When you think of adulting, what comes to mind?
Do you think of going out and getting a “grown-up job”, buying a property, living alone, or maybe even finally starting to organize your own doctor's appointments?
Today I’m going to talk to you about growing up, but not in the way you might think. No, today I’m going to teach you about becoming an emotional adult.
It’s important to know that growing up emotionally actually does NOT correlate with age. There are many people in their thirties, forties, and even fifties who are still living in emotional childhood.
My aim with this post is to give you practical coaching tools from my signature program, the Turning 30 Coaching Program. To get even more out of this post, I highly recommend checking out my post on the concept of a Turning 30 Manual.
Becoming an emotional adult has nothing to do with getting the ‘adult job’, the mortgage, or being able to buy yourself all the things. I know, because many of my clients come to me having all of those things and yet still feeling like something is missing.
In order to become an emotional adult, we must turn inwards and learn how to look at situations with more grownup eyes. Are you ready? Let’s dive in!
What is Emotional Childhood?
In order to truly define emotional adulthood, I think it’s important we first define emotional childhood.
If you see yourself in these traits or scenarios, do not judge yourself harshly. In fact, most of us are living in emotional childhood before we wake up to these concepts. And even those of us who have learned about emotional adulthood will STILL slip into being an emotional child at times (myself included!). We are all works in progress, so don’t beat yourself up ✨
The most simple definition of emotional childhood is this: when you're living as an emotional child, you don't take responsibility for how you think and feel.
You don't have an understanding of the fact that you are, in fact, in control of everything you think and feel. You don’t possess the deep knowledge that YOU are in control of your behavior.
As a result of thinking that you're not in control, you’ll often find yourself blaming other people for your circumstances or results. I see this so often - both in my own past behavior, my family and friends, and when my clients first come to me. Emotional childhood can manifest in various areas of our lives.
Emotional Childhood in Relationships
One of the BIGGEST areas emotional childhood plays out in is our relationships. Specifically, romantic relationships.
What so many of us do is delegate our happiness to our partners. We expect THEM to make us happy, and we become angry when they fail to do so.
We create instruction manuals for how we expect our partners to act in an attempt to control others. Ultimately, we try to control others because we truly believe they’re responsible for our happiness.
When we start to delegate our happiness to others, we step into very dangerous territory. We relinquish all control, we abdicate our emotional and mental wellbeing to somebody else, leaving us completely disempowered.
This pattern damages our relationship, and more importantly, our self-esteem and self-worth.
I want to stop here and let you know: if you’re recognizing yourself in this, you are NOT at fault. We have been socially conditioned to think this way our entire lives!
Think about it. How many times when we were younger would our parents say things to us, such as, “Did he hurt your feelings?” or “Don't say that! You'll hurt her feelings!”. Even that use of language suggests that somebody else has the POWER to hurt your feelings. That other people are responsible for your emotional wellbeing.
At the end of the day, they’re just words that may be interpreted differently to each and every person. Some may find them hurtful, and others not. By stewing in negative emotions over someone else’s words, you are choosing to let them impact you.
We ALWAYS have the choice to interpret situations and other people's behavior as we like. But most of the time, for those of us living in emotional childhood, we’re just living on autopilot. We’re not in the habit of questioning our thoughts and emotions, so we don't even realize the stories we allow to play out in our heads.
When we delegate our happiness outside of ourselves, we lose our power to change. Emotional adulthood is when we start to realize this and begin acting from a place where we understand that we are the ones that can take control.
Emotional Childhood in Careers
Another BIG area of our life emotional childhood plays out in is within the realm of our career.
I fully admit, for most of my adult life I was in a state of emotional childhood when it came to my career.
For YEARS, I repeated the same tired narrative about my career. I told myself I was a victim or circumstances, that where I was at in my career path was not my fault or the result of my own choices.
For those of you who are familiar with my story, you might know that after completing a psychology degree in my early 20s, I went on to study law and to become a lawyer. I very quickly realized it wasn't for me, and soon after quit.
