My Adolescent Experience and Development: A Reflection

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My Adolescent Experience and Development: A Reflection essay
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Keywords: Self-reflection, Adolescence, Personal experience, Identity formation, Social relationships, Emotional development, Mental health, Family dynamics

The adolescent years are the most crucial years in one’s life and I also have my adolescent experience that is unique and valuable for me and i'll share it in this essay.

By definition, adolescence is “the developmental period of transition from childhood to adulthood; it involves biological cognitive, and socioemotional changes.” (Santrock) The word 'adolescence' is from Latin 'adolescere', meaning ‘to grow up’ and that really what the entire period is all about. We all go through it differently and have completely different trails and things that happen to us, that might not always happen to everyone. It is like we are on some journey that tends to drag on forever and has so many highs and low just to identify ourselves or find ourselves. During this, we are preparing ourselves for the adulthood years that lie ahead of us.

Typically, the age this occurs is 13 years old to 19 years old. It is also considered one of the stages of increased stress for parents because the child is going through a difficult time. The identity crisis multiplies conflicts like crazy, they rebel and are nonconforming. Parents have tremendous impact on their child’s adolescent years. These years are a big on parents as well because they are concerned with their kid’s future, their entire life including all the little things like the friends their child is associating themselves with and if they are good or bad influences on their child. It is a time of lots of physical and emotional changes where kids really want to start distinguishing themselves from their mother and father who only want what is best for them and try to help in any way possible.

Adolescence does not recognize their parents as actually trying to help them so it sometimes causes them to push back. This time is also where psychological and social changes occur like crazy. Honestly, there is so much that goes into adolescence. It seems like just a couple of years out of a lifetime of living so why should it even be such a big deal. But because of all the little things and big things that are coming into play during these years for them, it is an extremely important and big deal and should always be taken seriously.

Adolescence experience can be looked at by being broken down into two stages or periods. Early adolescence and late adolescence. Early adolescence is usually around ages ten to thirteen, so roughly middle school years, which begins with the onset of puberty. Late adolescence is “the developmental period that corresponds approximately to the latter half of the second decade of life.” (Santrock)

Adolescent experience in my life

For me, growing into adolescence was the most difficult time and honestly the most terrifying time period in my life. So many things are happening and sometimes it is hard to grasp a single thing and comprehend what is going on. I was raised by foreign parents who were both from Poland and had a completely different outlook on life here in America. So, for me, it was a million times harder to be going through the adolescent years because my parents had such different expectations for me. They were way stricter than “normal American” parents. I think being raised by foreign parents makes life so much more challenging.

Everything is either completely opposite or not fully the way it is here when they raise children. Sometimes, I think foreign parents really need to take into consideration and really think about where they are raising their children. If you move to America, things are going to be different and everyone wants to “fit in” in some sense or another. So, if you are going to raise your children with the traditions and ways that it was back in their homeland then your kids are most likely going to have a hard time fitting in completely. I never thought I fit in because of the way my parents were and the way that was affecting me.

Physical development

The physical development part of adolescence for me was very rapid and very early on that I hit puberty and all that. For starters, I was never comfortable with my parents when it came to talking about like boys or personal girl physical changes because neither one of my parents ever talked about that stuff with me so when I got my period in like fourth/fifth grade, I literally hid it from my mom for the longest time. I had no idea even what was happening and because of that I was scared to say anything. My mom later on realized when she was doing the laundry but never really went deep into the conversation about all that with me and that is so sad looking back on it now because we are supposed to feel comfortable enough to tell our parents anything and everything. However, that was not the case with me and I will always blame it on them being from another country and them not knowing any better or “the right way” to go about certain things and situations.

Like I said earlier, puberty hit me early and it was like I was the only one at that age going through these things because my other friends did not hit puberty for like two years after I did. And I felt so weird and like I was not normal because I started to look different from everyone else. On top of all that my weight started to become a real big problem. So, I felt like it was not just one thing that made me look different from everyone, it was two things because now I was much bigger than everyone and was getting made fun of because of that. It was terrible. I always wished my puberty did not begin as early as it actually did, because what if things could have been different for me. I do remember, from a young age all I could ever think about was being free and independent which had to do with how quickly I matured from hitting puberty as early as I did. The concept of sexual maturation, specifically precocious puberty is definitely something that I can relate to my adolescence. “Precocious puberty is the very early onset and rapid progression of puberty.” (Santrock) In the text, it said, “precocious puberty occurs approximately 10 times more often in girls than in boys.” I can connect to this because I was one with precocious puberty.

