By Jeremy Godwin
Welcome to Let’s Talk About Mental Health, the weekly podcast full of simple ideas for better mental health by Jeremy Godwin. Each episode focuses on practical and simple ideas that you can use to improve and maintain your mental health and wellbeing every day, based on quality research.
This is Episode 85 and this week I’m talking about maturity. In this episode I’ll cover what maturity is and what it isn’t, why maturity matters for your mental health, and how to be more mature (while still having fun). So, let’s talk about mental health!
Listen to the podcast episode now in the Spotify player below (or using your preferred podcast service; see below for links) or continue reading for the full transcript.
Watch Episode 23 of Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV — in this latest episode I’m talking about how a growth focus improves your mental health.
Watch it below or visit the channel on YouTube:
This podcast episode was originally released on 27 June, 2021.
Hello and welcome to Episode 85, and thanks so much for joining me!
This week is all about maturity. How do you have a conversation about maturity and immaturity in a direct and honest way, while not coming across as preachy? I have no idea. But, I’m going to try my hardest to get the balance right. Will it work? We’re about to find out!
Before I begin, this week on Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV I’m talking about how focusing on your growth improves your mental health and I’m sharing a few simple ways to incorporate more growth into your day-to-day life. Watch it now on YouTube or head to letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au for that and all past episodes of the show. And if you like what you see, subscribe to the channel and turn on notifications to be alerted when I post new videos every Wednesday. I’ll be posting a lot more content there over the coming months and your support on YouTube would be greatly appreciated as I continue to grow on that platform.
And if you’d like an extra dose of better mental health each week, sign up for my free newsletter at letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au/subscribe (which is a free and short dose of stuff I’ve found inspiring, interesting or just plain entertaining throughout the course of the week). You’ll also find the link for that, and for the YouTube show, in the episode description on whatever podcast service you’re currently listening to me on.
So, with all of that covered, on with this week’s episode about maturity…
I used to get in trouble at work for singing the Spice Girls non-stop, which will probably come as no surprise to anyone who has ever listened to a single episode of this show because I quote them incessantly. For me, I have never been able to understand why so many people see having fun at work as a bad thing — I mean let’s be honest here, work can be tough and it’s called ‘work’ for a reason (because it definitely takes effort) so a bit of light-hearted joy can make the world of difference, especially when you’re dealing with issues or looming deadlines. In fact I’d go so far as to say that enjoyment is the essence of productivity.
The thing that I found myself being lectured for quite frequently or looked down on by others (aside from being loud) was that, apparently, managers are supposed to lead by example, and the only so-called ‘professional’ example is to be serious. Who the hell wrote that rule? Because I don’t know about you, but I’d choose a happy manager over a serious and grumpy manager every single day. You can be emotionally mature and still have fun, because emotional maturity is about much more than whether or not you’re the kind of person who always dressed up at work for Halloween (like me).
And let’s talk about age for a moment. Just because someone is in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s or beyond that doesn’t mean they’re automatically mature; certainly not in terms of emotional maturity, which is the main focus of today’s episode. I’m sure we all know some people who are well into adulthood who could be described as emotionally immature, and emotional immaturity is something that can be harmful to others (and to yourself) and it can even become quite toxic, so part of the conversation today involves how to deal with it from others as well as how to improve your own emotional maturity while still being able to have fun (because there often seems to be a lot of social pressure to have less fun in order to be mature, which is utter nonsense and we’ll just say that right up-front!).
So let’s talk through some definitions…
What is maturity and what is it not?
Maturity is not about age, because that’s just a number which has zero bearing on how you choose to behave — because maturity is about the way you think and the way you act. It is about having a solid understanding of who you are (which aligns with the idea of authenticity, which was the subject of Episode 55) and, at the same time, who you are not. I think we often forget that there is just as much to be learned about life and about ourselves by becoming crystal-clear on what we don’t want as well as understanding what we do want (and I often find myself telling people and clients, who are stuck when it comes to figuring out what they want out of life, to first identify what they don’t want, because that can free your mind and it usually guides you to what you do want instead).
Anyway, back to emotional maturity. Maturity is about being able to process your emotions and manage them in a healthy way, it’s about being kind towards others and to yourself, and it’s about taking responsibility for your words and actions and owning your mistakes. It’s also about setting and maintaining healthy boundaries with others and with yourself, it’s about being honest with yourself and others about who you are so that your needs can be met, and it’s about allowing yourself to be vulnerable and recognising that trying to be ‘tough’ all the time can lead to harmful outcomes because bottled-up feelings tend to make their way out eventually, in one form or another. All of those attributes, and more, apply whether we’re talking about you as an individual or if we’re discussing people in your life.
