Teenage Identity Development

The Personal Challenge – Mastering Teenage Identity Development

The Power of Identity

Developing your identity as a teenager is one of the most powerful things you can do for several reasons:

  1. It puts you in the position of “being the author”, which is at the heart of the teen heroic journey – for all teenagers.  Becoming the author means leaving the dependence of childhood and increasingly taking charge of your life to become an independent young adult.  Developing your identity is an essential part of being the author and it is a part where you have almost all of the control.
  2. It can give you a sense of power and confidence.  Every time you add a piece to your identity puzzle, you become a little more powerful and that helps you deal with all the powerful forces in your world.  The more you know who you are, the more confidence you can have in dealing with your world.
  3. The stronger your identity is, the less vulnerable you are to others and to the inevitable setbacks on the journey.  As you add the pieces to your identity puzzle you can become more and more clear about your value and what you bring to relationships (and your place in the world).  Being clear about your identity will also support you when you encounter the inevitable setbacks that happen in relationships and life in general.  It helps keep the setbacks in perspective.

Note.  the points above will be important throughout your life, but they are critical when you are a teenager and facing so much unknown and so much that is new.  If you know yourself, the unknown shrinks and isn’t as scary.

teenage identity development is about answering "who am I?"

The teen years are where we really start exploring this “who am I?” question.  That identity question doesn’t end after the teen years, as it is a lifelong question, but the most intense focus for most people is as a teenager (and early twenties). 

Your “Identity Puzzle”

An identity is made up of a lot of elements.  Some, like your sense of purpose or values are elements that you develop.  Others, like gender or race, are elements that are givens and you have to figure out what they mean for you.  It really is a puzzle with a lot of pieces.

It’s Asking the Questions that Matters

A big part of the teen heroic journey is leaving your identity as a child behind and  discovering who you are becoming – your gifts, your values, what matters to you, what you like about yourself and what you want to change or develop.  Who am I in the world?  Who am I in my relationships with family, friends, romantic partners, my community, etc.?  What impact does my race, gender, sexual orientation, friends and affiliations have on my identity?

The best approach is to relax and be curious – pay attention and talk with others.  The answers will come. Teenage identity development takes time – it is a journey and sometimes a long one.  Your sense of identity will grow and evolve.

You Have Two Identities

One identity is how you see yourself.  The other identity is how others see you.  Those two identities may be very similar, but how others see you depends heavily on the “others”, so the critical identity is how you see yourself.

You Have an Identity in Two Worlds -the Physical and Digital Worlds

In terms of identity, we now live in a physical world and increasingly in a digital world (internet/social media).  Almost everything that follows about forming an identity applies to both worlds, so these basics can be trusted.

teenage identities coming together in the physical and digital world

It’s best to focus on the physical world and then determine how the digital world applies.  Digital identities are important and becoming more so.  However, identity starts with you and your physical world and extends to the digital.  It may not always feel that way, but that is the healthy way.

In other words, figure yourself out and then project yourself.  The reality is that you will figure yourself out partly online, so it’s not a hard boundary.  It just works better to focus on the physical world and carefully manage the digital world.

Many of the issues relating to your digital world will be directly addressed in the section on your personal brand.  However, everything in this section applies to both worlds.

Contents for Identity

From Child to Adult – It’s a Journey – It Takes Time

  1. It’s a Journey – teenage identity development is about becoming the author of your life
  2. Inner Voices & Outer Voices – Who do You Listen to?

Four Core Identity Elements – You are the Author

  1. Your Significance – “Yes, you are significant now as a teenager”
  2. Your Sense of Purpose – Life Purpose or Purpose as a Teenager
  3. Your Personal Qualities
  4. Your Values

Identity Elements – You Define Their Impact

  1. 10 Identity Elements that Add to the Core Elements

Explore and Commit

  1. On the Journey – Exploring and Committing
  2. The Four “Identity States”

The Identity Picture

  1. Your Identity Puzzle
  2. Your Personal Brand
  3. Social Media & Your Brand

Identity Pitfalls

  1. Failing to Explore
  2. False Identities
  3. All or Nothing
  4. Basing Your Identity on One or Two Elements
  5. Giving Up Your Identity

Knowledge is power. Understanding what to expect on the path of developing an identity as a young woman or young man makes a tremendous difference in the experience – and the outcomes. You will also find interactive worksheets that allow you to capture your thoughts for most of these topics. It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.

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