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Emotional development

The experience of the emotional development point during my adolescence was such a rollercoaster. I went through a lot of things from a young age which definitely shaped me into becoming a stronger person when life comes in and throws roadblocks in your lane. My emotions were nonstop and rapidly fluctuating which definitely caused a tremendous amount of conflict that was not needed. There were times when I did not even know what I was feeling and when my mood seemed completely unpredictable because I could have reacted to a certain situation in the complete opposite way which made no sense. I became so much more sensitive to others and what they were feeling or like reading them and understanding that person’s emotions.

I could just get a feel by the way they looked, what they were doing, and whether or not they were acting tensed up or not. I started noticing myself doing this more and more as time went on. But just because I was getting better at reading people, it did not mean that I was accurate. Many times, I would misread that person’s body language and facial expressions and get stuck in awkward situations. You cannot always be too sure about these things because everyone is different and can be putting off a certain feeling or body language that is not actually what they are feeling.

Tying back to earlier when I mentioned I was on the bigger side and would get picked on and bullied because it all started at such a young age, I quickly became very self-conscious and had very low self-esteem. I, later on, discovered that I actually had really bad depression along with some other things including anxiety. All of which I still to this day battle daily with. But this all came from the adolescent years when I was getting picked on and bullied along with all the changes that were nonstop happening. I would always feel self-conscious whenever I had to go anywhere where someone else would see me because I felt like I was not good enough and was constantly getting judged by the way I looked and I felt like I had to look a certain way to be normal or like everyone else.

I compared every single part of me to anyone I saw that looked better than me. I was never really the one to “show off” any part of my body because that’s how low I thought of myself and how I hated the way I looked. I spent so many nights lying in bed crying into a pillow and feeling so low because I was big and I wasn’t perfect like everyone else was. I wouldn’t even go to like social family gatherings because I also felt like I was getting attacked by the way I looked by them. I started to change the way I dressed so It was only baggy clothing. In my mid/late adolescent years, I had developed several eating disorders that I had to be hospitalized for. These times were so difficult to get past.

The concept of body image is something here that I can relate to during these times because it was a very big thing for me. I always had negative body image for myself. The best way of defining this term is “Body image is the mental representation you create, but it may or may not bear any relation to how others actually see you.” (Psychology Today) I found this specific definition to be the greatest at grasping hold on the main truth about body image, where it may or may not even have a relation to how others see you. It is all a mental kind of thing.

“Perhaps you looked in the mirror on a daily, or sometimes even hourly, basis as a young teenager to see whether you could detect anything different about your changing body. Preoccupation with one’s body image is strong through adolescence, it is especially acute during puberty, a time when adolescents are more dissatisfied with their bodies than in late adolescence.” (Santrock)

This basically sums up the whole scene with body image for me. I would go to the bathroom every chance I had to check if something looked different or if I needed to fix something because I was so fixated on my body image. The most I did this was when I had an eating disorder. I did this constantly and it was so unhealthy.

Social changes

The social changes that happen in adolescence are insane just like all the other little aspects of adolescence. The identity portion of this was certainly a headache for my parents. I was trying to figure out who I am and where I could possibly fit in with this world. I changed the styles of my clothes and appearance like my hair color and the way I did my makeup more times than someone could count. There were phases I went through, that is what I would call it. My music tastes were never the same it bounced around a ton along with the different friend groups I was associating myself with. I went through a “emo/goth” phase and I remember it started because my older cousin was all about that at one point in her life and I looked up to her and therefore wanted to look like her and be like her. I dyed my hair black and had pink streaks on the back and ends of my hair. I was doing my makeup extremely dark and dramatic.

My music changed to much harder stuff along with lots of alternative music. I was hanging around a different friend group for a while during that time which only lasted I would have to say roughly a year, all of 5th/ 6th grade. I went through a “popular” phase which was bad because I did not really look like some of the girls that were also popular and it bothered me a lot that I didn’t look that way like them. Then another phase of me came out and it was the “druggy” stage which was the worst one of them all because I obviously started doing drugs and hanging around the wrong people that first started peer pressuring me into trying things for the first time and then because they were all doing it all the time and I was hanging out with them, I felt like I had to do it as well just to continue to be friends with them and fit in. This phase lasted a long time for me until I finally got a slap of reality when things went real south for me.

