Do you know, or have you read about, someone who has talent and intelligence, yet has failed miserably because of emotional immaturity? Immature adults behave as children. Their childish ways are hardly adequate for success in life. Perhaps they are unfamiliar with the bible verse, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man I put away my childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)
We either choose to control our emotions or allow them to control us; we either chart our course or drift with the tide; we either become the captain of our destiny or a hijacked passenger. We either choose the path to success, fulfillment, and happiness or the road to failure, regrets, and despondency. Or, as Carlos Castenada (1925~1998) put it, “We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”
It is now fashionable to call emotional maturity EQ or Emotional Intelligence. Regardless of what we call it, it remains a critical key to life mastery. So, let’s review the characteristics of emotionally immature and mature people. That will help us to decide what bad habits to abandon and what good habits to foster. Finally, let’s consider how we can cultivate and strengthen emotional maturity.
Some Characteristics of an Emotionally Immature Person
1. Takes everything personally, overly sensitive, and cannot take constructive criticism.
2. Seeks immediate gratification. Yields to immediate pleasure and avoids unpleasant but necessary tasks and responsibilities.
3. Because of the above, unable to stick with a job until it is finished.
4. Blames everyone and everything (other than him or herself) for personal failures and mistakes. Never accepts responsibility.
5. Demands the world cater to his or her every desire. Makes statements such as, “He (she, it) makes me mad. I can’t stand it when he (she, it) does…”
6. Tries to control others rather than control themselves. Manipulates others by saying things like, “I’m offended when you…” Controls people by making them feel guilty.
7. When the ‘victim’ of a perceived injustice, seeks revenge rather than understanding, compromise, and problem solving.
8. Yields to temptation. Cannot carry money without spending it. Never satisfied with enough, but always wants more.
9. Constantly complaining. Always focuses on the negative.
10. Impatient. Grows irritable if he or she doesn’t get their way now.
11. Fails to see the needs of others. Only interested in him or herself.
12. Cannot be counted on to do their duty without being supervised.
13. Panics in a crisis. Believes him or herself to be a victim. Expects to be ‘rescued’ by others.
14. Doesn’t reflect on the consequences of their behavior.
15. Plagued by self-doubt, anxiety, and worry.
16. Tends to see things in black and white, not in shades of gray. (“You’re either for me or against me.”)
17. Is needy. Clings to every relationship and is devastated when one falls apart.
18. Uncomfortable with change and uncertainty. Seeks security.
19. Oversteps the boundaries of others while demanding that his or hers be respected.
20. Easily stressed and cannot cope with or manage life’s challenges.
Some Characteristics of Emotionally Mature People
1. They embrace change, uncertainty and challenges because they wish to grow stronger. They see life as an adventure, and the challenges make them better, not bitter.
2. They live courageously. They are assertive and set boundaries while respecting the rights of others.
3. They are neither Pollyannas nor pessimists, but realists. They accept the world for what it is and try to make it better by making themselves better.
4. They plan their lives by setting goals, but remain flexible and adapt to changing circumstances.
5. They get along with others by being empathetic, accepting, encouraging, cheerful, thankful, cooperative, and helpful. And like Rabbi Julius Gordon (1897~1954), they realize the following two things: “The art of living is the art of living with.” and “Love is not blind — it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.”
6. They engage in thoughtful rather than thoughtless behavior. They think before they act.
7. Armed with self-discipline, they do whatever needs to be done, even when they don’t feel like doing it.
8. They are patient and persevere, for they realize “Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.”(Samuel Johnson, 1709~1784)
9. They are good losers that can accept failure and frustration without whining or complaining.
10. They are sensitive to the suffering of others and get more pleasure from giving than in receiving.
11. They have a balanced self-image, neither believing they are better than or inferior to others.
12. They are open-minded and humble, willing to adopt what they learn from others. Besides opening their minds, they open their hearts, allowing themselves to get inspired by the good deeds of others.
13. Free of envy and jealousy, they rejoice in the successes of others.
14. They have a warm smile and a good sense of humor. Like William Arthur Ward (1921~1994) they believe “To make mistakes is human; to stumble is commonplace; to be able to laugh at yourself is maturity.”
15. They look for the positive in every situation.
16. They are honest and authentic. They don’t wear a mask, concealing their true selves. Rather, they share their feelings and openly speak about their faults and dreams.
17. They are enthusiastic, passionate, and have a purpose for being.
18. They willingly accept responsibility for their actions while realizing they are nor responsible for the actions of others.
19. They are calm, confident, courageous, charitable, and caring.
20. They are resilient. When they stumble and fall, they pick themselves up and start again. In their mindset, there are no failures, just learning experiences.
Cultivating, Developing, and Growing in Maturity
1. Practice self-discipline. Make a list of things that need to be done that you don’t feel like doing, and do them! Self-discipline is a sure sign of maturity and easy enough to develop. Just push yourself to do one thing each day that you should but don’t feel like doing. This simple exercise will build your self-discipline muscles and eventually become a habit.
