Adulting: A lesson in emotional maturity


Now that I’m getting older and I am starting to get my sh*t together, I’ve realized something interesting: Though “grownups” pay bills, go to meetings and work hard to ensure their finances and futures are secure, many people haven’t really “adulted” emotionally. What I mean by that is, just because we “grow up” and take on more professional and social responsibility, doesn’t mean we come along emotionally and spiritually.

Now, I’m no psychologist, but all in all, it seems the emotional “maturing” process requires three things: 1) Self-awareness, 2) Honesty and 3) Humility.

The first, self-awareness, comes from a place of reflection, and in a way, empathy – it is being able to see your point of view and the other person’s point of view. It is being able to understand your feelings and reasons, as well as the other person’s. As Sun Tzu says,

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.

If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.

If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

Self-awareness is being able to see the situation with perception and wisdom – and that includes yourself, which brings me to my second point, honesty.

Honesty is being able to say what you need and are feeling, as opposed to avoiding, blaming, excusing, criticizing or deflecting onto others. It is being able to articulate your truth which in and of itself requires self-awareness (see above). Being honest means you’re able to take ownership of yourself, your feelings and your role in the situation with grace and kindness – without compromising your voice and point of view. It is owning your part, while also being able to see the truth in others and the situation.

The third, humility, is the spiritual gift that comes along with maturity. It is the ability to say “I’m sorry, I was wrong” – and surprisingly – this is not something most people can do. It is not something that most people learn overnight – if ever they learn it at all. Humility is the ability to take responsibility for what you did wrong, but it is also very freeing because it gives you permission to make mistakes. You can say, “Yup, I did that. I now know it wasn’t the right thing to do and I’m going to learn from this.” Humility doesn’t have to be some punishing attack of corrective, or self-corrective behavior, it’s just seeing and acknowledging the facts and feelings of a situation and deciding to learn from it.

So I guess in all this, the process of adulting or maturing is a combination of experience, which comes with time and age, but more than that, it’s the process of “owning your behavior” which really comes from the “work” one puts into themselves. The work that comes from taking responsibility – aka not blaming the world or others for your actions, words, and deeds – which requires accountability.

This article on Mind, body, and green, offers 9 signs of emotional maturity which include:

  1. You notice and verbalize with composure when you’re wrong
  2. You’re aware of your biases
  3. You acknowledge your privilege and use it wisely
  4. You’ve created a space between feeling and reacting
  5. You knowingly allow yourself to be vulnerable and allow difficult feelings in
  6. You’re compassionate to yourself and others
  7. You know when, how and who to ask for help
  8. You know when to quit and when to persevere
  9. You’ve realized the more you know, the less you know, and you’re OK with that

Basically, emotional maturity means you own it: the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good means you acknowledge when you did or are doing something great without boastfulness or ego. It is simply saying, “I worked hard and I got that done. Good, great, thank you, God.”

The bad means you come into the light and start to acknowledge your “shadow” behavior that needs some addressing. This may include: sidestepping, avoiding, blaming, victimizing, guilt-tripping, jealousy, malice and cattiness, shaming, passive-aggressive or aggressive behavior. Basically indicating you need to stop fighting the truth and start owning up to your immature, childish antics with kindness and compassion. It ain’t pretty, but it’s okay, you’re human and you’re gonna work on it.

The ugly is, for me, the most challenging part of it all because it involves other people. The ugly is when you’ve taken credit for your “good and bad,” but now, need to step into the world of others and their emotions and address that, too. The ugly is being able to maintain a strong voice of truth and reason in both positive and negative situations – it’s keeping yourself in check when you take credit for the win and heat for the critic. It’s keeping your pride in line when you’re winning by making sure you don’t ride off your high horse, but are also able to own up to your faults and errors when you’re in the wrong. It’s the balance of maintaining a firm voice and ethos when things get uncomfortable by ensuring you and others take responsibility for their piece of the puzzle regardless of whether that is “positive” and “negative.” Whew, that’s not easy to do!

Recently, I read a quote which says, “Emotional maturity is not a goal, but the practice of life.” All in all, emotional maturity is not just something that “happens” – it’s the process of life. It is the process of honoring your journey towards wholeness, the process of awareness which comes from being able to see ourselves, others, and the situation clearly. The fullness of reason and emotion only happens when we look into the mirror and start to give ourselves credit for both our “suns” – our positive attributes – and our “moons” – our negative attributes. It is the state of wholeness or togetherness without the frills, drama, and excuses.

Overall, the mantra of emotional maturity is basically, “Own your sh*t, do the work and get on with it.” It isn’t going to be pretty at first, but all in all, your life will be so much better for it because no matter where you go, or what you do, you must bring your whole self with you – the good, the bad and the ugly. So, you might as well own it, because that way you’ll bring a lot less “bad” and “ugly” around with you, which makes for an easier ride down the road. And down the road, is probably where you’ll find those that are mature enough to “drop the story” and move on.

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Jessica is an employment specialist for marginalized youth in Toronto, Canada. She enjoys teaching, traveling and observing - especially the relationship between mind and heart. Jessica also has a passion for outdoor walks, dancing, and all things offbeat and authentic. You can contact her at

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Great read! Hopefully everyone can recognize both sides of a situation/argument . What I took from this was, just because you think you may be so sure of yourself- doesn’t mean that you aren’t/ can’t be wrong. Conversation will always win. Own up to your mistakes and learn from them for the next time.