Emotional maturity is hard to achieve.
But the more emotionally mature you become, the more life will begin to make sense and the more you will be able to resolve difficult relationships and situations.
Fortunately, emotional maturity doesn’t mean you have to be a certain age or pass some specific test.
Instead, there are certain things you can do to start boosting your emotional maturity right now.
Here are the most effective ways to become more emotionally mature.
1) Accept the importance of emotions
First off you need to accept that emotions do matter.
Blocking emotions or trying not to care about them is just a form of repression.
No matter your gender, culture or background, you need to see your emotions for what they are:
Real expressions of your reactions to life and other people.
Learning to control your emotions and respond to them in a mature way is a very worthwhile task, but it isn’t always easy.
“Emotional maturity means having the self-control to manage your emotions and work to understand them.
“As an emotionally mature individual, you don’t view emotions as a weakness.
“Instead, you value them and don’t try to hide them.”
2) Face childhood trauma
Many of us had things happen when we were young that hurt us.
It may be abuse or mistreatment, or it could just be neglect or sometimes feeling unwanted or unaccepted by peers or our family.
Whatever childhood trauma affected you, it’s important to face it and bring it into the light.
This doesn’t mean you need to discuss it publicly or even with a therapist.
But you do, at least, need to face it inside yourself.
These things happened, or failed to happen, and it hurt me.
Facing the pain of the past is a necessary building block in attaining emotional control and maturity.
3) Make peace with your parents
Whatever your relationship or lack of relationship, emotional maturity requires making peace with your parents.
Accept their shortcomings or whatever you felt you didn’t receive growing up.
Accept whatever you still feel may be lacking or not helpful in your relationship.
Accept whatever strengths you felt with your parents that you miss from growing up, or whatever you received from them that you now find hard to find in the world around you.
4) Look at your attachment style
The concept of attachment styles was first developed almost a century ago by the psychologist John Bowlby.
Bowlby posited that early childhood and infancy experiences with parents and caregivers shape the way we give and receive love.
Too much stifling attention or neglect can cause us to relate to intimacy and love in unhealthy and self-sabotaging ways.
We may become anxious, craving feedback that we’re lovable and wanted, or avoidant, feeling uncomfortable with strong affection from others.
As you become familiar with your attachment style, your ability to understand your emotions and practice self-compassion will grow.
5) Know when to take a break
Becoming emotionally mature also means knowing when to take a break.
We all have a certain amount of strong emotions and intensity we can handle before we need to just zone out a bit.
- Turn on a funny movie and forget about life for a bit
- Go for a walk and smoke a cigarette
- Have a beer and watch the sunset
- Go out with the girls and sing karaoke
Knowing when to take a break is an important sign of growing emotional maturity, because you respect yourself enough to let yourself have a break sometimes and recharge.
“Those with emotional maturity can admit when they need help or when they’re burning out.
For example, you’ll acknowledge when you need a break and know when to ask your boss for a day off.”
This brings up the next point…
6) Handle stress without offloading it to others
What does a baby do when it’s sad or hungry? The baby cries and screams!
But as we become an adult, we learn to handle our frustrations and desires with more restraint.
This means that in some cases we have to vent our stress.
But if we’re emotionally mature, we don’t vent or offload stress onto those around us.
The fact I just had a really hard day or you’re having an issue with your girlfriend may mean we’re both in terrible moods.
But it doesn’t mean we take it out on each other.
Finding mature ways to express frustration and stress is a key part of emotional maturity, whether that’s going to the gym and taking a bike ride, or watching a film that takes your mind off the stress for a moment.
7) React less impulsively
Emotional maturity means learning not to always go with your first reaction.
Sometimes you find somebody annoying and stupid only to find they just come across awkward at first and are a useful ally or potential friend.
Sometimes you feel very drawn to somebody who turns out to be a huckster or a con man and leads you down a bad road.
Don’t always go with your first impression, and don’t always let your initial emotion be what guides your reaction.
You can’t help what you feel, but you can help how you react to your emotions and slow down a bit!
8) Sidestep the good/bad binary
There’s a lot in the self-development space about “good vibrations” or “raising your vibrations.”
Vibrations may be great, but I want to help folks avoid the good/bad binary a bit.
Real emotional maturity comes with facing everything inside you and your emotions but getting outside the idea everything in you or others is necessarily part of a good or bad category.
Many emotions can seem “bad” and end up being necessary…
Many emotions can seem “good” and end up leading you astray…
Be careful in labeling your emotions and focus on becoming more conscious and in control of them instead.
“Remember, these behaviors don’t make you a bad person.
It’s natural to exhibit some of these behaviors while being a reasonably emotionally mature person.”
9) Avoid focusing on blame
Sometimes there are specific people to blame for a problem.
That’s a fact.
But the more you focus on blame the more you go down a bitter path and start a vicious cycle.
It won’t be too long until you’re likely to blame for something as well, and when that blame comes back at you, you’re likely to react by lashing back in turn.
And so on.
Emotional maturity means acknowledging blame but focusing on solutions instead of recriminations.
10) Admit your own shortcomings
There are times we fall short of what we want to do in life or who we want to be.
Acknowledge this and face it.
You may feel shame at failure or falling short, but the only thing worse is pretending it never happened or being too proud to admit a mistake.
We all make mistakes.
The best response is to own up to it.
11) Stop trying to fix other people
When we’re emotionally immature we try to fix other people:
Partners, family members, friends…
It never works and often backfires.
The best advice is to simply stop doing this.
When you feel the urge to take control of somebody’s life or do something for them that they won’t do for themselves, resist that urge.
It doesn’t lead anywhere good.
Remember that you can still care and empathize for others without taking the step of becoming directly involved in their affairs.
You can give advice, sure, but it’s still somebody else’s choice to act on it or not.
I love the way Jessica Estrada tackles this, noting:
“There are several symptoms, so to speak, that point to someone having a highly developed sense of emotional maturity.
“Those include being able to see other people’s perspective without reacting, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, setting boundaries, not trying to fix or change people, and having empathy for yourself and others when mistakes are made.”
12) Find an inspiration to follow
Having responsibility for ourselves and our actions is crucial in life.
But it certainly doesn’t hurt to have role models and folks we look up to.
One of the best ways to become more emotionally mature is to have a role model and somebody in your life who you admire.
Watch the way they handle emotions and face the difficulties of life and use that as inspiration.
Even the most ordinary people have often faced pain that’s nearly unimaginable and many have ways of dealing with emotions that are surprisingly mature and wise.
13) Stop striving for perfection or to be a ‘good person’
Perfection would be quite boring, even if it was attainable.
A big part of emotional maturity is letting go of the compulsion to be “good” or to need to be.
Start focusing on a healthy, honest relationship with yourself and others.
Stop worrying about being a good person.
Focus on the next step right in front of you and on actions that are in your control.
Let the labels stay unused for now. They’re not necessary.
Assessing emotional maturity
How emotionally mature are you?
Looking at the above tips you’ll be able to see various ways to progress to more emotional maturity and assess it.
At the end of the day, emotions are a unique and personal experience for each of us.
We all feel and process emotions in different and unique ways.
But if you want to know how emotionally mature you are, the baseline is always to go back to looking at how much you’re able to choose what to do about your emotions rather than just instinctively responding.