently participating in? Do these activities actually bring me joy or am I just attending because a parent told me? Am I adding unfulfilling activities to my plate because I feel the pressure to have them on my resume? If I am attending for other reasons than my own, could I make some changes in what I give my time to? What would it look like for me to speak to my parents about different extracurriculars I want to pursue that are more aligned with my interests? Or to drop some extracurriculars that aren’t actually what I want?
3. What do I consider the most important attributes of a friendship? How can I choose friendships that align with these values? (Examples: trust, fun, empathy, humor, similar interests, respect)
4. How do I currently feel about my social life and my friends? If I believe that I am friends with like-minded and supportive people, how can I nurture these friendships when we are probably going through different emotions as we figure out our personal stuff? If I am noticing I can’t be myself around my friends, what can I do to stay true to myself and speak my feelings in front of my friends? Would it feel possible to venture into different friend groups if I feel like I don't connect with my friends? How could I go about making new friends outside of school?
5. What boundaries can I put in place with my parents so I can do the things I want to do while still respecting their household rules? What would it look like to prepare for these conversations to set new boundaries? (Examples: role-playing with a therapist, journaling)
6. How can I cope ahead with the wave of emotions I will encounter on this identity roller-coaster? For those moments I feel overwhelmed, what would it look like to make time for self-care when I am feeling stressed, lonely, or anxious? What self-care activities work for me? Do I enjoy playing sports, hanging out with friends, doing something creative like painting, or reading an uplifting book?
“Bridging the gap between where you are and where you want to be will often require a rewiring of your self-concept.”
Once you embark on the journey of discovering your true self, you begin to form your identity. We hope that this space for reflection supports you in refining your interests and exploring what brings you to a closer version of yourself. Be kind to yourself– figuring this out as a teen is a process– we are here with you.
If you’re a teen interested in exploring your identity with the help of a therapist, the psychologists at North Berkeley Counseling are here to support you. We offer in person therapy in Berkeley, California, as well as online throughout California, Florida, Virginia, and Hawaii. Book your first session today!