Growing Up in Adulthood


No one told me that growing up doesn’t end at 21 years of age. Whether I liked it or not, knew it or not, pressure to continue developing has continued throughout adulthood. Gratefully, I got help growing up from parents, grandparents, and teachers as child. Unfortunately, before I was old enough to buy a drink, I believed I was expected and capable to handle things on my own.

Being an adult doesn’t mean being emotionally ready for adult responsibilities

In the rearview mirror, I can see many mistakes made, big and small. Many decisions and interactions I wish I had handled differently. Many of these mistakes were painful, not just for me, but for those I love. Yet I can understand why I made the mistakes I did. Because I was far from grown up. Worst of all, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I believed I knew myself and how to be in my relationships.

I understood I had lots of learning and hard work to become successful in a professional field. College, graduate school, and work experience would prepare me for that.

But no one told me how much I still had to learn about my own self and how to be caring toward myself and others. Above all, I didn’t know how to be successful in marriage or as a parent. All of that, I expected, would come naturally. When it didn’t, I didn’t know where to turn.

Growing up in adulthood isn’t easy

For decades, I sensed something was wrong. Specifically, I was not achieving the happiness and closeness I wanted in my marriage or with my children. Try as I could, I couldn’t wrap my arms around how to fix that. Finally, I went to graduate school in mental health counseling to focus my time and energy on growing up emotionally and relationally.

I learned there’s no way I could have ever been successful developing in adulthood on my own. I could not have progressed without finding teachers, mentors, and therapists to guide me. I’m grateful I could admit I had a lot of growing up to do. Grateful I could give myself opportunities and experiences connecting with others to do so.

Lessons learned growing up in adulthood

No one is grown up by the time they reach legal age. Most people don’t find, or even know to find, the guides and experiences they need to continue developing to their potential.

Growing up in adulthood requires the help of wise others who are curious, caring, and willing to guide us. We need wise others we feel safe with to explore deeper parts of ourselves. Growing up means discovering, accepting, and healing hidden parts of us that hold painful memories and negative beliefs from childhood, and sometimes even past generations.

Growing up means that we can see beyond other’s challenging behaviors and emotions to understand their pain. We become wise ones ourselves. Moreover, we learn to know when and how we can, and can’t, be that guide for others.

As we grow, we become more aware of ourselves, others, and the world around us. Wonderfully, we become more caring, compassionate, and confident in our ability to handle whatever life sends our way.

The first step to growing up is to become open to learning what you don’t know you don’t know. It’s quite helpful to find someone wise and safe to guide you. In particular, psychotherapists are professionals trained to be a wise one for others. Finding a psychotherapist you like is a good place to start.

If you’ve had someone who helped you grow, consider taking a moment to send them thanks.

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash