Identity and Belonging

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The groups we reject tell us as much about ourselves as those to which we choose to belong

Do I Belong?
By Danielle Arnold –Levy
“Who am I?” is a question often repeated by teenagers, though they may not voice it out loud or use precisely those words. One of the biggest challenges that adolescents face during the transition between childhood and adulthood is this struggle with their own sense of identity. For one thing, it seems to constantly shift: they may act one way with a particular group of peers and completely different with another. Ironically, the opinions of friends and acquaintances become very important at this stage in teenagers lives, whilst they are rejecting their parents’ advice however this may be apparent before teenage years and it tends to dictate kids' taste in clothing, the way they speak, how they react to things, who they hang out with, what they believe in, and their choice in musical genres.  Others' opinions often dictate how kids feel about themselves, and how they regulate their self-esteem. Here is another area where their sense of identity can become clouded, because they start comparing themselves to everyone else. They may worry about why they’re developing earlier or later than their peers in certain areas. Because puberty and adolescence are such confusing transitions, kids can feel a strong urge to check their own progress alongside that of another, or to stick with those people who, for all outward appearances, seem to have it all figured out. No wonder they end up questioning who they really are, after having spent so much time imitating others.

A certain amount of experimentation – with rebellion, imitation, and changes of image and attitude – is probably necessary before they can form a real sense of what they want and how to go about getting it. Parents who recognize this come to understand that they have to let go of their children, to a certain extent, just when they most want to protect them the most. They...
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