Embrace Your Inner Adult

Little girl playing dress up

“A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

When I am coaching a client, often one of the most profound leaps they make is recognizing the personal power that accompanies adult decisions, outlooks, and behaviors. Sometimes a person is so entrenched in reactive behaviors, old hurts, and learned perceptions that they don’t realize they are trapped in a stage of childhood that limits their personal growth and relationships.

Much has been made of the concept of embracing one’s inner child. In this context, I’m referring to the therapeutic work (usually offered by mental health professionals) to help clients heal the emotional wounds and coping mechanisms that arise from adverse childhood experiences.

This work includes helping people face and heal unresolved grief and unmet needs from childhood. Often this grief takes the form of depression, controlling behaviors, anger, intimacy problems, and poor communication skills. Facing and healing these hurts is critical to becoming a fully-functioning, healthy adult.

Another big step toward becoming whole and healthy is embracing your inner adult.

Sometimes we don’t even recognize the grown-ups we are supposed to be because we either have either missed a stage in emotional development or we simply didn’t have appropriate role models or support systems.

Consistent relationship difficulties often reveal that one’s inner adult is begging to be released.

These difficulties would include intimate relationships, as well as relationships with friends, co-workers, and family members. If a running theme of complaints has developed over the years about your behaviors, reactions, or decisions, it is a big clue that you need to look realistically at yourself and make some changes. Everyone needs to regularly take the pulse of their inner adult to make sure he or she is alive and well.

An emotionally mature person continues throughout life to work on developing attitudes and behaviors in relation to himself and his/her environment which lift him past childishness and dependency. Your inner adult  is a person who is authentic, open, and willing to grow, learn, and accept his or her own flaws and mistakes.

Here are some of the characteristics of an emotionally mature adult:

1. Accepts criticism gracefully, being appreciative for an opportunity to improve.

2. Does not indulge in self-pity and has begun to feel the laws of compensation operating in all life.

3. Does not expect special consideration from anyone or have a self-inflated sense of entitlement.

4. Controls his/her temper but can express anger or frustration in healthy ways.

5. Meets emergencies with calm and poise.

6. Is not easily hurt or wounded by others.

7. Accepts the responsibility of his or her own actions without making excuses or blaming others.

8. Has outgrown the “all or nothing” stage, and recognizes that no person or situation is wholly good or wholly bad.

9. Is not impatient at reasonable delays, and has learned that he/she is not the center of the universe and must often adjust to other people and their convenience.

10. Acts as a good sport and a good loser. Can endure defeat and disappointment without whining or complaining.

11. Does not worry about things he cannot help.

12. Is not given to boasting or “showing off” in socially unacceptable ways.

13. Is honestly glad when others enjoy success or good fortune, and has outgrown envy and jealousy.

14. Is open-minded enough to listen thoughtfully to the opinions of others.

15. Is not a chronic “fault-finder” or complainer.

16. Plans things in advance rather than trusting to the inspiration of the moment or leaving things for others to handle.

17. Shows kindness, patience and good manners, especially with those who are less capable, sophisticated or mature.

18. Has a set of guiding principles, beliefs or values that create the framework for decisions and actions.

19. Is more solution-oriented rather than needing to be right.

20. Feels comfortable with a wide variety of people and situations.

21. Has the ability to experience and understand one’s own deepest feelings and needs, and is able to act on and express these feelings and needs in appropriate and constructive ways.

22. Has the ability to act on and react to life circumstances with intelligence, sound judgment and wisdom.

23. Has the ability to recognize, empathize with, and respect the feelings and needs of others.

24. Can love unconditionally – to allow another person’s  needs, feelings, security, and survival to be absolutely paramount – just as if these were our own.

25. Is able to adapt flexibly and creatively to life’s changing circumstances and conditions.

26. Can channel energy, both positive and negative, into constructive contributions to one’s self, to others, and to the community.

27. Can relate comfortably and freely with others, to like and be liked by others, and to maintain healthy and mutually satisfying relationships. The ability to choose and develop relationships that are healthy and nurturing, and to end or limit relationships that are not.

28. Does not indulge in destructive habits or behaviors.

If you are interested in reading more about how to embrace your inner adult and building better relationships, here is some additional reading that might interest you:

How to Be an Adult: A Handbook for Psychological and Spiritual Integration

How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving

How To Raise Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence: 101 Ways To Bring Out The Best In Your Children And Yourself

Imagintelligence: Beyond Emotional Intelligence

12 Smart Things to Do When the Booze and Drugs Are Gone: Choosing Emotional Sobriety through Self-Awareness and Right Action

Soul of Adulthood: Opening the Doors

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Comments

  1. Leah McClellan says:

    This is a great list, Barrie. Love how you flipped the inner child thing. That’s all well and good, but it’s also good to have goals or guidelines to aspire to, so we’re also working with the present or goals for the future.

    Some of these things have come sort of naturally to me; others I’ve worked on, like #18-guidelines and principals. That has come over time. #5. Meets emergencies with calm and poise–not an easy one for me, though it depends what you mean. I’ve done the Heimlich maneuver just fine and got the guy to a hospital like a pro, but I panicked on another occasion when a woman in a parked car was having a heart attack–long story, we got help but I was no help!

    Good one to print out or save.
    .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..Anger Management- It’s Not Just For Bullies =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Leah,
      I agree that personality has something to do with our ability to have emotional maturity in some areas — so that it comes naturally. Some people are born with a calm temperament and others have to work at it. I’ve had to work at not being reactive to what other people think of me. Be are works in progress — as I tell my kids, we are never fully-baked! But we don’t have to live half-baked.

