teens huddling and looking at the camera smiling

Let’s be honest: the teenage years are a tumultuous period. You’re dealing with puberty, added pressure from increased expectations (e.g. for studies) and a natural increased sense of self-awareness and consciousness.

Simply put, you’re struggling to understand who you are, what you want, why you want what you want and why you are who you are. No wonder you’re confused. It doesn’t help that pop culture paints a rosy picture of growing up: flawless skin, the perfect clique, the dream boyfriend or girlfriend, and keeping good grades on top of it all!

While striving to achieve the impossible, the need for friends and support becomes more prominent, giving rise to peer pressure, which can be a positive or negative thing. The former could motivate us to pick up a new interest and excel in it, while negative peer pressure could affect our self-esteem or lead us to do things that we may regret, such as picking up bad habits like smoking or drinking excessively.

It can be pretty daunting to “find ourselves”. Here are some tips that might make it a little bit easier.

1. Embrace Your Quirks

Embracing your Quirks  

There is only one of you in all the world, so why try to be someone you’re not? “Embrace your quirks. Being weird is a wonderful thing,” said singer Ed Sheeran, who stuttered as a child. He told The Hollywood Reporter[1]: “Having things that make you different help you become an interesting person …. Most of the people I knew that were normal in school are all pretty dull right now … most of the people that are successful started life off as a weird kid with no friends.”

A great way to start is to discover more about yourself with this Inner Awesome Test to find out what your strengths are and to help you understand better how you cope with difficulties, changes and the people around you.

Related: I Am What I Think

2. Have Fun On This Journey of Self-discovery

Cheerful Youths

Self-identity is how we define ourselves and see ourselves in relation to our friends and family. This changes throughout our lives, but most of us feel that self-discovery is most intense during our adolescent years. Enjoy this journey without being confined or contained to expectations and stereotypes. Go ahead and be curious about new trends and make new friends, but don’t ever feel the pressure to do something that doesn’t appeal to you or feel right.

Alyssa Tan, 14, loves reading, writing and musicals now, but she struggled with her self-identity at the beginning of Secondary 1. “My first thought was: ‘Wow. Everyone is so sporty, thin and athletic.’ I caved in to peer pressure… I did everything they did; I bought running shoes, I participated almost over-eagerly during PE lessons, and I even wore KT-Tape like they did,” she shared.

Eventually she realised she was trying to be someone she wasn’t and felt lousy about her own physical ability. “I didn’t like to admit I wasn’t able to run like my classmates but when I realised how much I liked reading and writing, I found comfort in the literary arts … Before long I was back to my old self.”

Related: Get the Most Out of Your School Break!

3. Know What YOU Want

know what you want

Don’t let others dictate your choices. There is a difference between receiving advice to better yourself and caving in because you‘re afraid to lose your friends if you don’t conform. Learn to say no to things that you don’t agree with, and stick by your convictions. At the end of the day, it’s your life and you’re the one with the keys to the ignition. Love or hate Justin Bieber, he’s right when he sings: “Gonna give everything I have/ It’s my destiny” in Never Say Never.

Related: Organise Your Life

4. Know Who Your Friends Are

Happy friends

A good friend (or two) is worth far more than 10,000 followers on Instagram. So find the right ones who aren’t afraid to tell you what you’re doing wrong, and can accept you for who you are.

Seventeen-year-old Shane Chua, who is studying interior design at a polytechnic, struggled to find the right friends a year ago: “I felt pressured to play pool or go gaming with them when I should have been doing homework. It was a constant battle between wanting to be true to myself and keeping their friendships.”

It took him some time before he found a worthy bunch of friends. He shares a pithy piece of wisdom: “If the people you hang out with make you feel like you won’t be accepted because you don’t want to do what they do, then you need new and better friends.”

Remember, you’re not alone in this struggle. So while it’s pretty tough trying to #beoriginal, it’s definitely worth it!

References

  1. Lee, A. (2015, Sep 6). Ed Sheeran Gives Inspiring, Irreverent Speech on Stuttering: “Embrace Your Weirdness” [The Hollywood Reporter].
    Retrieved April 2016 from http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/ed-sheeran-stutter-speech-embrace-801170