The Importance of Authenticity for Teenagers

One issue that holds many teenagers back is their fixation on image and the tendency to conform to the expectations of others. This isn’t a blanket statement, but through our experience working with hundreds of thousands of teenagers, we’ve seen it play a significant role in their development.

This issue stems from a fixed mindset, trapping young individuals in the past and preventing them from moving forward as their true selves. Teenagers were not born to imitate others, yet many spend most of their lives doing just that.

If asked what is most important in their lives, most teenagers might say family, school, or hobbies. However, for many aged 14 to 17, it’s actually their image. But what does this mean?

In our experience, particularly with boys, there’s a prevalent need to project a tough image. They adopt a specific look, often characterised by wearing hoodies and walking with a swagger that suggests they are carrying a roll of carpets under each arm. This facade extends to their interactions and speech, where they maintain a hardened expression and demeanour, striving to fit a mould that doesn’t truly represent who they are.

Similarly, girls face their own pressures. They often spend hours on their appearance, waking up early to style their hair and apply makeup as if preparing for a nightclub rather than a day at school. They, too, are faking it, trying to emulate an ideal that isn’t genuinely theirs.

This obsession with image and conformity means many teenagers are not living as their authentic selves. They are influenced by peers, mimicking the way others dress, speak, and act. The tragedy is that the truly cool individuals in school are those who dare to be themselves, not those who follow the crowd.

It’s essential for teenagers to reflect on their actions and choices. They should consider how much of what they do is genuinely for themselves and how much is for the approval of others. If their behaviour, style, and attitudes are influenced by peers or the desire to impress, it’s time for them to rethink their approach.

Authenticity should be celebrated. The students who stand out by being true to themselves, whether through unique fashion choices or unconventional behaviour, often face ridicule. Yet, these individuals are the ones with the courage to be authentic. They are not the weird ones; they are the brave ones.

Through our constant interactions with teenagers, we urge them to examine their authenticity in school and in life. We continuously remind them to reflect on their actions, appearance, and associations. Are they a true reflection of who they are, or are they an attempt to fit in? Authenticity is not just about standing out; it’s about being true to yourself, and that is the most admirable quality of all.

We cover this topic and many others like it in our humanutopia workshops across the UK. If you would like to discuss how we may assist your school, please get in touch.


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