Would Teenage You Be Proud of Adult You
As teenagers, life ahead of us seems fantastic. We have so many dreams.
- Become a basketball all-star
- Raise a family
- Master the martial arts
As we age, we lose sight of some of those dreams. Sometimes, what we lose is for a good reason. When we grow up, we leave childish things behind.
I think we all understand, as teenagers, that our dreams will evolve. But what about those big dreams, the ones that we define ourselves by?
What happens when identity-establishing dreams change?
The teenage version of you knows you best
Our identities are formed during childhood and adolescence. During childhood, we absorb the values of our parents and society; during adolescence, we experiment with these values.
Remember the first time you had sex? You had certain ideas of how it was supposed to go, and not go — values you absorbed through learning what sex was.
Then you got the opportunity to have sex, to experiment with it, and find the values that held true, the ones that didn’t, and your unique preferences with it all.
Eventually, you stop experimenting and repeat what works for you.
You have your favorite positions, partners, etc. Things can get dull from this point, especially if you don’t change things over the decades.
At this point, when you’re in the sexual rut of midlife, do you know sex as well as you did during your experimentation phase when you tried everything and put your values to the test? While struggling to make sex interesting again, you might have similar experiments to your earlier days, but it’s to “get that excitement back,” not to learn about your values regarding sex.
Often, when you go back to experiment again, you’re only reintroduced to things that you forgot you don’t enjoy.
It’s the same with your identity.
Your teenage years are when you experiment with the values you learned as a child. These values are not necessarily sexual, depending on your childhood influences.
Like the period in which you experimented with your sexual values, your adolescent years are when you understood who you were not.
Teenage you may not understand the intricacies of who you are, which can take a lifetime to understand. But teenage you is intimately familiar with who you are not, and they haven’t been reinforcing the same values for decades that cause you to forget that.
Have you deviated too far from who you are
Another way to say this would be:
Would teenage you be disappointed with adult you?
If you are disappointed with how you live your life, the answer is probably a resounding “yes.” This disappointment stems from living outside of your values and going back to the things you forgot you didn’t like.
Here’s an example:
I grew up surrounded by the martial arts. Being physically fit, focused on training, and socially included in martial arts society were values that I absorbed as a child and experimented with in adolescence. Yet, in my 30s, I deviated from those values. I picked up bad habits and lost touch with friends who preferred training over simultaneously binging Netflix and a bucket of icecream.
I made a complete 180 on my values.
How to get back on track
Depending on how long it’s been since your adolescence, this can be difficult.
Regardless of how long it’s been since you were a teenager, you need to take yourself back and remember your dreams and aspirations back then and how it worked out for you when you experimented with them.
Some things sounded good at the time, but after experimentation, you decided to excise them from your life. Now, you may have gone in that direction, forgetting the lesson that experimentation taught you, or adopting someone else’s values as your own and living in that for too long.
Grab a notebook, find a quiet spot, and try to get in touch with your teenage self again. Write down everything you wanted back then, whether it still interests you or not (values can change), and where things went right or wrong.
We all lose touch with ourselves sometimes, but we can find our way back.
If you are unhappy with your life, ask yourself:
Would teenage me be proud of me?
Often, just asking the question brings to mind all the things you wanted for your life and provides an immediate answer.
If that answer is “no,” then you know what to do.
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