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Chapter 2, Part 2: Becoming & Belonging: The Main Task of the Age

Chapter 2, Part 2: Becoming & Belonging: The Main Task of the Age

This article is part of a weekly series adapted from our latest book, "The 9 Lives of Women," by our founder, Christine Marie Mason. 

Becoming and Belonging: The Main Task of the Age

“Being refers to "defining who I am" (physical, psychological, spiritual) and includes personal values, attitudes, knowledge and behaviors. These developmental tasks revolve around defining a clear sense of identity, a positive sense of self-worth and control over one's life. Belonging refers to "finding my place in the world" and recognizes a young person's fit with their environment (physical, social, community). These developmental tasks focus on the ability to form healthy relationships with others, using available support systems, finding a valued place in their world and finding ways to be useful to others.”- Minnesota Department of Health

I start with this all encompassing definition of Identity because between the ages 11 and 16, identity is a moving target. It's just as puzzling to the parents as it is to the kids, especially with the added and ever-evolving influence of media and technology. There are some very concrete and active ways that parents can help a young girl clearly state her own desires and preferences, and solidify her identity with integrity during this period of time. I say her, because we’re talking about CISgirls, but this is also an age where gender and sexual identity can also fluctuate and shift.

No matter how they express themselves, supporting a strong sense of self-awareness will help a girl understand the difference between fitting in and true belonging.

“Fitting in is strategic,” says researcher Shafia Zaloom. “You scan a situation, you identify somewhere that you could fit in if you altered and shaped yourself to do so. With a sense of belonging, you don't have to change who you truly are. People accept you as you. And then you have a true sense of belonging, because you're not constantly trying to define yourself based on other people's attention and approval. Rather you come into power from within to be true to who you are in your heart and yourself: your truth.”

It can be important at this stage to help them choose the right friends. For both boys and girls, friendship is important, but for girls, these relationships are vital for this sense of belonging, and that’s often why girls are always thinking and talking about these relationships. Help your daughter find friends that bring out the best in each other, are supportive of each other, who treat each other with dignity. Help her define explicitly what this means, and what it looks, sounds, and feels like within the context of friendship, so that she becomes discerning on what kinds of relationships are good ones.

True empowerment comes from respecting oneself and the people with whom we surround ourselves. In this stage of life, girls build the confidence to be their true selves without defining identity based on male approval, appearance or other superficial aspects of life. Parents can model this by being authentic and grounded themselves.