Knowing the difference between mature vs immature reactions to situations and events can be challenging, but there are some fairly straightforward things to look for. According to PsychCentral:
“…adult emotions [are generally] appropriate to the situation; in everyday situations, it’s usually mild discomfort, like a warning… [whereas] childish emotions are either overly intense or suppressed… [they are often] followed by an inner conflict, usually between guilt and shame on one side, and anger on the other, accompanied by unpleasant bodily sensations… [and the] conflict can persist long after the unpleasant situation is over.”Source: https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-to-distinguish-between-mature-and-immature-emotions#2
And the link for that is in the transcript, which you can find for this and all past episodes of the podcast at letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au/episodes.
I’ll be coming back to the piece about childish vs adult emotions in a moment, but first let’s talk about other people and immaturity, because I’m sure we’ve all know someone whose default position when they don’t get their own way is to rant and rave and curse and scream — it’s the adult equivalent of a child throwing a fit in the supermarket or hurling a toy across the room. In fact, let’s just call it what it is: it’s a tantrum. I was unfortunately blessed genetically with a short temper (because both of my parents have really short tempers) and I know I have been guilty of the odd adult temper tantrum more than once or twice in my life, both at work and at home, and it is something I’m doing a massive amount of work on (by the way, my therapist keeps reminding me to stop being so hard on myself by focusing on the negative; I genuinely do focus on the positive stuff as well, so I want to point out I’ve made massive steps in dealing with that stuff but I’m just sharing that, you know, none of us are perfect and I’m certainly aware that I’ve had the odd tantrum or two in my past… probably recent past, if I’m honest!), but anyway the point here is that tantrums come from feeling that your needs aren’t being met. Which is something I want to explore a bit more now in the next part of the episode…
Why emotional maturity matters for your mental health
And it matters because how you treat others — and how you treat yourself — has a direct impact on the world immediately around you (and let me clarify there by saying that is a way of me describing your life; what I mean by that is that you have your immediate circle in terms of family, friends, work, partner if you’re attached, and so that is your immediate world… in other words, the main day-to-day life that you experience). When you move through your life in an emotionally mature way, you have a positive effect on the relationships around you which then creates positivity that comes back to you and it’s a circle of love. On the other hand, emotional immaturity — such as ignoring other people’s needs or feelings, avoiding responsibility, demanding attention from others, or handling problems with destructive behaviours like name-calling or bullying — these are all damaging to your relationships.
I talked before about childish emotions vs adult emotions, and according to the same article by PsychCentral that I mentioned earlier some of our emotional responses are triggered by past memories, which can often subconsciously drive the things we do and say in a way that we may not even realise. This could be due to feelings like guilt, shame or fear, and a big part of dealing with your emotions is learning how to identify their root cause so that you can address it. For example, I know that some of my own needy behaviours have been driven by not feeling recognised or rewarded as a child by either of my parents, and so that led to a lot of insecurity as an adult. Once you know what’s causing it and once you work through those feelings (which may involve working with a therapist, as it did in my own case), you’re then able to better manage them if and when they resurface. For me, if I’m feeling overlooked or not seen, I’m now able to stop myself before my insecurity spirals out of control and I can label what it is I’m feeling and why (and that helps to take the sting out of the emotion and it gives it much less control over you by naming it). I talked about emotions in Episode 57 and feelings in Episode 28, and I also talked about insecurity back in Episode 35, so you may find some or all of those to be helpful if you haven’t already listened to them.
The thing is that emotionally mature people deal with difficult situations in a thoughtful and considered way that does no harm, is kind and serves to gives more than they take. When that happens, your relationships become healthier even through challenging times and that leads to better long-term outcomes. In short, emotional maturity is one of the foundations of good relationships with others and it’s also a fundamental part of how you treat yourself; when you treat yourself in a mature way, you make decisions that set yourself up for the best possible outcomes in the future.
How do you do that? Well, let’s get into the how-to part of this week’s episode…
How to be more mature (while still having fun)
So let’s first just discuss the fact that I said “while still having fun” there and I’ve said this a couple of times but I want to be really clear that I’m not saying you cannot have fun; I would be in a world of trouble if that was the case and these podcasts would have far fewer random quotes by the Spice Girls. So I’ll explore that a bit more shortly but I did want to say it upfront because please keep in mind that fun is one of the best parts of life, and it has a massively-impactful effect on your mental health and wellbeing… what I’m talking about here is about being emotionally mature in the way you handle yourself and your relationships with others. So let’s talk first about that whole relationships piece, and then we’ll come back and talk about you as an individual.
