Perhaps this article should point out right away that it’s not so much finding normal that is essential during adolescence, but it’s finding your normal that is crucial. According to a recent CNN article about the biggest challenges that teens face, the number one issue teens were concerned about was the pressing challenge of fitting in. As an adolescent, you might feel the pressures of trying to be like others and the need to be accepted by your peers.
When this need is not met, developing a strong sense of self can be affected. And your sense of self is fragile; it is timidly developing at this stage of life. Despite the outside pressures and influences, having the opportunity to reflect on who you are, who you would like to be, and what is important to you can facilitate a growing self-worth.
In fact, this is not only essential during adolescence; discovering who you are – your own sense of normal – is the key task of being a teenager. The developmental psychologist Erik Erikson said that adolescence is the most pivotal stage in life. During this life phase, teens need to work through discovering their unique identity, and by doing so, they will be more equipped to find success in the major life phases that are to come. Yet, discovering your sense of self amidst other confused teenagers, the demands placed on you by parents and teachers, and your exploding psychological and physical growth can be difficult.
In his article, The Three Biggest Problems Teenagers Face And What To Do About Them, Nathan Hulls points out that the problems of teens are not what we think. Yes, typically, problems you read about for teens include drugs, smoking, binge drinking, homelessness, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and more. But Hulls says that the three real issues for teens are their self-esteem, self-belief, and self-love. He points out that the media continues to bombard teens with the message that they are not enough. They are too fat, too short, too skinny, too tall, etc.
Television and movies frequently send the message that we need to be forever reaching for an ideal standard that most people, especially teens, just can’t reach. Having the thought of not being good enough, smart enough, or attractive enough can eat away at a teen over time. In fact, many adults today have suffered from this chronic negative thinking. In the end, both teens and adults hold onto negative beliefs about themselves without ever really knowing it. For instance, the effects of their negative thinking can be seen in almost every aspect of life – poor grades, little money, few relationships, or jobs that don’t reflect the value of their skills.
However, it’s possible to find normal – your normal – and it might just require coming out of your shell. It might require becoming vulnerable enough to be yourself, rather than someone everyone else wants you to be. This was the case for Sherry when she switched from taking an acting class to chorus at her high school, she “came out of my shell”.
Even though I sometimes felt lonely or different at school, I could always look forward to after-school chorus rehearsals, dance, or an improv show….What I realized was that all that time I was looking for “normal” when I didn’t even know what that was for me. Having something to associate with and not having to stand on my own made me more confident and everything seemed easier to get through with real friends by my side.
Although it might be tempting to give in to what your friends or peers might be asking of you to be, remember that your primary task is to find what is normal for you, and only you.