Teens with healthy self-esteem huddling and looking at the camera smiling.


What does it mean to be “yourself” or to be original when there’s so much pressure to “fit in”? It’s time to clue in on what it really means to just be you – and be perfectly happy about it.

The Teen Years: A Journey of Self-Discovery

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 may feel lost and confused.

It doesn’t help that pop culture paints a rosy picture of growing up: flawless skin, the perfect group of friends, the dream boyfriend or girlfriend, and keeping good grades on top of it all!

Peer Pressure and True Friends

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. Positive peer pressure from true friends could motivate us to pick up a new interest and excel in it, while negative peer pressure could affect our self-esteem.

When we have low self-esteem, we may do things that we regret, such as picking up bad habits like smoking or drinking excessively.

4 Ways to Know and Be Yourself

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

1. Be True to Yourself and Embrace Your Quirks

 Be true to yourself and embrace your unique singing voice

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 the self-discovery is to take this Inner Awesome Test. You’ll know more about your strengths and better understand how you cope with difficulties, changes and the people around you.

Related: I Am What I Think

2. Have Fun on The Journey of Personal Growth


How we see ourselves in relation to our friends is a lifelong journey of personal growth

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 of personal growth 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 did not feel good 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 Yourself and What You Want


Learn to say no and stick to your convictions

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. Form a Circle of True Friends


True friends accept you for who you are

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.”

Personal Growth is Worth It

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

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References

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