“I don’t think people change. I think they definitely mature. But I think the essence of what I am today is the same when I was five years old. It’s just maturity. I’ve become a healthier, fuller expression of that essence.” -Ricky Williams
When we’re faced with a difficult situation, it’s not easy to break from instinct. We tend to jump in, heart first with poured emotions, and any form of logical reasoning is quietly brushed off to the dark cave of our minds. We react with our emotions at the top of our head without looking even one moment on the impact and the consequences.
And let me tell you, that’s fine. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. That’s because maturity is a process and process means there is a series of actions and steps that you need to undertake to achieve a particular end. You have to start somewhere and most of the time the start is low. It’s not an easy road and it includes a lot of uphills, downhills, setbacks, and pit stops.
To make it through the struggle, you always have to remind yourself to trust the process.
What is emotional maturity?
Emotional maturity is basically the ability to understand and manage one’s feelings. At the very core of its definition, it seems like an easy thing to do but having a deep understanding and connection with one’s feelings is undeniably a struggle that we all go through with many hiccups. And taking it on the next level of managing it is definitely another challenge.
But despite the daunting process, emotional maturity enables one to make good, healthy, and positive choices that lead to confidence, personal effectiveness, and enjoyable relationships. It allows you to discover yourself and realize that not all situations need a reaction from you which will turn your life from a mirror to an open window with a fresh breeze of air gently caressing your cheeks.
How to become emotionally mature?
While there is no set process or steps on how to fully embody maturity and attain the zen state, there is one five-step process that has helped me become more emotionally mature. This was written by Dr. Roger K. Allen, Ph.D., an expert in personal transformation and family development, and these steps have greatly helped tens and thousands of people to live a happier, more effective, and peaceful lives. And I would like to share with you some notes on how I utilized this process and some personal thoughts.
1. Be Present
According to Dr. Allen, “By being present, you begin to take your power back.”
That is, being present also means being aware. In order to take on the path of maturity, we have to be first aware of our current status to fully realize the points where we find distressing and points to improve our response.
Here are the questions that we need to ask ourselves:
- What was the triggering event?
- What specifically happened that triggered you?
- What were your thoughts or feelings at that time?
- What did you do?
- What were the consequences?
By knowing this, we get to discover more of yourself which will help us build a response system that works best for you. It also allows us to be flexible — adaptable to situations we may have experienced in the past or even new ones.
In this step, I realized the importance of truly getting to know myself and how I respond to situations and that maturity is not just a simple experience that you get familiar with over time but also requires a simple analysis. And to be honest I initially thought was embarrassing because I’m doing a science process for my feelings? But it was really helpful and effective.
2. Embrace Reality
I’m guilty of being someone who always tries to make an excuse for everything and looking back, it has really put a toll in my mental health. I was always in denial of things happening in front of me especially when things go beyond my control. But the truth is, reality exists independently of opinions. And sometimes we have to give up control and just embrace it.
That also means that when life gives us lemons we should fully taste the sourness in it – the pain and frustration. I realized over the years that it is healthier to experience these feelings rather than just mindlessly forgetting because feeling these things is not negativity. It’s part of the process.
Once we understand that, embracing these feelings becomes easier and we learn how to feel but not let these emotions dictate our response over things.
And it might seem a bit trivial but embracing my reality has also helped me find my humour – that I don’t need to go too hard on myself because life is what it is. By acknowledging and owning our reality, we get to equip ourselves to change it (to an extent).
3. Exercise Responsibility
For this step, it is important that we don’t equate taking responsibility as taking blame because these are two different things. Accepting blame is confessing that we did something deliberately wrong. But on the other hand, taking responsibility is acknowledging that there are factors that influenced the outcome and part of that could be our poor decision. That life happens and it’s not always because we did it all wrong but because there are also outside factors influencing it.
On another note, we get to decide whether to surrender control and react automatically or disrupt that pattern. Being responsible about making good choices will help you become your best self and will serve your long-term self-interests (self-interests on a positive note).
Basically, it’s taking responsibility for our life choices and encourages us to always take the choice that will help us build ourselves instead of just feeling good at the moment.
4. Clarify Vision
They say that vision trumps knowledge. The problem with most people and admittedly I do this too is that I have to perfect a plan before executing it – because that’s what I am. A perfectionist. But I soon realized that this was an unhealthy sense of perfectionism which is blatantly wasting my time off from actually trying things.
To be emotionally mature, we have to understand that we don’t need to know all the answers or solutions to a problem. The important thing is we can identify the problem, we will be able to find the right answers along the way. Again, let go of control and just take the first step towards things.
It also helps to seek alternate views because no matter how educated we can be, it does not mean that we know everything. It’s good to see different perspectives and acknowledge that our own can be limited. And by understanding that, we also seek the path towards personal growth. In a sense that we take the challenge of change on ourselves first and in turn, influence change around the people and situation we live in.
5. Act From Integrity
Integrity, according to the dictionary, is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” That means that we always have to be honest with ourselves, to always act consistently with our vision even if it means giving up short-term payoffs for something bigger and even more fulfilling in the long run.
Acting from integrity is also giving ourselves the respect we deserve and also helps us become reliable and trustworthy individuals who people can freely approach.
“Our emotions need to be as educated as our intellect. It is important to know how to feel, how to respond, and how to let life in so that it can touch you.”