By Alexa Bailey, MSW, LMSW

We live in a world with access to all kinds of people all over the world. At any given moment, you can pick up a phone and see a variety of content from different users. There are people from school or work, accounts built to advertise or sell products, and lots of videos and images that catch the eye. Living in this fast-paced world, we have access to so many different things, and often, through subconscious influence, we start to pick up things along the way that impact the way we view ourselves. Think about this: what’s the first thing you do in the morning? Do you check your phone? What’s the last thing you do at night? Often, we are watching videos, catching up on TikTok, or scrolling through social media. And as we make these connections and view things through this little glass rectangle, we begin to shape our own image.

If we think back through the years, there have been trends and styles that have come and gone. Things like Vine or the Harlem Shake came in, grabbed our attention, burnt through like wildfire, and then it was gone. Now we live in a world of TikTok and influencers and Snapchat. As we are more connected, we start to have this insight into the lives of people around us and attach to ideas and trends in a different way. But here’s the catch: we usually only see what they want us to see. If you scroll through an Instagram page, chances are you’ll see pictures with all the same filter to fit someone’s “aesthetic”, with posed shots and styled outfits. When the world we are confronted with is a picture-perfect show, we start to question which role we play.

The concept of our identity or sense of self is a fluid and interesting thing. As we grow and develop, we go through different stages of understanding the world around us. During teen years, the major question we are faced with is the query of “who am I?”, trying to understand our place in the world. As we ask this question, we often wonder how it is we are supposed to fit into society, our social groups, or even our families. And that comes with big questions and self-exploration that is scary, uncomfortable, and requires vulnerability. This is why many people fall into the trap of group identity, letting group think take over making decisions about who or what we should be. How many times have you seen the same TikTok dance being done by different users? At school, do you see the similarities in style and mannerisms from group to group? Do you notice yourself taking on mannerisms or catch phrases from your friends? These are not inherently bad things, but what they reflect is the ease with which we take on the influence of those around us.

Deciding to listen to your inner voice and follow your passions is courageous and hard and rewarding. To explore our individuality and begin making the shift toward self-discovery, you can start by asking yourself questions like: How am I censoring what I really think or feel? Am I holding onto something that would be better to let go of? What are my core values? As we explore our internal questions and engage with the struggle of identity, we begin to feel the freedom of being ourselves and letting go of the judgement or outside influences that try and tell us what to be. French designer Coco Chanel said it best, that “a girl should be two things: who and what she wants.”


Alexa is a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW), who works in private practice providing therapeutic services at Evolve Counseling. She has experience treating several different populations and areas, including trauma, anxiety, depression, relational challenges, and life transitions with both young adults/adolescents and adults. Alexa is a big advocate of self-care and creating whole personal wellness through positive change and healthy habits.