Why Self-Expression as a Teen is so Important

Andrew Reyes, Staff Writer

Being a teenager in the 21st century is a battle. It is a time when we begin to figure out who we are and who we will become. It is a time when we begin to experiment and try new things. It is a learning process, a hard one at that. But it is a crucial era in a person’s life. As a teenager, you are open to a realm of endless possibilities on what clothes you want to wear, what music and media you want to consume, and how you perceive the world and how you want the world to perceive you. The world is truly your oyster. Self-expression is a core piece of who you are. It is important to people in many different ways. In honor of this thinking, I went to some of the most self-expressive people I know to ask them why self-expression and individuality are so important to them.


For 16-year-olds Khadija Koroma and Vanessa Martinez, individuality is a crucial part of the process of growing up. “Right now we’re in the phase of our lives where things are changing and we’re finding out who we are,” says Khadija.

“Humans in general always want to be a part of something so to have something that differentiates you, makes you unique, and separates you from the rest is important to have because you don’t want to be like everyone else all the time. You want to have something that makes people interested in you,” adds Vanessa.





Vanessa used to be cautious of embracing her cultural background due to feeling like she is not as integrated in it as she feels like she should be. “When I’m around people who share similar cultural heritage to me sometimes I feel insecure about claiming my culture because they might know more about it than I do; sometimes I feel like an impostor.” Lately she’s been trying to learn more about her heritage and wears it proudly.

One of Vanessa’s staples in her look is her hair. “It’s something that people recognize me by. It has become part of my identity, honestly.  When I don’t feel good about my hair I don’t necessarily feel good about myself.”







Being from Sierra Leone, a country that has faced many economic problems, Khadija says that she used to feel ashamed of her background but now looks at all the good that the country has. “I like to think that we have a lot of accomplishments,” she says, “like the people, the languages, the different cultures that come into play.”

Similar to Vanessa, Khadija uses her hair to express herself. “Back in middle school I used to get protective styles like all the time, but I’ve grown out that phase. I have locks now and they just make me, me. With locks you can just do so much with them. Your hair is an accessory you can style to however you want.”






As a teenager you are faced with many new emotions and feelings. It is a time where you feel like everyone is staring at you and it’s a time where you may begin to feel very negatively about yourself.

When asked to give advice to their future self or someone who is struggling with self-expression and figuring out who they are this group had some strong advice to share.







“As someone who is kinda struggling in that category, I wanna say that it’s a journey that we all have to take and it’s not an easy process,” says Khadija. “It takes time. It may take your whole life so don’t rush the process. It’s not something you can figure out in a day.”


She adds, “If there was any advice I could give to my future self I would say, don’t give up on your dreams. I’m a quitter and I know that if something is hard I’m gonna give up. But don’t give up; keep going, fight!”






“Comparison is the thief of joy,” according to Vanessa. “You shouldn’t compare yourself to others, you are the only you that exists, so you have to make you the best version of yourself. No one is going to be you for you. No one is going to improve themselves for you. Only you can do that. Be proud of the small accomplishments. Just be proud of yourself for any improvement or change.”


Vanessa adds, “some advice I would give my future self is to be proud of who you are. All you have is yourself, so you have to be proud of yourself for just getting up everyday. Taking care of yourself is being productive.”





For 18-year-old Amir Siddiqui and 16-year-old Brayden Abella, they both have faced a time where they felt negative about their appearances.

They both believe individuality is important and it should be a time where you should avoid trying to fit in.

“Be yourself,” says Amir. “If you just fit in to fit in you won’t truly know what it feels like to enjoy living, because you are just focusing on being one thing, which may not be what you actually want to be.”




   During his time in high school Amir would sometimes feel embarrassed of his religion due to experiencing Islamophobia. “We come from such a diverse area, but within diversity there’s also gonna be misunderstandings with so many different cultures,” he says.

“I’ve definitely been embarrassed of my culture, especially my religion. People have always said Islamophobic stuff and people continue to do so. As I’ve grown up I’ve learned to accept that it’s who I am and I’m proud of that and it’s a beautiful country, it’s a beautiful culture. There’s so much more to it than what meets the eye.”

One of Amir’s favorite forms of self-expression is music. ” I’ve always been into discovering new music. It’s a very good medium to express yourself because there’s just so much out there.”




Brayden has always appreciated his culture but faced many issues with his self-image and appreciating himself.

“When I’m on social media and see other body types, I sometimes go, ‘why don’t I look like that?’ In the past I’ve tried to get myself to look like that but to me it felt really mentally unhealthy and I gave up on just trying to fit in.”

A physical feature Brayden admires about himself is his hair.

“I love my hair. I love it so much because I haven’t really met anyone else besides my mom with the same kind of hair texture as mine.”

Like Amir, Brayden likes to use music as a form of self-expression. “Some of my favorite artists, Beabadoobee and Wave to Earth,  I’ve never had an artist that just speaks to me the way their music does.”




When asked about what advice they would give their future self and to people struggling with self-expression they too had some good advice to share.

“Definitely be yourself,” says Brayden.”I know it sounds corny, but when you are young, you are still learning and developing. If you don’t learn how to be yourself you will continue to try and fit it when you don’t have to”

He adds, “some advice for my future self? Keep being weird. But not too weird.”


As for Amir, he says, “I feel like everyone says you just have to learn to love yourself but it’s never that simple. There’s so many factors that can mess with you especially when growing up on the internet [where] you can get exposed to many hurtful ideas. Try and find anything you can entrust yourself in and make sure it’s a healthy outlet.”

He offers, “some advice to my future self would be don’t lose sight of what others have fought for for you. I feel like it’s so easy to look at your life and look at the sacrifices that you’ve made, but at the end of the day no matter who you are someone else has made a sacrifice for you. I hope in the future I still understand the weight I hold on others, and keep on going to pay homage to those who have helped push me forward.”


Figuring out who you are is a battle everyone fights. You may make decisions you will regret in the future, you may try to fit in or purposefully try to stand out, you may think badly about yourself and feel like everyone is watching your every move. But these experiences are all a part of growing up. It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.