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“Just be yourself, why do you care what others think?”

The Importance of Encouraging Authenticity in Teens

“Just be yourself, why do you care what others think?” 

This question is likely repeated every second around the world, and is a question teens (like myself) have come to hate. How do you answer a question that is so circular? It keeps being asked, yet even after the conversation has finished this question seems to remain unanswered. I know that those who ask it have all the right intentions, trying to encourage teens to be themselves and discourage the constant state of self conscious comparison that we teens find ourselves in.

These intentions unfortunately are just that, intentions and nothing more. That phrase is just about as comforting and helpful as a pat on the back, essentially useless. Teens like myself need more than these ‘wisdom words’ and ‘helpful advice’ from those around us. Most of the time these words of advice we have already come to realize ourselves, it does not help to hear them rephrased or reworded. But what can you do differently? What can you do to help support a teens authenticity in the best way? My answer to this is that teens need authentic space.


In an authentic space a teen feels they have the freedom to express themselves and their own individuality without judgment and the constant pressure to conform. As much as you might want this space to be your home, a school, or a social group/team it oftentimes won't be. I love my friends and family, but as much as I want to express myself freely around them, I find myself shifting to reflect a me best suitable for the instances I am with them. So where does this authentic space exist? 

Truly authentic space is hard for everyone to discover, but with the support of those around them any teen can discover a place where they feel their authentic self is valid and secure. Here in Prescott, I have discovered such a place. This place is The Launch Pad which, for 10 years now, has created this ‘authentic space’ for so many of my peers and the teens of my community. At TLP teens have the space to receive what they need and express their needs without judgment. At TLP there are not only inclusive and plentiful activities and resources for all teens, but a community full of amazing staff and mentors who dedicate their every hour to support every teens’ needs. These mentors and role models help teens fuel their most authentic self. They understand that teens don’t need to be told that they “should not care what others think”.

I and millions of other teens already know this; we don’t want to care what others think, but throughout our everyday lives we are faced with situations and settings in which we feel like being ourselves is not the safest or best option. The staff at TLP understand and support our boundaries and struggles and instead of dictating to us how we should reach authenticity, they help direct us towards our own authenticity. 

Teens often ask questions like “what should I do?” “Is that what you think is best?” “I don't know… what do you think?” as a second nature response to avoiding the thought and action necessary to truly find authenticity. We don’t want our choices and actions to impact how others see us so we default to asking others what they think is best for us. The mentors at TLP don’t try to dictate the answers to us when presented with teens' questions, instead they help direct teens towards a path of authenticity; where they can come to answer these questions with themselves in mind. 

In short, authenticity is something almost all teens struggle with. I myself have felt the pressures to change myself and my thoughts based on the beliefs and thoughts of those around me. But we do not have to struggle alone to find space to be our authentic selves. You can help a teen find or create their own authentic space where they feel they can let down any masks or facades they keep up. You don’t need a teen to answer that question of “ Why do you care what others think?”, but at least you can provide them the space in which they don’t feel the need to care what others think. For more information on the authentic space I and my peers have found here at

The Launch Pad, visit their website or their location (424 6th St, Prescott, AZ 86301).