By Bola Okunlade
Rachel had always been a good girl. Her parents and people in her neighbourhood considered her a model for others. About a year and a half ago, during summer school, she started hanging out with Nora, the most popular girl in her school. Nora was pretty, outgoing, and every boy at school wanted to talk with her. Rachel saw in Nora everything she (Rachel) thought she wanted to be. She would also like to be that girl that boys love to talk to. They hit it off right away and started spending every day together. With a couple of other girls, they formed a clique. In order to be friends with these girls, Rachel had to break every rule as she put aside all the principles she had always lived by. She would have loved to obey mum and dad like she had always done but she was determined to be friends with these girls and become popular.
Just like Rachel, everyone has to answer the question of identity at one time or the other because identity is an integral part of every life. One who is not sure of his or her identity is said to be having an identity crisis. In today's rapidly changing world, people tend to experience identity crisis more than before. Although identity crisis is not confined to the teenage years, psychologists say the crisis is heightened in adolescence due to the developmental changes associated with puberty. Teenagers experience rapid changes in body build, hormones, emotions and cognitive abilities. These changes come with a contemplation of their identity and roles in the society. Answering the question of identity during the teenage years is important because it will help prepare you for the developmental tasks that lie ahead.
What's with teenage identity? One of the things that come with the onset of adolescence is a new awareness or realisation of who we are. The physical and physiological changes that take place in adolescence often bring curiosity in the teenager – curiosity about the reason for these changes. Adolescence is a time of great change not only physically, but also emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually. It's a time when teens are asking questions like "Who am I?", "What do I believe?", "How do I fit into life in this world?" One timeless question that teens seek answers to as they grow into adulthood is ‘Who am I?’ Psychologists say this is one question at the centre of teenage rebellion. Because teenagers are having a hard time figuring out who they are, they often rebel against authority especially when that authority is trying to ‘force’ them to accept a definition of themselves they are not comfortable with.
Why do you need an identity? Identity is a major building block in a person's life. Getting to know who you are during the period of adolescence is very crucial because it would form a foundation for many other things in your life. Identity is central in life because it is the springboard or propeller from which so many great achievers and even the never-do-wells have soared to their prospective destinations. While a right sense of your person would enhance your perception of things around you as well as your response to them, a wrong perception would colour your view of things and also affect your reaction to them.
Among many other things, your identity will determine your approach to life, the choices you make and how well you are able to harness your God-given potentials. Many teenagers who missed it at their adolescence never get the opportunity to fix the issue of identity. Someone said "there are so many crises in life but 'none is as serious and critical as identity crisis." One who suffers identity crisis does not know who he or she is and so struggles to be someone else. Deeply seated beneath the crises of identity is the need to belong and of unhealthy comparing of oneself with another. This need for acceptance and respect often makes many teenagers look for meaning and answers to their questions amidst their peers.
They often allow teenagers like themselves define this period for them. The Scripture says, “... When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12) The truth is: your real or perfect identity is not in what others think, feel or say about you. Sometimes, the definitions people give of you are not perfect. Your personality, chosen career path or family background might give you a form of identity but that also may not be accurate.
How then can you attain the right identity? How can you solve the problem of identity crisis? The journey of getting to know who you really are begins when you commit your life to Jesus. Blaise Pascal said "Not only do we only know God through Jesus Christ, but we only know ourselves through Jesus Christ... apart from Jesus Christ we cannot know the meaning of our life...." The great Christian thinker John Calvin said there's no knowing that does not begin with knowing God. Your perfect identity is the picture God has of you and until you get that, you will never be able to solve the frustration that comes with identity crisis.
The Lord said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5) Until you find your identity in Christ, all other definitions of you aren't going to be perfect because He was the One who formed you and He knows your frame; He knows how and what He has designed you for. In Elizabeth George’s description, without Christ, "one is like a man with a great car...but without a key. You can’t get the car started. You can’t make it work. You can’t go anywhere. A relationship with God is the key – the key to all of life – including getting to know who you are."
The psalmist rightly says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14) There is no authentic identity outside God. Psychologists have done a lot in defining the teenager but the most accurate perspective is the one God gives about you. Reinhard Bonnke said, "we become what we were born to be only when we are born again." Your correct or accurate identity is in knowing who you are in God. Anything outside that is not it. God has endowed you with great potentials but the key to unlocking them is in getting to know God through Christ.
Treasures for Teens