It is impossible to tell how mature a person really is. This is because everyone borrows a little bit of “self” (i.e. their maturity, their calmness, their motivation) from others.
Washington, DC is full of high-energy achievers. A number of them end up in therapy when whatever has bolstered their sense of self has disappeared. It might be an adoring boss, or an encouraging romantic partner. Sometimes it’s an administration change that leaves many without their important personas. People are quick to borrow the appearance of maturity from their achievements, their jobs, their relationships, or even political or religious groups.
But at some point, positions, organizations, and people will disappoint you. And you may find that your mood, health, and overall functioning will take a nose dive.
Sometimes I like to ask myself this question: “Do I spend more of my energy appearing mature, or actually being mature?” Take a look at the difference.
Pseudo Maturity: Excelling at work or school when you have a teacher or boss who praises you.
Actual Maturity: Performing well at school or work regardless of the amount of praise from others.
Pseudo Maturity: Joining in the latest outrage on social media.
Actual Maturity: Developing and defining your thinking, even when it may promote anxiety in others.
Pseudo Maturity: Staying calm in a tense relationship because you can complain about it to your partner, friend, or therapist later.
Actual Maturity: Managing anxiety in a tense relationship through self-regulation and attempting the most mature response.
Pseudo Maturity: Looking like the more responsible one in your relationship because you’re overfunctioning for your partner.
Actual Maturity: Taking responsibility for yourself in your relationship and letting the other person do the same.
Pseudo Maturity: Meeting every imagined need of your child so they can avoid distress or disappointment.
Actual Maturity: Meeting the reality needs of your child while teaching them that disappointment and rejection are survivable.
Pseudo Maturity: Adopting narratives of beauty and success espoused by society.
Actual Maturity: Defining what a healthy, fulfilling life looks like for you.
Pseudo Maturity: Depending on feedback from others to evaluate yourself.
Actual Maturity: Striving to be objective about your own abilities.
Are you curious about how much energy you’re investing in pseudo-maturity? The most obvious evidence is how steeply your mood or overall functioning will rise or dip based on other people’s responses to you.
A few things can help you stay focused on building actual maturity:
- Define what “good work” looks like instead of adopting definitions from others.
- Define your thinking about a challenging situation or issue before you consult with others.
- Try not to intentionally seek out praise or approval from others.
This week, think about how pseudo-maturity is propping up your mood and ability to function at work, in relationships, and in the larger world. What might it look like to take a step back and work on defining who you want to be and how you want to function, regardless of whether people applaud you or not?
News from Kathleen
Preorder my book! Everything Isn’t Terrible, will be published by Hachette Books on 12/31. I can honestly say it is the best $20 you can spend to start 2020 a little calmer. You can preorder it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, or wherever books are sold. But I especially encourage you to support your local bookstore! Preorders help my book succeed and get more visibility in stores.
Preorder Bonus! If you preorder my book, you can read one of my favorite chapters today and get some funbonus materials. Once you’ve ordered, click here to submit your proof of purchase to receive the bonus content and the sneak peek! Proof is simply a picture or screenshot of your receipt. If you preordered at a bookstore and don’t have a receipt, you can email me and I’ll send you the materials.
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