Given their newfound awareness, teenagers work at understanding who they are and what they believe in. Because of their limited experience, they often make the mistake of assuming that their characteristics during early adolescence represent permanent traits.
I explain to teens that the process of developing better self-understanding should be a lifelong endeavor. In the case of teens who are undergoing rapid growth, their character will naturally change a great deal by the time they become young adults. Further, character also changes as a result of how people react to various life circumstances.
Some of the teens who seek counseling from me for their anxiety have a similar profile. They tend to be gifted intellectually, sensitive, mature, and have different interests than most of their peers. They often find it easier to relate to adults than to their peers, or to lead activities with younger children with whom they do not expect to share interests. As a result, they feel different and conclude that something must be wrong with them, which contributes to exacerbating their anxiety.
Some teens are so consumed by their inability to choose a career that they feel they cannot move forward in life.
The suffering in our lives is often caused by wrong perceptions of life itself which, as we grow, develop, and mature, can hopefully be corrected with time. The number one misperception of life is that we have to figure it all out before we begin our lives. This is completely backwards, as though Life is a traditional roleplaying game, where we have to figure out our role, class, and abilities before we begin to play the game.
Instead Life is an unconventional roleplaying game whereby we understand our role, class, and abilities while we are playing the game itself. In effect, the greatest Adventure of Your Life is to “Know Thyself” which can take you your entire life to actually figure out. So the more experience you gain in life, the more you can level up your character and understand your deeper Self all the more.
For this to work though, it requires that we look at life as an adventure of many surprising, open-ended possibilities that we can forge on our own rather than a linear well-worn path that we have to follow and fit within.