Young People Counselling - Identity and Independence vs Life Expectations
It has become clear to me recently that, whilst every young person brings their own issues, dilemmas and perspectives of the world to a counselling session, there is often a similarity or commonality running through their situations. I would describe the common link between this group of clients as their struggle to find identity and independence. I titled this article "Identity and Independence vs Life Expectations" because, in my experience, it feels as though these 2 conditions/states are in conflict fighting society’s norms.
It is not unusual to hear a young person discuss their desire for a certain social status or reputation they wish their friends, parents, teachers and society would perceive them as having. This desire is often ‘played out’ by an attitude that they do not care what anyone thinks of them - how they dress, look, speak, what they achieve or apply effort to. “I don’t care what they think, it’s my life!” and “I don’t need their approval, I can do what I want!” are common phrases.
And so the battle/cycle continues. The desire to create an individual identity free of caring about friends, parents, teachers and society’s view of them may seem to be triumphant at times - and, to a young person, it can seem like the only option. By starting to behave a certain way or make a dramatic life change however, independence can quickly lead to isolation or uncertainty as society rejects their chosen persona. It is at this point that a young person is then forced to reconsider their identity, the independence this has brought and the outcomes they are experiencing; the battle resumes and shifts in power. A young person, who for weeks or months has not wanted to be a part of the family or part of a friendship group, can then feel a need to be accepted and embraced back into the fold so that the independent and isolated self can now be supported and surrounded. There can also be a huge feeling of relief experienced that they no longer have to do things independently; however this relief can induce a frustration that they are no longer viewed or seen as unique or different, and so the fight can return as a move towards being seen as distinct returns; the battle recommences.
One may often wonder - who will win in this battle, identity and independence or society? For some young people society wins; they conform to expectations; they learn to fit in with their surroundings. Whereas with others, individuality and independence is all important; the youngster rebels from the norm or they go to extremes to achieve a level of independence that fulfils their own personal needs even at a cost.
But does it have to be a battle? Can they work together; identity and independence accepted by a sympathetic, open-minded society, established and working together side by side?
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