From that point on, I bounced from job to job, never quite feeling satisfied or fulfilled anywhere I landed. I felt frustrated that I never seemed to be able to stick with things and no one true calling was jumping out at me.
But when I turned 29 and started on my journey to self-discovery, I realized that I was reciting an incredibly limited story to myself about my career. I blamed everything on my circumstances - I told myself that ‘luck just wasn’t on my side’ that I simply didn’t get the ‘luck card’ when it came to my career.
I blamed everyone else but myself.
It was everyone else’s fault I chose law, I was peer pressured into it
It was everyone else’s fault because no one showed me an alternative path or gave me any guidance
It was my parents’ fault I didn’t find my passion and choose something more creative or fulfilling, because they never got me to play a musical instrument or do art when I was younger
It was society’s fault I got sucked into law, and now I’d never find true satisfaction and always be a wanderer with no career path
Wow...can you hear what a negative story I was telling myself?
These stories we tell ourselves become so ingrained in us we begin to see them as objective truth.
When I started to work on myself, I began to realize - I was being an emotional child. And to become an emotional adult, I had to understand that I was not taking responsibility for my past decisions.
I was living in these limiting stories, stories that I told myself to make myself feel better, but that were negatively impacting my future decisions.
I soon started to see my story in a whole new light. I was NOT a poor girl who was a victim of her circumstances. Although I may have been influenced by others along the way, I actively CHOSE to study law and get a job in a law firm, and then subsequently actively CHOSE not to carry on.
I was always the controller of my results. When I decided each time to switch careers and continue to search for a job that would fulfill me, that wasn't a story of a girl who was lost. That was the story of somebody who was determined to find out what she wanted to do and wasn't going to give up until she did.
Something happened when I switched into this mindset of emotional adulthood.
I started to act from a place of feeling EMPOWERED. And because of that, I was then able to go out and make life decisions driven by this motion of empowerment and confidence instead of blame and resentment. Living in that energy of negativity and blame had gotten me subpar results, and when I was able to shift my energy and mindset to believe I truly WAS in control, my results changed for the better.
You Are Not a Victim
Emotional childhood is when we indulge in a victim mentality. This is when we believe our life is in the hands of something or someone else.
In emotional childhood, we tell ourselves life is happening TO us. When in reality, life is happening FOR us.
Many people don't want to take responsibility for their own life and enter into emotional adulthood. This is partially due to a lack of understanding that the subpar results they’ve been getting up until now are largely due to a victim mentality.
Here’s a practical tip to help you get started on your journey towards emotional adulthood.
Take a deep breath and pause. Maybe even get your journal.
What are the areas in your life that you are living in emotional childhood?
What areas of your life do you delegate your responsibility over to somebody else?
What areas of your life are you not admitting that you have control over?
And what stories have you been telling yourself about being in your 30s and being at this point in your life, where you've been blaming other people or other situations for your circumstances?
To finish this post, I want to leave you with a quote by Viktor Frankl, who is a Holocaust survivor. He survived Auschwitz, and he wrote a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning”.
He said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
If you can practice having that space, between when something somebody speaks, or something happens to you, you begin to understand that you have a choice on how you want to respond. You can decide how to feel. Rather than be at the burden of everybody else's behavior and feelings, you can choose to go inwards and act from a place of intention.
We have the power to step up and choose to be the type of people we want to be. This is exactly what I teach in my Turning 30 Group Coaching Program, with applications opening up next week. I have an entire module dedicated to emotional adulthood because this concept is just.so.key. It’s transformed so many aspects of my life - from my relationships with family, friends, romantic partners, and more importantly, the relationship with myself and the way that I view the world.
Are you ready to finally stop playing the blame game, shift into a more empowered mindset and start creating real changes in your life?
My clients have told me that this is one of the most game-changing tools to help them live a life on their terms and have stronger relationships in their thirties. In my new group program “The Next Chapter: Reclaim Your 30's” that is launching this month, I dedicate one week of the program to learning about Emotional Adulthood.
To sign up to the waitlist to be the first to hear when I launch, send your email to me by clicking here.