  2. Nice post! I have heard about the notion that everyone has a “true” self that they must learn to connect with. This true self is the natural positive qualities we all have, instead of what we think we “should” be. If you believe everyone is inherently beautiful, compassionate, and overall good, this true self can start to emerge. Thanks for the post!
    .-= Joe Wilner´s last blog ..Stuck in your Day Job How to Get Promoted While Creating your Dream Career =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      That’s lovely Joe. Imagine what the world would be like if we were all able to express that true self — without the limitations of the past. Maybe that’s Nirvana!

  3. Refreshing point-of-view Barrie. So often we are taught to take care of our inner child that our inner adult gets ignored. Your list is very empowering and actionable in the sense it gives me a good compass to gauge my inner adult development.

    Thanks for this – it came at the perfect time.

    Alex

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you Alex. I’m so glad you liked it. I have always been interested in people, behavior and psychology, so my curiosity led me to a better understanding of mature behavior. It took me a long time to figure some of this out. Left to my own devices, I might be clinging to my inner and outer child!

  4. This post is brilliant, Barrie. Thanks so much for writing it.

    As you said, sometimes we just don’t know what maturity looks like. We get caught in our old mind patterns that, by definition, can’t show us the way. You have offered a road map and a picture of what is possible – and sane.

    In my experience, not having had the natural inclination toward maturity or good role models, I have had to find my own way. And thank goodness I have. Reading your list a long time ago certainly would have helped.

    Also love the book recommendations.
    .-= Gail Brenner (AFlourishingLife)´s last blog ..Did You Ever Think That Fear Could Improve Your Life =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you Gail. I wish I’d learn some of this a long time ago too. It would have saved me a lot of heartache and missteps. Perhaps you have to go through various stages of life and experience to have some of these concepts really stick.

  5. Clearly Composed says:

    I love this post celebrating the inner adult. They often don’t get credit for doing the hard stuff and sticking in there when it would be so easy to revert back to more childish ways. Your list is both thorough and inspiring. Thanks for that! :)
    .-= Clearly Composed´s last blog .. Creating a Haven =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      I agree totally! I think our inner child needs to be more respectful of our inner adult. Or maybe the inner adult needs to put the child in time-out sometimes. Thank you for commenting.

  6. Barrie

    I just discovered your blog. I love the Eleanor Roosevelt quote that is great. One of my mentors and former boss spoke often about being an adult, having “adult” conversations and in the organizational paradigm moving from what he called “parent-child” organizations to “adult organizations”. This is a HARD shift to make, but the results are so worth it. Thanks for the good reminders!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Amy,
      I am so glad you found my blog and hope that you will visit often or better yet subscribe! Making the shift to being an adult is hard for individuals and businesses. But it is also very liberating. When you accept adult behaviors and reactions, you also reap the rewards of better relationships and generally a happier life.

  7. Wonderful post – I emailed it to myself to study more and read often. Too much I feel stuck in adolescence, unsure of how to respond and yet I must in a more mature manner. I know my inner child; it is indeed my inner adult who needs to be freed. Thanks again.
    .-= Roberta´s last blog ..Barking Dogs – and Mysterious Phone Messages =-.

  8. What a great post! Yes, I think we spend so much time dwelling over childhood and inner child issues, that we forget the need to rise above it all. Thanks for the reminder!

  9. Steve-Personal Success Factors says:

    Barrie, this is such a brilliant post! I’ve been thinking about this over the last few days and weeks, and here you are, putting it all into words! Like everything, there needs to be balance, and I so appreciate you showing the importance of embracing healthy adulthood. Then you went a step beyond that to show what that looks like. Thanks, and I’ll be sharing this with my friends!
    .-= Steve-Personal Success Factors´s last blog ..Get Rid of Your Baggage Once and For All =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Steve, I am so glad it resonated with you. Thank you for your kind comments. I think we constantly in the process of achieving healthy adulthood. It’s often two steps forward and one back! Please comment again.

  10. Betty Kaplan says:

    I think verbalizing the “inner adult” is very helpful. Because it gives voice and a standard to what maturity really is or can be. I, personally, am sometimes stuck at a very young level, because I never had a father. I find that I turn teachers, bosses, and therapists into parents and then, for attention, seek to act out with them. I am old. 52, Sometimes I am very sophisticated and very loving with my friends. But anyone in an authoritarian position gets me somehow back to a very needy adolescent. I wonder if you missed a “stage” in life, is it possible to skip over it, do we have to go through it even if at a later time in life, or can you just get over it and be an adult the way you are requied to do. I once read a poem whose voice said in pertinent part “we are all created sick, but commanded to be sound.” I have trouble being sound sometimes and regress. Does anyone have any ideas about missed developmental stages and jumping over them? thanks?

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Betty,
      Thank you so much for your comment and questions. I am not a counselor, but I believe that you can be thwarted in your developmental growth if you did not get your childhood needs met or experienced some kind of trauma. If this is an issue that holds you back and concerns you, I wouldn’t hesitate to talk with a trained counselor about it. The biggest step toward improving is recognizing you have a problem. There are lots of things to read online about emotional intelligence and emotionally mature behavior. You can certainly learn about that and begin to implement those behaviors in your life. But to get to the core issue, I know that working with a professional is the best thing you can do for yourself.

  11. Hi Barrie,
    thank you for your great post with lots of insights and suggestions.

    Yes, the Inner Adult is an important part of ‘growing’ up.

    For me it all goes hand in hand, communicating with our Inner Child and re-parenting her/him with our Inner Parent and functioning in the world from the Inner Adult being guided by our Inner Being.
    Inner Child work can help even people who have not been severely wounded in childhood and it can be learned so we can do it ourselves.

    Much appreciated!

    Love and Light
    Yorinda

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