I’d like to say I’m a fairly mature person, especially when I look around at some of my peers.
In some ways I am mature, especially in taking responsibility for my career and necessities.
But the truth is that the past few years have made me realize I’m not nearly as emotionally mature as I used to think. There’s a lot to still work on.
I don’t feel ashamed to say this, in fact I feel grateful because knowing where we can improve is the first step to living a better and more satisfying life.
Are there areas where you can also improve your emotional maturity?
Let’s take a look at the top indicators that you’re not as emotionally mature as you might think…
1) Emotional codependency
Emotional codependency is much more common than many of us realize.
It’s present in many romantic relationships, friendships and family situations. The most common way codependency shows up is a feeling of an emptiness inside and a need for somebody else to fill it.
This can be by feeling like you’re the one “fixing” and helping others, or it can be a focus on feeling like you yourself need to be “fixed” or saved by somebody else.
However it manifests, giving into codependency is a worrying sign that you need to work on becoming more self-aware in order to cut it out of your life.
2) Craving for validation and approval
If you still feel a craving for validation and approval, it’s another sign that emotional maturity can use a bit more development.
To be clear:
There’s nothing shameful or “bad” about wanting approval. We all do to some extent.
But when we’re on a search for validation and approval in life it weakens us so much. I know because I still struggle with it.
Looking over your shoulder for whether people like you or not is crippling. Abandoning plans because somebody criticizes you can ruin your life.
Approval and validation should never be the center of your well-being.
3) Lack of responsibility for your own feelings and words
Many of the ways we’ve been treated and experienced life are not our fault.
We’ve all been victimized and treated unfairly in certain cases, some much more than others.
But growing into a mature adult unfortunately and inevitably means that we have to take responsibility for how we express our feelings and words.
“Sorry I kicked the table, I just got really angry it wasn’t my fault” isn’t going to fly in a court of law and it won’t fly in a relationship or place of work, either.
We have to learn to react to emotions and thoughts in a responsible, adult way even if we can’t always control what they are and how they hit us.
4) Lack of sticking to self-discipline and a routine
Emotional maturity does require self-awareness and owning our emotions and what we do with them.
This means a willingness to be vulnerable and open about how we feel sometimes (which I’ll get more into).
But for both men and women emotional maturity does also sometimes mean not giving into your emotions or feeling the need to express them.
Sometimes you are tired or depressed and you get up and go to the gym anyway…
Sometimes you are frustrated by your girlfriend but you call her anyway and try to be civil and rebuild some avenues of non-aggressive communication despite the fact that you could start a big and unnecessary fight if you wanted to…
The point is:
Sometimes you need to put your emotions second, not first.
5) Lack of respect for the beliefs, values, feelings and time of others
I’ve certainly been guilty of this and I know many of us have and continue to be.
Let’s face it:
Some folks we meet in life believe and care about things that are ridiculous or even offensive to us. They stimulate our desire to say “you’re an idiot, jackass fool.”
But when you do that you enter a downward cycle of negativity and useless fighting.
It’s important to respect yourself too. It’s just not worth your time and energy to bicker with people who are ridiculous in most cases.
6) Taking out frustration and difficult emotions on others
What do you do when you feel just awful?
When you feel angry, hopeless, completely exhausted?
Asking for support or some time alone is a good option, seeking out therapy, meditation and more is also an option.
One thing that’s not healthy is to take it out on others around you, which is what many of us do when we’re feeling horrible.
If you find that you sometimes feel bad and then snap at someone or make a sarcastic joke, there’s more self-awareness to be had.
Feel that desire to lash out and then take a second. You’ll find that you’re often able to supercede your desire to vent and treat people respectfully despite going through a lot of pain.
7) Beating yourself up when life doesn’t go the way you hoped
Emotional maturity isn’t just about not taking out difficult emotions on others, it’s also very much about not taking them out on yourself.
There are so many times in life that I’ve hated myself or blamed myself for things which happened to me and were 100% not my fault. In other cases, I blamed myself for things which were partly my fault but not fully.
Either way, when you do this you feed into a very self-defeating attitude that ends up hurting you more.
Life often doesn’t go the way we hope. Or it does and then tragedy strikes. Or it goes partly the way we hope but surprises us with something even better.
Don’t try to predict the future and don’t make yourself the villain of your own story.
8) A refusal to be vulnerable or open up even to close loved ones
Earlier I mentioned that sometimes it’s necessary not to give into emotions and put discipline and schedule first.
But an ability and willingness to express emotions and be vulnerable is also a very necessary part of being a healthy adult.
Emotional maturity means you are able to exercise self-control over emotions but also able to open up when it’s appropriate or important to you.
This moderating, balanced approach to relationships is a big part of emotional maturity and it’s certainly not easy by any means. Many go their whole lives without ever really getting to this point:
A point where they’re able to healthily and truly open up but where they also don’t expect or burden others with their emotions.
9) Reckless and impulsive actions not in line with who you want to be
My best friend often tells me I’m quite an impulsive person. It’s true, and I’ve been trying to improve.
Emotional maturity involves being honest and in touch with emotions and able to express them but not beholden to them.
When you feel a desire or fear and just immediately give into it, you are likely put yourself into danger, go off track and hurt yourself and others.
Act with foresight and try to limit how impulsive you are.
10) Arrogance and giving into a feeling of being above or better than others
It’s easy to give into feelings of arrogance in so many ways.
I’m sure almost all of us would deny this, but I don’t just mean in our actions I mean in the fundamental way we see the world:
A snap judgment when we see a homeless guy that at least we’re not him…
A feeling of relief about being a good person when we see a man treating his girlfriend disrespectfully and a feeling of being morally superior (I’d never do that! we tell ourselves)…
A feeling of being better because we have an attractive face when we see someone especially physically ugly or deformed…
So are you supposed to just never judge? Of course not. Judging is inherent to our biological impulse.
But take that initial surface reaction and go deeper on it. We’re all in the same boat together and one day we’ll all be dead.
Being better or worse than someone in one way ultimately means far less than any of us sometimes imagine it does.
11) Frequent complaining and emphasizing your victimhood to others
As I mentioned earlier, we’ve all been victimized in some ways.
But playing the victim is a choice and usually a way to manipulate others. Because we’ve been treated horribly and had bad fortune, we demand that others give us special treatment.
It can become a way to seek power and domination over others, unfortunately.
Complaining is closely related to playing the victim, locking us in a disempowered mindset that finds it very hard to see a reality outside of our own victimization and bad luck.