Dealing with others:
First, set clear boundaries and stick to them — so, when you’re dealing with other people who may be behaving in an emotionally immature way, the way other people behave or what they choose to do or not do is entirely up to them and your control is pretty much zero; all you can do is state your needs and set boundaries that are (a) healthy and (b) direct, and then maintain those boundaries. I covered boundaries extensively in Episode 53, so check that out for more detailed advice on how to set and maintain boundaries, but the point here is to stick to the boundaries; there’s no point in setting boundaries if you’re not going to adhere to them. A key part of that is covered in my next point, which is…
Be direct and assertive — and I covered assertiveness in Episode 45, so I’ll just touch on it here, but the main thing is that if you don’t stand up for yourself and ensure your needs are met then, frankly, who will? And there’s no point in beating around the bush with these things — that’s why I’m so direct in this podcast and over on YouTube, because when we avoid saying what needs to be said or we try to shy away from difficult conversations we actually cause way more issues for ourselves and for others. Being assertive and asking for what you need can feel really uncomfortable sometimes, especially because it can occasionally involve a little bit of healthy confrontation, but the alternative is to do nothing and put up with bullshit from other people which is much worse because that does harm to you. Do check out that episode if you find assertiveness challenging, and also I’m going to be talking about dealing with conflict in an episode in a few weeks’ time, so keep an ear out for that.
Focus on the positive — when dealing with someone who is less-than-mature in emotional terms, focusing on the negative can result in a relapse into childish behavioural responses. While I’m definitely not advocating that you avoid tough conversations (like I said in the last point, be direct and assertive), it is also true that positive reinforcement goes a long way in smoothing over difficulties. Focus on what the person is doing or saying that is positive and praise them for that, and see the negative stuff as being a challenge that can be overcome. Look, kids love positive reinforcement and so do most adults, whether we admit it or not, and most people who respond in an emotionally immature way are doing so based on emotional triggers from childhood or unhealthy coping mechanisms that they’ve never learned to overcome. Yes, we are all accountable for our behaviour, and yes, we should all be aiming to be the best version of ourselves possible, but everyone’s journey is their own and you can’t control whether or not they decide to focus on self-improvement and personal growth. Choose to reinforce the good stuff as much as possible — I mean, I’m not suggesting that you take them out for a Happy Meal at McDonalds but do what feels appropriate.
OK, so now let’s move onto the main part of this discussion which is all about you and how to manage your own emotional maturity, and let’s begin with…
Be accountable — so this and the next few points are probably going to walk that really fine line between being direct and being almost a bit lecture-ish, and none more so than this one about being accountable — please just know I mean what I’m about to say with kindness, but sometimes kindness requires a blunt conversation. Here we go: you are wholly and solely responsible for what you do and say, and for the consequences of your actions. Nobody can make you do or say anything, and when we say things like “you made me do this” what we’re doing is trying to shift the blame on to somebody else so that we feel better about ourselves. That is bullshit, and we know that intuitively however it doesn’t stop us from either saying it or thinking it (or both). Accountability means taking ownership and if you make a mistake in life, which you will because you’re human, own up to it and if possible make it right. The only true mistake in life is the one that you don’t learn from, and that’s where accountability comes in because it demonstrates that you understand the impact of your actions and you are willing to own it, regardless of how uncomfortable it might make you feel — because that’s how you grow. I covered accountability in Episode 16 of the podcast and growth in Episode 37, and I encourage you to check those out if you haven’t already.
