What makes adolescence such a unique and important time period in one’s life is the struggle to answer the confusing and often times overwhelming question: “Who am I?”
The search to identify one’s self is a battle that all must experience; a battle that is not easily fought with the complications of peer pressure. During adolescence, teens try out various social roles in different situations until these characters seem to overlap. For instance, one may be quiet at home, but at school be loud and sociable. Once these worlds collide, the teen must decide who they need to be and how to act, refining their general identity.
This journey involves what many refer to as “phases.” Each individual goes through a number of phases in which they try out different types of music, fashion trends, friendships, and more. Eventually, this person discovers what he or she is most comfortable with and who he or she thinks they really are.
Cassandra Arambula, a junior at Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS), is very open and comfortable with herself. In fact, she laughed at the things she used to love and was not the slightest bit embarrassed of the stages she went through in order to become who she is today, such as a period in which she was extremely timid and nervous about social interaction.
“I have accepted my phases. I am not ashamed of my past because it is nothing to be ashamed of. We all have phases and it’s okay to have had them because we learn from them,” Arambula said.
Unfortunately, many other students fail to realize the role that peer pressure has on teenagers, especially at such a fragile and crucial time in their lives. According to a study conducted by psychological scientist Laurence Steinberg of Temple University and his associates, teens take more risks when accompanied by other adolescents. The irrepressible need to belong leads teenagers to easily succumb to peer pressure and, sometimes, do regrettable things. Erin Bailey, junior at GHCHS, reflects on her past with remorse, but is also relieved that she learned her lesson when she did.
“I definitely dealt with peer pressure and most of it [came from] the people I [called] my friends. Gossiping made me more willing to target others in order to become accepted. Once I realized how damaging that was, I started to try really hard to avoid those topics,” Bailey said.
Not only does peer pressure influence teens to act or do things a specific way, but it takes a toll on who they really are. Bullying creates emotionally destructive individuals, and some people even decide to isolate themselves because of the constant pressure from their peers. In Arambula’s case, family played a big role in the growing process. Luckily for Arambula, when her family saw how strongly peer pressure could influence her, they encouraged her to stand out.
“My sister told me to not care what [other] people said. My mom [would also] tell me to keep my chin up whenever I did something, especially because I had low self-esteem and insecurities,” Arambula said.
As much as we try to forget, we all remember the various things we experienced, but we must accept that it is a rite of passage. It is essential to try different things, whether we are proud or ashamed, because we learn from all that we experience.
“I would tell all preteens and teenagers to accept who they are during whatever phase they [encounter] because searching for an identity at this young age can be difficult and confusing. So my advice is: try new things and don’t be ashamed of it in the future because it is what helps you become who you are today,” Arambula said.