Finding and Losing Your Identity at Stanstead College
By Andrea Schmitt
When you started your life at Stanstead College, did putting on your uniform feel like you were dressing up? Did you feel fake and hated it, or were you okay with it? Do you think you lose your identity when wearing a uniform?
Identity is a big thing during the teenage years. Questions like, “Who am I?” “How should I act away from home?” and “How am I supposed to show up here?” are mingled with “Why am I even alive?” Psychologist Erik Erickson said that adolescence is an “intensive time where you analyze and explore different ways of looking at yourself.”
The adolescent years are for exploring, pushing boundaries and trying new things. You are in the middle of forming your identity. If you’re an international student, you’re supposed to do that away from home and your family. If you’re a day student, you’re supposed to do that while you’re constantly moving between two cultures, Stanstead College culture and your home culture.
Due to all the bodily, hormonal and mental changes during the adolescent years, your body forces you to build your own identity. This will (hopefully) be different from your parents’, friends’, and classmate’ identities. In this natural process, you’re supposed to be moving away from your parents as you strive to be a functioning adult in the near future. While doing that, you might experience a lot of pressure from family, friends, society and school.
But how do you form your own identity? Here are five steps to strengthen your identity:
Find out your values and try to stick to them as much as possible. Values could include being a good friend, setting boundaries, being on top of schoolwork, doing sports, eating healthily, managing stress or taking care of yourself. Everything that goes against these values will create a so-called dissonance in your body and brain. You’ll feel like “something is off” or doesn’t feel right.
Don’t compare yourself to others, not in your classroom and even less online! You only see the outside of the person; you never see the inside. Everyone has problems going on (inside), but they might look perfect from the outside. Don’t assume you’re the only one struggling or finding life challenging.
Be aware of your mental health. Try to know what your normal patterns of behaviour are (getting up at 6 am, going to the gym). Be aware when things change (hitting the snooze butting five times, eating chips for breakfast…). Check out my previous blog post addressing exactly that.
Talk to and encourage yourself like you would a good friend. Confront the little nagging voice in your head and talk back to it! Like, “Andrea, you’ve done hard things before and will be able to handle this one as well!”
The buzzword is “sleep hygiene.” Find out how much sleep you need, select when you must get up, count backward and you’ve found your ideal bedtime. The challenge is holding yourself accountable to listen to your alarms and get to bed.
A quick word before you head towards exams. Your grades are not your identity; they do not define you as a person! You are much more than a good grade in English and a bad one in physics. You are a complex person, and your grades are just one part of it!
If you want to know more about why teenage life at a boarding school can be challenging and what to do about it, check out my previous posts on the SC’s website or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrea Schmitt is a life coach specializing in teens and a former Stanstead parent (Jessica Lozano Schmitt 2018). Find out more about her services at https://www.globalgirlcoach.com/ or email email@example.com.