Next, take care of your responsibilities first — being a mature adult seems to come with a hell of a lot of paperwork! We have all of these things that we have to do in order to maintain our lives and keep things moving forward from an administrative standpoint and just in terms of general life stuff, and if you avoid your responsibilities or don’t prioritise them then you will create issues for yourself and potentially for others, like your family. That means doing all the boring stuff first like paying your bills before you buy yourself treats, making sure that you look after yourself, making sure that you look after your car, and generally making an effort to be a well-rounded adult person who can tie their own shoelaces and doesn’t live in an untidy mess. Yes it’s boring and tedious sometimes, but that doesn’t change the fact that emotional maturity means doing what needs to be done to ensure that your most fundamental safety and security needs are met, like having a roof over your head (and preferably one that isn’t riddled with holes). That leads to my next point…
Make healthy choices — again, snooze! boring!, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. What you put into your body and what you do with it has a direct effect on what you experience. It’s the same with whatever you put into your mind.All things in moderation (and just know that some things, like sugary treats, were never meant to be anything more than a sometimes food). OK so let’s focus on something else, because that did sound like a lecture! My next point is…
Remember that what you put out is what you get back — you create the world immediately around you by virtue of your words and actions. If you create drama, you get drama, whereas if you create calm and peace of mind then you are more likely to receive those things in return (or at least be less-inclined to buy into drama if it’s going on around you). This is not an automatic guarantee of receiving rainbows and unicorns back for what you put out, but the more positive stuff you focus on the more you will attract back to you. Speaking of, my next point is…
Be considerate of your words and actions — the emotionally immature person speaks without thinking or, on the end of the spectrum, thinks without speaking (in other words, they have emotional reactions to things but doesn’t say anything and instead just bottles them up, which just is not healthy). Think about what you’re going to say or do before you say or do it, because when you are thoughtful in your words and actions you are behaving in a considered and emotionally mature way.
Find balance in all things — too much of anything can throw you out of alignment, and so it is when it comes to your emotional maturity. For example, have fun, but don’t go overboard to the point of unhealthiness (and don’t go so far in the other direction that you become a nasty old grump — you know, like that cranky lady in Gremlins). I love the topic of ‘balance’ so much that I’ve covered it twice on the podcast, coming at it from different angles; it was covered broadly in Episode 14 and then in Episode 49 I talked about finding balance, so check those out. And so now my final point is…
Deal with any shame or baggage that you may be carrying around — I normally would have covered this off quite early on in the how-to bit, since I believe addressing the root cause of issues is the most effective way to improve your mental health, but I’ve left it until a bit later because I wanted to get all of the blunt stuff out of the way so I could end on a positive note. If you’ve been carrying around stuff for a long time, it’s very likely that it can have an effect on your emotional maturity in terms of how you process things and, more specifically, how you react to situations and events. I don’t think that you should be beating yourself up for that, but of course nor do I think that it’s something that cannot be changed, because you can deal with shame and baggage. Work with a therapist or counsellor to get to the root of your issues, and address them while also learning new coping mechanisms that are healthier and more productive, and with time you’ll see your emotional reactions to things begin to evolve. I’ve been doing this work myself and it feels great when you realise you’re reacting to things in a much more emotionally mature way than your so-called ‘default’ reaction that you’ve been experiencing for years. Also, just on that, I covered shame in Episode 71 and baggage in Episode 7, so you may find those helpful as well.
Summary and Close-Out
Because when it comes to maturity and mental health, what it all boils down to is this: Being mature doesn’t mean you have to sell all of your toys and never have any fun ever again; if it did, I’d be in trouble (especially since I’m recording this talking to you while I’m watched over by my Spice Girls dolls — true story). But emotional maturity is about knowing who you are and being able to cope with challenges in a healthy and constructive way, rather than reverting to childlike behaviours. That takes time, as well as conscious work and effort, and it can feel really uncomfortable at first (as most growth does), but the way you react to situations and events around you as well as what’s going on within you is always, always up to you — it’s just a matter of whether or not you choose to deal with issues in a non-constructive way, or a constructive way.
The choice is yours, as it is with all things related to your wellbeing… so, what choice will YOU make today?
Each week I like to finish up by sharing a quote about the week’s topic, and I encourage you to take a few moments to really reflect on it and consider what it means to you. This week’s quote is by an unknown author, and it is:
“Maturity is not measured by age. It’s an attitude built by experience.”Unknown
Next week I’ll be talking about focus. I’ve talked a lot about how what you focus on creates your reality, and when we’re dealing with issues like worry about the future or ruminating over the past it can be really challenging to bring our focus back to the present so that we can deal with things in the here and now. But what does managing your focus actually mean and how does it influence your mental health and wellbeing? Well, next week I’ll be talking about what focus is, why understanding your focus is essential for good mental health, and how to manage your focus in a healthy way.
I hope you’ll join me for that episode, which will be released on Sunday 4th of July. And join me for Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV on YouTube, with new episodes released every Wednesday.
Head over to letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au for links and all past episodes and, while you’re there, join the mailing list for my weekly newsletter. You can also find the website links in the description of this episode on whatever podcast service you’re currently listening to me on.
Thank you very much for joining me today — look after yourself and make a conscious effort to share positivity and kindness in the world, because you get back what you put out. Take care and talk to you next time.
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