Grappling with identity

This year’s theme for Youth Communication’s Summer Writing Workshop is identity, so I’ve been working on tailoring my workshop material around that topic. In discussing adolescence, for example, I won’t be focusing on the teen brain. Instead, I want to emphasize what child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Ruth Talbot has called the “tasks of adolescents,” which are namely to:

•cope with physical changes
•establish a gender identity and sexual orientation
•establish an identity
•establish autonomy
•prepare to live independently
•separate and develop new relationships with family of origin
•develop moral code
•establish peer relationships
•establish intimate relationships


I’m especially interested in the teenage exploration of identity and desire for independence. As in my workshop on the teenage brain, I’ll still bring in some comic strips from Zits, such as this one [click here], where Jeremy tries on different identities before a mirror. There are also a lot of great strips on Jeremy exploring the limits and reaches of his independence and the ambivalence both he and his parents feel about it [see here, here, and here].

I want YCTeen and Represent writers to reflect on how they, as teenagers, try on different kinds of identities, and to talk about what exactly is involved in that process. When you experiment with new identities, do you tend to follow what your friends do, or do you find yourself having to change your social circle to better fit a new identity? What are the external markers of those identities? Is it in the clothes you wear, the music you listen to, or the issues you care about? I’m also interested in the kinds of identities that young people have a tough time shedding (e.g., the nerdy kid who wants to be cool, or the troublemaker who wishes to be taken seriously by teachers).

I’d be interested to hear any anecdotes out there about how you (or a teenager you know) has grappled with different identities.

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