Categorizing can be helpful in many ways; we learn what jobs we would most likely enjoy, we make friends with the same interest, and we find some solace in “knowing who we are;” the sort of feeling when you take a BuzzFeed personality test. But as we continue to whittle ourselves down to that unique labeled person inside, it’s important to not let go of some parts of ourselves simply because they don’t fit our carefully crafted identity. If you want to be a champion football player, but you love to cook, don’t stop cooking! You’ve probably seen high school musical—it’s possible to be a jock and still make a killer crème brûlée. My point is, everyone struggles with identity. It’s a normal part of life, and it shouldn’t last forever. Adolescence is your chance to experiment with different things, and try out different versions of yourself. Don’t be afraid to take up different hobbies and interests, even if they seem too different, like painting and math. You weren’t made to be a character trope in a TV show, so embrace your contradictions and just follow your instincts.
Dr. O adds:
This is so true! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Clare. It may surprise a lot of young people, but older adults are STILL shaping their identities! Learning and shaping your identity as you gather life experiences is one of the most fulfilling aspects of life. You can change directions, careers, hobbies – really anything – as your life goes on! This is really important to remember. Too many young adults I speak with or work with think they have to know exactly who they are and what they want to do with their lives when they are 15, 16, 17, … This is not true – some do, but most don’t! Don’t let that stress you out. Adults are really bad at making this worse by asking all sorts of questions like “what do you want to major in?” or “what do you want to be when you grow up”. You know what is a perfectly fine answer?! “I don’t know!” I agree that the teen years are a great time to try on different identities and to try different experiences. That is the only way to really figure out what feels right to you!