Dangerous Places Teens Go to Find a Sense of Identity

I played a lot of sports when I was young, but my best was soccer. I excelled at it from an early age. As the years went by, the more soccer I played, and the recognition I received from it, gave me a sense of identity. By the time I was halfway through high school, it had become ingrained. But during a preseason game my junior year, I broke my foot straight across and learned I’d miss the entire season. For most of that year, I felt like I’d lost my identity. I didn’t know who I was and felt like I had lost value. As a result, I often felt tired and depressed. My grades dropped. It took me a long time to recover from finding my identity in the wrong thing.

The teenage years are filled with uncertainty because teens’ core identity hasn’t developed yet. Teens are desperate to find one to give them a sense of stability, self-worth, and significance. Sometimes they will grab anything in front of them. Many will place their identity in things that don’t last, as I did. It’s like building a large house on a pile of sand. It’s dangerous because the foundation is shaky and eventually will cause the structure to come down. We need to make sure our kids are finding their identity and value in something solid and reinforce it while steering them away from the wrong ones. Here are 7 dangerous places teens go to find a sense of identity.

We need to ensure our kids find their identity and value in something solid.

1. Friends and Popularity

There’s nothing wrong with being popular, but too often it dictates how teens feel about themselves. They measure their value in the amount of people following them on Snapchat, the number of likes they get on social media, and what parties they’re invited to attend. In the end, they create a person they think the masses will like rather than being their authentic selves. The shell gets painted, but the interior is empty.

2. Boyfriend/Girlfriend

If they don’t have one, they feel like less of a person or left behind. When they do have a boyfriend or girlfriend, they lose themselves in the relationship. It becomes their sole focus, and they tend to immerse themselves in what the other person’s interests and desires are. When the relationship ends, they feel like they’re left with nothing.

3. Looks

In the long-term, and sometimes in the short-term, looks change and fade. In the meantime, teens compare themselves with others, obsess over every imperfection, and live off others’ compliments. This is particularly rampant among teen girls.

4. Success

When people define their existence on their success, they will only feel as good as their last accomplishment. Even when they succeed, there’s a shelf life. Eventually, they have to go find their next achievement to prove their self-worth again. It’s an endless cycle of pressure to perform over and over. When they fail, they’ll identify themselves as failures.

5. Abilities

They will measure their abilities to others’ and always feel as though their own abilities fall short. There is always someone who is more talented or has a wider range of gifts. There’s also no guarantee abilities will last. Age or injury eventually wear down abilities.

6. Having Money and Stuff

They will feel good about themselves when they have it or have purchased something new. However, this can easily make a person arrogant, self-seeking, and superficial. Then, when the money runs out, they will feel as empty as their bank account.

7. Being Wild

Teens want attention, and they’ll get it however they can. If they aren’t receiving good attention, they will seek out and settle for bad attention. In their minds, getting no attention equates to insignificance. So many will try to gain it by being wild, seeking extreme ways to party and be rebellious—bad attention feels better than no attention.

Where are your kids finding a sense of identity?

In our house, we teach our kids that their identity is that they are loved. They were created by a God who loves them, and their eternal value that has nothing to do with any of the above. It’s a core identity that is solid and lasting. Whether they choose to live in that identity is up to them.

Sound off: Where are your kids finding their sense of identity?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Do you know why you are valuable?”