Navigating Self-Discovery and Core Values: A Guide for Early Adolescents

Navigating Self-Discovery and Core Values: A Guide for Early Adolescents

By Banafsha

Navigating Self-Discovery and Core Values: A Guide for Early Adolescents


What is Self? 

The self is peculiarly difficult to define. People seem to use the term ‘Self’ quite frequently, but they hardly know what exactly it is or what they are referring to, Some researchers who study the brain say that the idea of "self" might not be real and rather, it is an illusion. They can't find a specific part of the brain that matches the idea of self. But, in their daily lives, these scientists still act as if they know what the self is, which means it's probably not just an illusion. For instance, they can tell what belongs to them and what belongs to others, like their wallet, home, feet, thoughts, or partner. If the self was only an idea with no truth, then there wouldn't be any real difference between you and me. We wouldn't be able to talk about whether that 200 rupees note in your wallet is yours or mine.


So, even though it's hard to explain, most people have a basic idea of what the self is. To understand it better scientifically, let's start by thinking about what it does, its different parts, and where it comes from.


Baumeister and Bushman claim that Self is the conflict between selfish impulse and social conscience. The Self is right in the middle of this battle. On one side, our inner feelings sometimes make us want to focus on ourselves, hence the term "selfish." We often have this strong feeling that we should do what benefits us the most because that's how we're made as human beings. On the other hand, being too focused on ourselves can cause problems in society. So, we also learn to adopt the rules and values of our community. These rules usually guide us to do what's best for the group rather than just for ourselves. This means we have to understand these community values and follow them, even when it means going against our natural tendency to be selfish.


The Self has three main parts: 

  • Self Knowledge (Self-Concept)
  • People are aware of themselves, and this awareness helps them create complex ideas about who they are. You can probably come up with 15 or 20 distinct responses to the question, "Tell me something about yourself," without having to put any thought into it. Think about these situations that involve knowing yourself: You pause to imagine what you'll be doing in five years. You get a grade on a test and think about how well you understand that subject. You look at your reflection in a mirror or check your weight. You read your horoscope or find out the results of medical tests. All these examples refer to the idea of self-knowledge and self-concept. 

  • Interpersonal Self (Public Self)
  • The part of the self that relates to how we interact with others is called the interpersonal self or public self. It's like our social side that helps us connect with people. Many of us have an image we want others to see. Sometimes, we try really hard to show a certain image to others, even if it's not exactly the complete truth. Think about things you do to make a good impression. You put on nice clothes for a party. You show your friends that you're relaxed and like to have fun. You try to get good scores on examinations to show your teachers how talented and hard-working you are. All these examples refer to the idea of interpersonal self that struggles to find a place within society and get along with other people. 


  • Agent Self (Executive Function) 
  • The third important part of yourself is called the agent self or executive function. This part helps you get things done. It lets you make choices and control stuff, like controlling yourself or even other people and things. Sometimes you choose not to eat something because it's not healthy. Sometimes you make a promise and work hard to keep it. Other times, you decide which classes to take to get better scores. Maybe you motivate yourself to go jogging even when it's rainy and you feel lazy. Maybe you bet on a sports game. All of these things show that you're not just someone who knows things, but also someone who does things.

    What is Identity? 

    According to many experts, it's really important for us to build a strong and steady understanding of who we are during adolescence. Even though we keep growing and learning about ourselves as we get older, it's in our teen years that we start wondering about how who we are might influence our lives. When we're adolescents, we tend to think a lot about how we're changing and what that means for us.

    Identity means understanding who we are as individuals and as part of different social groups. Our identities aren't only made by us: they shape up because of things inside us and things happening around us. We kind of decide on some parts of our identity, but other parts are shaped by things we can't control from the world around us.


    What is Self-Identity? 

    Self identity is all about how you see and describe yourself. It's like the unique things that make you, you. Imagine you're building a puzzle of yourself, and each piece is a special thing about you.


    For instance, think about your hobbies, like playing soccer or painting. Those are parts of your self identity. But there's a bigger picture, too. It's like all the pieces of the puzzle combined, including things you might not think about all the time, like your values and beliefs, your talents, and even how you look.


    Now, your personal identity is even larger. It's like the whole puzzle, including all the pieces we talked about before. But sometimes, you might not realize or care about every single piece in the puzzle. Maybe you have a talent for singing, but you never really thought about it much, so you don't see it as part of your self identity.


    In simple words, personal identity is everything that makes you who you are, while self identity is how you personally look at and define those pieces of yourself.

