Identity: Who do you think you are?

“Part of what makes us human is our ability to be aware of our own existence, to both live and to reflect on our own lives.” – Stedman Graham

The questions on teen minds are often “Who am I?” “What am I going to do with my life?” What is different about me?” The ultimate search for your identity relies on finding answers to these questions. According to Santrock (2013), “Identity is the self-portrait composed of many pieces”, therefore, it is the picture you paint of yourself with many different parts/colours. Identities are the traits and characteristics, social relations, roles, and social group memberships that define who you are.

They can be focused on the past (what used to be true), the present (what is true now), or the future (the person one wishes to become) [Leary and Tangney, 2012].

Erik Erikson, a famous developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst, was the first theorist to try and understand identity during adolescence.

His theory focused on successfully completing the ‘identity vs identity confusion’ stage in order to become healthy, well-adjusted and confident individuals; who can freely associate with other people without losing themselves.

However, modern theorists believe that defining one’s identity is a natural process where teens “try on” or experiment with different identities; the results of these experiments help determine who they are, and how they want to be perceived by others (Oswalt, 2010).

Hence, your identity is made up of several components such as; what you think of yourself (self-concept, self-esteem, self-confidence etc.), your future career path, your motivation to achieve, your likes and dislikes, values you were raised with, your spiritual beliefs, where you’re from or the type of friends you have, just to mention a few.

Here are 2 practical tips to help you clarify and build your identity:

Write a heading at the top of a piece of paper titled ‘Who am I” – write down who you think you are, all your positive and negative qualities and discover your core personality.

Try not to be judgmental and to be as honest as possible.

Accept these and decide what you would like to change and improve on.

Create 2 posters, one titled, “Who I Am Now” and another titled “Who I want to be” – Cut out pictures from magazines or newspapers and paste them under the headings above.

Discovering your identity may seem like a difficult task now, however asking the “Who am I’ question daily and focusing your thoughts on the positive aspects of your unique being can create a strong sense of acceptance and love for yourself.

• Compiled by: Samantha Feris

June 2017
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