When I thought of grown-ups as a kid, I thought of dads wearing sneakers and bucket hats and mowing the lawn.
I thought of sedans and minivans, and moms who had a watering can sitting on the porch next to some potted geraniums.
I thought getting older meant having the things that adults seemed to have, looking older, and having more rules.
I thought it meant talking over tea instead of playing.
I honestly didn’t give it much thought, except that I thought it looked slightly boring and not like anything I ever wanted to do.
I was fortunate to have a stable and loving idea of what it meant to be a grown-up.
But still, as I got older and slowly became a grown-up myself, I realized that the term means something different from what I had initially thought.
Although I have the majority of the “regular” (according to my subjective childhood perception) adult things, I know that it’s not the things that make me a grown-up.
In fact, it isn’t any of the titles, accolades, failures, or physical accumulations associated with me that count at all.
Many people get older and take on the “physical traits” of adults. They get a job, acquire the things, and maybe a spouse, have kids, instill some rules, and carry on. But it’s become apparent to me that it’s the internal evolution toward maturity that really defines growth.
This is what really makes you a grown-up:
1. Taking complete responsibility for your life.
That means accepting that your reality is something that you have created.
Assuming this level of responsibility isn’t always easy. It can actually be quite tough. It’s something that most people have to work on every day. And that’s okay.
Your ego wants you to remain entrenched in your stories of victimhood—where other people and circumstances are responsible for your unhappiness.
In the words of Dr. Wayne Dyer, “Happiness is something you are, and it comes from the way you think.”
Those words almost sound too simple to even be taken seriously.
What about the guy who was rude to you at the grocery checkout counter? What about world events? What about your sister who hasn’t called you back? Or your aunt who is sick?
But there will always be another external negative or unjust situation to hold your attention.
And this doesn’t mean that painful things don’t happen. They do. So feel the pain. It’s part of being human.
But when we focus on the negative stuff continuously, without bringing awareness to our thoughts and questioning them, our minds will find more negative things to match our mindset. From there, a cycle will be born: one that can begin to snowball if not given close attention.
Remember: your thoughts become your reality, and only you have the power to interrupt those thoughts.
2. Understanding who you are, and having the necessary boundaries to uphold your authentic self.
Preserving your truth means a continual need to check in with yourself about the people you bring into your life and the situations you attract, to see if they align with you. Being a grown-up means getting vigilant about spending your time and energy on people who love you for who you are and in situations that support your growth.
Growing up is also a “letting go” of what no longer serves you. It means trusting that what is on the other side of that which you let go of, will align even better with your higher self.
Letting go can still be done with great love. Ultimately, it should be. In the least, do your best to make as much peace with what is no longer meeting your needs before parting ways. Even if the peace acquired is only within you and not the other person.
Moving forth without the energy associated with what you are letting go of will ensure you don’t attract the same situation disguised in a different form down the road.
3. Balancing who you are, and what you will (and won’t) tolerate.
And doing so with a mind that’s open to other ideas and perspectives that may be in direct opposition to what you believe.
Everyone on this planet has a set of thoughts, beliefs, and ideas that stem from their own experiences in this lifetime.
The people who engage in the most hurtful behaviours toward others undoubtedly feel the most inner pain themselves.
So, while it’s essential to uphold boundaries to protect your integrity, it’s also equally important to build enough self-awareness to enable you to see people for who they truly are and enter into situations without adding more tension to the equation.
Because ultimately, beyond the beliefs we all hold and the thoughts we all think, we are all born from the same loving awareness that encapsulates all the differences between us.
Although these concepts are simple, putting most (if not all) into practice isn’t always easy.
The real key is to love who you are right now.
Perfection is an illusion.
And you are where you are meant to be based on the path you’ve travelled thus far.
But if you can continue striving for improvement, you really will feel the growth. And despite your ageing physical appearance, you will feel lighter.
So, maybe what it means to grow up then, is to age internally in direct opposition to our external selves: to feel less weight and possibly even feel internally ageless as time carries on.