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Quest for Self-Identity: The Shorter, Happier Route for Your Teenager

Quest for Self-Identity: The Shorter, Happier Route for Your Teenager


Quest for Self-Identity: The Shorter, Happier Route

for Your Teenager


There are many challenges that teens go through during adolescence. Their raging hormones and neuronal changes will kick into overdrive. Peer and social pressures will test their social skills and resilience. Academic pressures will weigh them down. With family issues, things can get complicated and overwhelming. On top of it all, this is also a critical time for self-discovery and the search for self-identity.

The quest for self-identity is normal and isn’t something that you should worry about. Most teens, though, are challenged by this developmental task. “As a parent, you play a vital role in guiding your teen to self-identity. When your adolescent child manifests signs that indicate difficulty and struggle, it is time to step in. Professional intervention can be a tremendous help for both you and your teen.


Understanding the Value of the Quest

Self-identity is a person’s definition of who they are. It is made up of “descriptive characteristics, qualities, and abilities that people use to define themselves.” The quest to build this definition is a major milestone for teenagers. Discovering their self-identity is both critical and meaningful, because it gives them self-control and independence that can guide them through life. The development of self-identity is important because it is connected to the development of emotional maturity, and it is inevitable because it is fueled by hormonal and neuronal changes, accelerating their growth both physically and emotionally.

Finding out who they are is easy for some teens. For others, it is a long, tortuous process. There are many reasons why your adolescent child may not take the easier, shorter, and happier path. It could be their personality. It could be their environment. If your child has emotional issues or disorders—low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, etc.—the quest for self-identity could be even more overwhelming.

Regardless of the reason behind the difficulty, one thing is certain: that sense of self has to be discovered. Without knowing who they are, they run the risk of having more emotional insecurities and issues, even beyond adolescence.


Sailing Through the Process

“The basic premise associated with… psycho-social development is that the personality is determined over the lifespan as the individual biologically and cognitively matures.” In adolescence, the main developmental task is identity formation. The task or process is critical during this transitional period, because inconsistency between the ideal and the real self can contribute to a teen’s confusion and “maladaptation.”

The quest for self-identity follows a typical pattern. They identify with certain people they look up to—celebrities, parents, or someone they admire from school or the community—and emulate them. Their unique personality, upbringing, family culture, and immediate environment all contribute to the process. Considering all the factors and variables, by the end of the quest, if everything goes well, your teen should emerge as a unique adult with a coherent and positive sense of self.

The word “positive” implies the possibility of developing a “negative” sense of self. This can happen if, along the way, the teen comes to identify with the wrong role models and imitate their undesirable ways. The perception can be subjective. As a parent, however, you have an idea of what can be good or bad for your child. Having a counselor can help you assess these influences as they affect your child. They can also help you answer the question “Does my child need counseling at this time when he/she is in search of self-identity?”


Risky Identity Issues

How would you know if your teenager is having trouble with their quest for sense of self? Psychology expert Les Parrott offers five common ways in which teens demonstrate their struggles with the quest for self-identity: through status symbols, forbidden behaviors, rebellion, idols, and cliquish exclusion.

While identifying with an icon or being part of a clique isn’t necessarily undesirable, it can be alarming if your teen is emulating someone or a group whom you believe is the “wrong” type to look up to. It can also be dangerous when they go fanatical in their attempt to imitate their idols. Excessive emulation isn’t healthy because it can make teens feel inadequate when they are unable to copy the idol perfectly. This can be a big blow to their self-esteem, and it can lead them to lose self-confidence and rebel.

This makes the quest for self-identity a formidable task for your teenager and a terrifying one for you. If they are unsuccessful in their quest and feeling confused, they can turn to risky behaviors. If they are unsure of what they want in life or who they want to be, they can become indecisive and dependent on other people, allowing others to run their life. If they fail to achieve an integrated or coherent self, they may never be happy, as they shift roles or live their lives just pleasing others.


Counseling: Achieving a Positive Sense of Self

Caring and loving parents have good reason to worry about their teen’s quest for self-identity. The road ahead can take them to a positive sense of self or a negative one, and the choice is crucial. Discovering a positive self-identity can make them happy and help them successfully navigate through the life they want, courageously and independently. A negative sense of self can make them unhappy and unsuccessful, weighed down by many unfulfilled plans and dreams.

The challenge that lies ahead isn’t just about the quest for self-identity—it is also about discovering a positive sense of self. Yes, it is daunting, but it is something you can help your child with. You have the power to guide your child in this important task, with the help of an independent, experienced counselor contracted with Carolina Counseling Services — Pinehurst, NC. Remember, providing the intervention they need to complete their quest confidently is a power you have at the tips of your fingers. Call us now for your teen’s first appointment.


Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

Counties: Moore county, NC, Lee County, Hoke County, Chatham County

Areas: Pinehurst NC, West End NC, Taylortown NC, Seven Lakes NC, Eagle Springs NC, Jackson Springs NC, Foxfire NC, Candor NC, Norman NC, Ellerbe NC, Rockingham NC

Zip Codes: 27281, 27376, 28315, 28347, 28350, 28373, 28374, 28387, 28388, 28394

Kelly ErkenBrack, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 3+) Children, Teens, Adults, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Loss, Mood Disorders, Trauma, Adjustments and Life Transitions, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting, Relationship Concerns, Self Esteem
Insurance: BCBSTricare Prime/Select, Medicare and Cash
Credit Cards:  
Location: Pinehurst, NC

Robin Caswell, MSW, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 5+), Individuals, Adults, Anxiety, Depression, Grief, Loss, ADHD, ODD, Trauma/PTSD, LGBTQ, Self-Harm, Military Family Life, Mood Disorders, OCD, Phobias
Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare and Cash
Credit Cards:  
Location: Pinehurst, NC

Counseling Information

How Do I Set Up my FIRST Appointment?

  • Call: 910-420-3600 (Fastest way to schedule)
  • Text: (910) 308-3291 (Reply will be via phone)
  • Click here and use our Contact Form (You must include your phone number, because replies will only be made by telephone to ensure security/privacy)
  • Call or Text for your New Patient Appointment Anytime!
  • Appointment scheduling for NEW clients: Mon-Fri 8:30am-5pm
  • Established/Standing Appointments are made directly with your therapist!
  • Referrals: MOST beneficiaries do NOT need a Referral!

Other Contact Info

If you have a compliment, concern or comments please contact:

Contact Management: click here

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Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

45 Dowd Circle Suite 5
PinehurstNC 28374

Our Mailing Address:

PO BOX 9909
Fayetteville, NC 28311