2. Increase the number of strangers you speak to each day. This will build your confidence, expose you to new ideas and opportunities, and empower you, for people are the source of our power.
3. Most people are stressed out and sorely in need of relief. Resolve to make others feel better each day by offering an acknowledging smile, a kind word, and an encouraging remark.
4. Practice being compassionate by working as a volunteer. If you are strapped for time, find one hour each week that you can devote to helping a colleague at work, a neighbor, or a stranger that you meet.
5. Flush blame or excuses out of your life. When things go wrong ask yourself: What did I do that created this problem? What can I learn from my mistake? What is the best way to resolve this setback?
6. Practice humility. Live by this Buddhist saying, “Not flattered by praise, not hurt by blame.” That is, don’t let the praise you receive from others go to your head and don’t take the criticism you receive personally.
7. Don’t become discouraged when friction develops in a relationship. Rather than harbor feelings of resentment, vengeance, and anger, welcome this opportunity to practice forgiveness, compassion, and understanding.
8. In your relationships, let go of the competitive spirit and foster the cooperative spirit. Don’t try to win at someone else’s expense. Rather, always seek win-win solutions, so both of you benefit.
9. Don’t become a prisoner of fear. Each day do something to step out of your comfort zone. Choose growth over fear, and remember that your success and happiness are more important than fear, so do what you want to do but are afraid of. Start out with baby steps and work your way up until you achieve superhero status!
10. Adopt the mindset of a winner. Have a positive attitude. If you are not as positive or courageous as you would like to be, pretend you are. Life is a stage and you are an actor playing a role. Play the part well and you will become what you pretend to be.
11. People don’t respect those who don’t respect themselves. Be assertive and stand up for yourself. Don’t become a doormat, allowing others to manipulate you. Rather, set boundaries of acceptable behavior. Be assertive, but not aggressive. You can defend yourself and remain gentle at the same time.
12. Realize there are no jerks. Just because some people do what we wish they wouldn’t do that doesn’t mean they are jerks. It merely means that their wishes and your wishes differ. You don’t always do what others would like you to do, so why should they? Accept their right to differ. And sometimes the actions of others that seem horrible to you are perfectly justified because of circumstances you are unaware of.
13. Realize there are no nasty people. True, people sometimes do nasty things, but not because they’re nasty. Rather, it is because they’re troubled, in distress, misinformed, confused, don’t know any better, or are doing the best they can under the circumstances. Life exposes you to these ‘nasty’ people so you can practice forgiveness and compassion. You need these people in your life if you wish to become the best possible you.
14. We experience the world not as it is but as we are. If, for example, we believe life is a struggle it is not because life is a struggle, but because we are struggling. We resist what life is offering us. “Here,” life may be saying, “here are some ‘nasty’ people I want you to deal with because you need to grow more compassionate and stronger.” “Oh, no!”, you may answer, “I don’t want to meet them!” Isn’t it strange that the very things we run from are what we most need in our lives? If we master this lesson, our lives will be much less stressful and we will grow extremely powerful.
15. Understand that you have formidable inner resources that are sufficient to tackle every problem that appears in your life. But as soon as we come face to face with difficulty, many of us grow fearful, feel like a victim, and grow hopeless. Set those negative thoughts aside and release your inner resources. How do we release them? By making a commitment to succeed. You will find the strength to succeed and the solution to your problem as soon as you say, “I don’t care how difficult this situation is, I will overcome it!” But until you say it, and mean it, you will remain stuck.
16. Awaken! Don’t sleep through life. Life is an adventure, a challenge, an opportunity. Get excited! Have fun!
17. A key point to understand is that emotional maturity is a choice. You need not be fully mature now, but you do need to choose to become so. Tips are worthless unless we choose to act on them. Don’t just read good advice or listen to valuable suggestions, but implement them.
18. Young children cannot fend for themselves and are entitled to care, but adults who feel entitled to be protected and looked after by others are adults in name only. In Japan, many people in their 80’s, 90’s, and 100’s still work, lead active lives, and take care of themselves. Independence is a mark of maturity.
19. Mature people become the change they want to see. Do you want to live in a gentler, kinder world? Become gentle and kind. Do you want to live in a friendly, supportive world? Become friendly and supportive.
20. Mature people live in the NOW. They don’t hang on to the past, using the childhood ‘abuse’ they experienced as an excuse for their present failures. Mature people know we cannot change the past, but we can change how we look at it. Instead of considering it a curse that cripples us, we can consider it an opportunity to forgive our caretakers for their poor parenting skills. After all, life is for giving (forgiving) isn’t it?
Well, now that we touched on the important subject of emotional maturity, we do we go from here? Perhaps Mel Weldon has the answer, for he wrote:
My mind is a garden.
My thoughts are the seeds.
My harvest will be either flower or weeds.
I guess where we go from here depends on the choice we make. Do we plant flowers or weeds?