How Do I Decide My Identity?

Is it really up to me to decide my own identity? I’m 16 years old and getting more confused. Help!

Your confusion is completely understandable. Think of it: A person’s development from adolescence to adulthood takes about eight years. During that time, a young person’s physical, emotional, psychosocial, mental, and spiritual development undergo profound changes. Vocational and other former interests can disappear, and your parents might have difficulty seeing their former child in the (taller) stranger now standing before them.

Since we are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” just one word—identity—cannot adequately describe all the changes you are now experiencing. Also, how someone becomes mature is uniquely complex to each person. Simply put, one size does not fit all. Each individual has a unique genetic makeup, social history, and personality, and each teen will navigate this identity crisis in his or her own way.

Other important words that will add to your confusion are genetic and gender. We use the terms genetic expression or gender identity to describe how you would come to know and decide what it means to be identified as male or female, gay or straight. But even professionals such as psychiatrists, social scientists, and scholars in related fields do not all agree whether genetic differences are simply “variations on a theme” or whether these variations are alerting parents and doctors to a developmental abnormality that might need medical intervention (e.g., gender dysphoria as defined by the American Psychiatric Association). Under those circumstances, if you were not confused, you could be considered to be somewhat abnormal!

In the midst of confusion, Jesus calls us to identify with him—to become a “new creation,” to be “born again,” and to join the family of God. This offers some solid ground as you consider all these things, but it requires a decision on your part, too.

About the Author

Judy Cook is a family therapist and a member of Meadowlands Fellowship CRC in Ancaster, Ontario.
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