Continuing off the social changes that happened to me, independence was really a big thing I always wanted and felt like I needed because my parents were so strict with me and I could not do anything for the longest time, which included hang out with friends or sleepovers because my parents did not see that as being normal and they feared the worse always. I wanted to be independent so I could get out of this thing and do me on my own and not have to constantly be fighting with my parents about the things I can and cannot be doing. I mastered manipulation and lying down to at with my parents. I had to because otherwise I would have always been locked up inside our house or my room and would have never gotten a feel of the real world and being somewhat normal.

I just wanted all the independence I could get with being the age I was. My parents did ease up a little bit so I was able to go out more and was giving money to go buy things I wanted without having to ask my parents if it was ok if I purchased something. I started taking on more responsibilities wherever I could. Whether it was like cooking dinner at home for everyone, cleaning the entire house or participating in some school function. I was always looking for new experiences to take and some of them were really bad.

Summary

When I look back on the things I once did years ago and the amount of trouble I could have gotten in, because I didn’t think something through before deciding to just do it, all the consequences that could have happened, it is crazy. So many stupid times in my adolescent years where I probably could have ended up in jail or like expelled from school. I am not sure how I got away with so many things but I think it comes from me learning manipulation at such a young age and I became really good at it so maybe I thought I was invincible. Values were a big thing in my family. I was the first to always rebel if I didn’t get it my way. I hated going to church and my parents would force me. I never truly believed in any of it, and I think the more my parents pushed me and kept telling me you have to believe in what they believe it, the further away I sway from it. I did not value the things they necessarily valued. There was a point where I did question the values and I tried to believe in them or just believe in something but it was never something I could fully get caught up with.

To think all this plus so much more happened in just my adolescence is beyond me. I would never imagine these many things happening to one individual over the couple of years that adolescence is. But everyone goes through this time period and it is just the phase of figuring yourself out and one step closer into adulthood which is where everyone wants to jump right into when they’re young.

References

  1. Arnett, J. J. (2015). Adolescence and emerging adulthood: A cultural approach. Pearson Education.
  2. Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. WW Norton & Company.
  3. Gullotta, T. P., & Adams, G. R. (Eds.). (2016). Handbook of adolescent behavioral problems: Evidence-based approaches to prevention and treatment. Springer.
  4. Steinberg, L. (2014). Age of opportunity: Lessons from the new science of adolescence. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  5. Steinberg, L., & Morris, A. S. (2001). Adolescent development. Annual review of psychology, 52(1), 83-110.
  6. Suler, J. R. (2018). Adolescent development. In Psychology of Adolescence (pp. 11-38). Springer.
  7. Rutter, M., & Smith, DJ (1995). Psychosocial disorders in young people: Time trends and their causes. John Wiley & Sons.
  8. American Psychological Association. (2019). APA handbook of the psychology of adolescence.
  9. Offer, D., & Schonert-Reichl, K. A. (1992). Debunking the myths of adolescence: Findings from recent research. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 31(6), 1003-1014.
This essay is graded:
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Expert Review
This essay presents a personal and candid exploration of the author's adolescent experience, offering a detailed glimpse into the challenges, emotions, and growth that characterized this crucial phase of life. The writer's narrative approach effectively conveys the tumultuous nature of adolescence, with introspective accounts of physical, emotional, and social developments. The essay successfully highlights the author's unique perspective, shaped by cultural differences and struggles with body image and mental health. While the personal anecdotes enhance the authenticity of the piece, a more organized structure and refined language could further enhance its impact.
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What can be improved
Structure and Organization: The essay could benefit from a clearer structure with distinct sections for different aspects of adolescence, such as physical, emotional, and social changes. This would make it easier for the reader to follow and engage with the author's narrative. Language and Expression: While the personal tone is engaging, refining the language and expression can add depth to the narrative. Avoiding repetition and using more varied vocabulary would elevate the writing. Conclusion: The essay would be more impactful with a stronger conclusion that summarizes the key takeaways from the author's experiences and insights gained during adolescence. This would provide a satisfying closure to the narrative.
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