A high IQ may make you smart, but if we want to be wise we need to grow emotionally.
There’s no denying that feelings can be tricky things to navigate. That’s why it’s all too easy to pick up bad habits that only hold us back in the long run.
The following behaviors may be coping mechanisms, but we need to learn how to drop them if we want to become more emotionally mature.
1) Making excuses for staying in your comfort zone
Whenever we want to grow, we have to be able to see through our own BS and call it out.
There are reasons, and then there are excuses. These things are not the same, but we can end up using them interchangeably.
Have the courage to be honest with yourself.
Let’s say you are craving new opportunities in your career. Is it genuinely not the “right time”? Or is that something you tell yourself to ease the guilt of not being proactive?
Is it the poor economy that is holding you back? Are other commitments making a new move “impossible”? Or is it actually fear that is your biggest stumbling block?
When we are afraid to fail, to lose, to be rejected, we go looking for reasons not to make a start. We procrastinate, yet justify this with our excuses.
Until we are prepared to face this honestly, we cannot make a change and finally do the things we’re nervous about tackling.
And these are always the places where internal growth is to be found…
2) Avoiding the things that scare you
If the lies we tell ourselves are part one, then part two is actually forcing ourselves to confront our fears.
And that means recognizing your apprehension but choosing to push through it regardless.
When we make a conscious decision to act in spite of our uneasiness, we grow in confidence, self-belief, and resilience.
There is no shortcut. It cannot be done through theory, it is always practical work.
That means saying yes to things that give us butterflies. Those nerves are usually an indication that it’s important to you — it shows you care.
The more we confront the uncomfortable emotions that come with growth, the better we get at dealing with them.
For example, If you can pluck up the courage to ask someone out, each time it will get that tiny bit easier.
Desensitization is often the only way we get better at feeling things. We survive to tell the tale and figure out it won’t kill us to experience these emotions.
Because our emotions have a nasty habit of making us fear the thought of something more than the reality of it.
3) Trying to run from “negative” feelings
“Good vibes only” makes a great bumper sticker. But there’s a lot of toxic positivity mixed up with the sentiment.
That’s not to say we couldn’t all benefits from chilling out and learning not to sweat the small stuff. But so-called “negative” emotions are also a natural part of life.
Often in trying to push away these unpleasant feelings, we simply leave them unresolved or we search for ways to sidestep them.
We drink too much, eat too much, shop too much, watch too much TV, scroll too much on social media, etc.
A lot of the time we’re looking for a way to avoid the discomfort of sitting with our less desirable emotions.
That can be anything from the mundane, such as boredom, frustration, and apathy, to painful feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety, or fear.
If we want to grow emotionally, we have to learn to acknowledge our feelings, allow them to move through us, and try to find healthy expressions for them.
Otherwise, we’re simply emotionally burying our heads in the sand.
Allowing ourselves to experience a wide range of emotions is easier when we let go of this next bad habit on our list.
4) Over-identifying with your feelings
In many ways, society teaches us that emotions are more important than they are.
Let me explain:
When we’re told to “follow our hearts”, what we usually mean is to make decisions based on feelings.
It’s true that emotions can be very powerful signals that offer insights and clues. But here is another important reality:
Feelings are not facts.
Just because we feel something it doesn’t mean we should base our actions on it. In fact, when we’re dealing with strong emotions, on many occasions that’s a really bad idea.
Neither does it mean that what we’re feeling is a true representation of us. It’s just a fleeting snapshot.
But we can end up identifying too closely with the emotions that are passing through us.
So we create stories around those emotions which can lead us to get stuck or self-sabotage. In doing so we create extra stress or sadness for ourselves.
Mindfulness can help us observe our emotions, almost like a third party who is one step removed.
We can then learn to see our feelings like surface waves upon the sea — in constant perpetual motion.
We don’t think that we are those waves, we know that we are the wide, deep, vast ocean beneath.
5) Looking for emotional scapegoats
Ok, seemingly random change of topic here, but bear with me, I do have a point…
I recently got a dog, so I’ve been trawling through training videos on the internet. One that stuck with me talks about how “it’s my fault”…
If my dog destroys my house, it’s my fault. If my dog wees all over my house, it’s my fault. If my dog runs over to another dog and gets attacked, it’s my fault.
You get the idea.
It really spoke to me. Because it’s not about burdening yourself with blame, but it is about taking on full responsibility in our lives.
The same goes for our emotions too.
We have to take radical and total responsibility for absolutely everything we experience. Because the framework in which we process all experiences is always an internal one.
So that means that no matter what happens to you, it’s never a justification or excuse for how we respond. Believing that it is only leads to victimhood.
It’s super easy (and tempting) to blame our actions on being a reaction to someone or something else.
“I only shouted at you because you were moody with me first”.
But when we make these types of “reasoning” we’re dodging responsibility, and preventing ourselves from growing emotionally in the process.
6) Holding on to the past
Once bitten, twice shy.
In many ways, it’s just human nature to become averse to what causes pain.
Learning lessons is a good thing. When we get burned, we’re less inclined to put our hands back in the fire that’s for sure.
But there’s a big difference between this and holding onto what’s already been and gone.
Carrying baggage, holding on to grudges or resentment, constantly reminding yourself of old failures or painful moments.
These ruminations of the past erode your mental stability in the present.
We can still learn from the experiences we go through whilst simultaneously accepting that there is no changing them.
One of my favorite quotes is:
“Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.”
Sometimes we need to forgive other people, sometimes we just need to forgive ourselves.
7) Sucking up, running around after others, caring too much about what people think — aka people pleasing!
People pleasing tends to show up in a multitude of ways.
- Find it hard to say no
- Be overly concerned about what people think about you
- Go along with other people’s ideas or opinions just to seem more agreeable, in the hope of being more likable
- Neglect yourself to help out others
- Crave the approval and praise of others to feel good about yourself
- Hide your own feelings, views, and needs in case they are unpopular
Many of us will show some form of people-pleasing every now and then.
It’s hard not to care what people think about us. Similarly, we all want to be liked. But when we make these factors our primary concern, we sacrifice our own emotional well-being.
Growing emotionally means being able to handle the less fluffy side of your emotions. It’s about setting boundaries and learning to stand up for ourselves.
We can’t do that when we constantly abandon or betray our feelings for the sake of someone else’s.
Emotionally mature people do these things…
When it comes to emotional growth, a lot of the same themes come up time and time again.
The most clued-up people:
- Take a mindful approach and look honestly at themselves
- Search for their emotional hiding places so they can confront avoidance
- Take full responsibility for their feelings
- Own their mistakes but don’t dwell on them
- Are prepared to open up about how they feel
- Identify their own needs and set boundaries to protect them
We don’t need to always get it right, we just need to become more aware.
At the end of the day, the more awareness you have of your emotions, the more control you have over them.