I don’t know about you, but when I hit 21, I thought there would be some sort of radical change in me that I would see or feel that would make me say, “This is it; I’m an adult now!”
I thought the same thing when I hit 30.
But there were no flashes of lightning, explosions, or fireworks.
So when do you know that you’ve actually grown up?
There may be no definite age or achievement that announces it, but at least there are signs you’re a mature, responsible adult (even if you don’t feel like you are)!
1) You understand your parents
Looking for signs you’ve matured? How about being able to understand and stop judging your parents?
When we’re younger, so many of us rebel against our parents, and even more blame them for the things they did or didn’t do when raising us.
I know I did – smoking was my main way of getting back at my folks, and I just barely tried to hide it.
But as we get older and start to realize what it’s like actually being a responsible adult, we can start to understand at least some of the choices our parents made, even if they were objectively poor ones.
And then, armed with this understanding, we can start to forgive them for their mistakes. This is not only a sign of maturity but also an important, even critical, stage in our emotional growth.
2) You realize how much you don’t know
“I know that I know nothing.”
This famous quote from the ancient philosopher Plato is a really excellent sign of maturity.
What he meant by this was that true knowledge is realizing just how little you actually know.
When I was a teenager, even up into my early 20s, I really thought I knew it all. I was cocksure and judgmental and really thought I had it all figured out.
These days, I can’t help but laugh thinking about how silly that was. I realize that there is so much more to learn every single day, and it’s daft to think otherwise.
Of course, there are things I actually know a little something about, as we all do. But thinking you basically have a handle on pretty much everything when you’re 20 years old simply shows off how little you actually do know.
3) You know and accept yourself
Self-awareness is a good sign of being a mature, responsible adult. And by this, I mean awareness of both your strengths and your weaknesses.
This ties into accepting how little you know, but it goes deeper as well.
Not only do mature people understand their limitations, they accept them and learn to build on their strengths to improve their weaknesses.
For example, I’m really well-organized, but I’m also quite forgetful.
How do I work this out?
Knowing and accepting that I have both of these characteristics, I can play one of the other.
I make schedules and set up reminders on my phone so I don’t forget about things. I keep running shopping lists so that when I’m out, and I think, “What was that thing I was going buy again?” I can simply pull out my phone and have a look.
When I remember to, anyway!
4) You can manage your emotions effectively
Little children throw tantrums when they don’t get their way.
Teens are often inclined to get sulky and sullen, marinating in a the-world-is-out-to-get-me kind of angst.
But mature, responsible adults are responsible for their emotions. It’s called emotional intelligence, and while we all have it in different doses, part of maturing is understanding more about your own emotions and those of others.
Truly mature adults don’t explode with anger and don’t implode with sadness. Instead, they manage their emotions and own them.
They say, “I feel like this right now, and here’s how I’m going to deal with it.”
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait until I’m at this level of grown-upedness!
5) You accept responsibility for your mistakes (and successes!)
Just as mature adults take responsibility for their emotions, so do they take responsibility for their actions.
When you’re young, it’s easy to perceive your own lack of power and blame that when things go wrong.
You know what I mean:
Did poorly on an exam? It wasn’t a fair test.
Didn’t get that job? The hiring manager was a jerk anyway.
But owning your failures is a distinctly adult thing to do.
And that’s also true for owning your successes, which is something we often overlook.
When you do a good job on something and receive praise, you can learn to truly accept it gracefully. This is a hallmark of maturity – knowing what you have influence over and whether that’s positive or negative.
6) You’re honest with yourself and others
Don’t get me wrong:
Adults lie all the time, and there are good reasons to do it, from saving people’s feelings to protecting yourself from harm.
Most children learn to lie by the age of three, and this coincides with forming something called “theory of mind.” This means that they start to understand that others have thoughts and emotions that may be different from their own.
Lying to others depends on understanding that you can know the truth while they can be fooled into believing something else.
But one of the signs that you’re a mature adult is that you know when you are lying, and you’re not simply fooling yourself or living in denial.
In other words, if you’re mature, you can take a step back and actually analyze your thoughts and beliefs. Are they accurate? Are you representing yourself accurately?
Or have you just been fooling yourself and others?
7) You see the shades between black and white
Just as “location” is the all-important buzzword in real estate, “acceptance, acceptance, acceptance” is the critical sign of maturity.
Children and teens tend to think in terms of polar opposites.
A character in a story is either good or evil.
Any action they do is either good or bad.
But adults know there’s a whole lot more to life than these black-and-white extremes. And there are a lot more than 50 shades of grey in between, too.
While younger people often just look at situations and assess them as right or wrong, adults look deeper. They try to form an understanding of others and accept their reasons and motivations, even if the results of their actions have negative consequences.
Mature adults know that life isn’t always easy and are less judgmental and more understanding of people’s challenges and situations.
8) You know what you want
This is a big one for me. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a paleontologist.
I was simply fascinated by dinosaurs, but I didn’t really have any clue what the job truly entailed.
At least I didn’t want to be a gumball machine like my sister!
At school, I focused on science because I was good at it, and it was interesting to learn. But when I studied biology at university, I realized I really hated it!
The issue was that I didn’t have a good grasp of what it meant to take on a discipline and work full-time at a job.
Am I a grown-up now?
At least I have a much better handle on what I want to do with my time and what rewards I want from my work.
Of course, this also includes every aspect of life, from work to relationships to family as well.
9) You are better equipped to handle tough situations
Remember that old saying?
When the going gets tough, mature, responsible adults are better at dealing with it.
I may have made that up, but it definitely looks like it’s true!
Experience is one reason why older people are better with difficult situations – the more you face, the better you can get at dealing with them.
But it’s also about emotional maturity, being able to manage your emotions and still be able to manage things effectively.
Grief and loss become less immobilizing when you have experience dealing with them, and challenges in work and family can be dealt with in a more balanced way.
10) You accept and even welcome responsibilities and commitments
One of the best ways to know if you’ve become a mature, responsible adult is to gauge how you look at commitments.
While committing to a relationship, a career, or a family may have had you shaking in your boots when you were younger, you might have a very different perspective now.
When you know who you are and what you want, committing to things comes easily.
So bring on those bills and contracts! Welcome new positions and responsibilities! When you’re mature, you know just what you can handle.
If you’re looking for signs you are a mature, responsible adult, even if you don’t feel like you are, these are 10 of the best.
Remember that no alarms will ring, and no flashing lights will go off – instead, you just gain a little bit more maturity each and every day.