    Based on the definition of Self-identity, we can conclude that the major focus of self-identity is on self-esteem which is how we see and think about ourselves. It comes from what we think and feel about who we are, and it's not easy to change those thoughts. Another way to look at this is self-confidence.


    Your self-esteem can influence whether you:


    • Feel good about yourself
    • Can decide things and stand up for yourself
    • Know what you're good at
    • Feel brave to try new or tough stuff
    • Are nice to yourself
    • Don't blame yourself too much for mistakes
    • Take time for yourself
    • Believe you're important and worthy
    • Think you deserve to be happy


    Our sense of self is made up of various parts of who we are, and these parts are all connected. Some parts, like our race and gender, are easy to notice, and they often matter more to us because they're important in every situation and have serious effects in society. For instance, race is important in all our interactions, while something like our political beliefs, which aren't visible, might only matter during elections for some people.


    Let us have a look at how social context might influence one’s internal sense of identity: 


    Rahul's grandparents migrated to India from Nepal, but he was born and raised in India. While he mostly sees himself as an Indian, he takes part in Nepali cultural events and celebrations with his extended family. During his visits to his grandparents' village, he engages in traditional Nepali customs.

    Here, Rahul has an Indian national identity, but he recognizes the importance of his Nepali ethnic identity when he's with his family. When he's at school or with friends, he embraces Indian customs and festivals. This shows how national and ethnic self-identities can shift based on the social setting.


    Stages and Status of Identity Development 

    Back in the 1960s, a psychologist named Erik Erikson talked about how teenagers go through a big identity crisis. He called it "Identity vs. Identity Diffusion." Basically, it's like a part of growing up. If they sort it out well, they become more sure of who they are. But if not, they might feel confused and not really know themselves. This has a lot to do with how they connect with others during this time.


    Another psychologist, James Marcia, had similar thoughts about teens and figuring out who they are. He didn't see it as clear "stages" like Erikson did. Instead, he thought it's more like different "statuses" that teens go through as they deal with different things like school, relationships, and values. It's not like a straight line of growth, but more like going back and forth.


    According to Marcia:


    Identity Diffusion: Some teens haven't really decided on their identity yet. Like, they might not know what they want to do for a job or what they're really into. This can change if something makes them think more about it.


    Identity Foreclosure: This is when a teen decides on their identity too quickly, without really exploring other options. Maybe they just stick to what their parents or traditions say.


    Identity Moratorium: Teens in this phase are trying things out and exploring different identities, but they're not fully committed to any one of them. It's an exciting time, but it can also lead to disagreements with parents or other people in charge.


    Identity Achievement: This is when a teen has checked out different identities and finally picks one they feel strongly about. It's like they've gone through the process and landed on an answer.


    So, it's like a journey of self-discovery for teenagers. Some know who they are quickly, some take their time, and some go back and forth. It's all part of growing up and figuring out what makes them unique.


    Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem

    Improving how you see yourself is like a journey. There are things you can try that might help you feel better about who you are. Keep in mind, not everything works for everyone, so only do what feels right for you.


    Be Kind to Yourself: Get to know what makes you happy and what you care about in life. Write it down in a journal if that helps. Also, challenge those mean thoughts you might have about yourself. Would you talk like that to a friend?


    Notice the Good Stuff: Celebrate even the small successes, like going for a walk or tidying up. Don't shy away from compliments; take them to heart. You can even ask people what they like about you.


    Build a Support System: Talk to someone you trust, like a friend or a helpline if you need to. Spend more time with people who make you feel good about yourself. You can also connect with others who've been through similar things.


    Talk Therapy Can Help: Having conversations with a therapist can make a difference. They can help you work through things that affect how you feel about yourself.


    Set Challenges: Volunteering, setting small goals, and trying new things can boost your self-esteem. Learning a new hobby or reading about something new can be great too.

    Take Care of Yourself: Sleep well, eat regularly, and stay active. Spend time outdoors and try meditation or mindfulness. Avoid drugs and alcohol, they might not help in the long run.


    Join Self-Help Programs: There are programs and books that can guide you through boosting your self-esteem.


    Remember, building self-esteem is like putting together a puzzle. It takes time, and it's okay to ask for help when you need it. You're awesome just the way you are, and there are ways to feel even better about yourself.

     To know more about A Guide for Adolescents: Practicing Self-Reflection for Personal Growth read here

    To know more about Unlocking the Power of Emotional Intelligence for Lifelong Success read here

    #SelfDiscovery #EarlyAdolescents #SelfDiscovery #UnderstandingSelf  #SelfKnowledge #SelfIdentity #SelfGrowth

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