I hate calling myself emotionally mature. Partly because, at times, I still act like a child. But mostly because it makes me sound like I think I’m holier than thou.
That’s far from the case.
I gained the emotional maturity I have today through a lot of pain. That might sound melodramatic, but dark times formed all of the minds of people I admire, so I’m sticking to my guns.
Emotional maturity came once I admitted I didn’t know squat; that the emotions I thought governed my world were not only wrong but, at times, fabricated from irrational standings. Yes, they came from dark situations but, more precisely, from choosing growth during those times.
All of this is to say; I don’t think I’m better than anyone. I’ve just gone through a shift that any human being is capable of. Maybe I did it a bit earlier than others, but I’ll be the first to admit this is one of those “process” things; there’s no end destination.
Several lessons await anyone when they begin understanding their emotions and stop allowing them to control their world. Maybe you’ve learned these lessons already. If so, kudos to you.
If not, then you’re in for a treat.
You can’t control your emotions.
Imagine this: when you walk outside every morning, there are two paths. One leads to your idea of the perfect outdoor place (for me, that’s a lake with mountain views). The other path, however, takes you down a muddy road that’s dark and dangerous.
You found out the hard way about the treacherous path. Yet, every day, you keep picking it in hopes of ending up in your ideal place.
That’s what some of our actions are doing. For me, I struggle with anxiety. I know that sitting on my phone for hours triggers my worst emotions. Yet, I’d scroll for far too long. I chose the same path even though I didn't like the outcome.
While you can’t control the emotions that come up for you, your triggers are something you can handle. You can do things differently if you know what makes you feel anxious, angry, or sad.
Perhaps you might even start doing things differently through the way you react to your emotions.
Emotions are invaluable lessons.
For the first half of my adult life, I made a lot of horrible decisions.
After being diagnosed with an eating disorder, I stopped all the help I received and ran away to China. I stayed with an emotionally abusive man because I thought that was love. I pushed away anyone who tried to help me.
But all of that was because I refused to allow my emotions to guide me. You see, sometimes we get too caught up in life and things that don’t matter. We want pretty jobs, shiny things, and shinier partners.
So when we get that gross knot in our stomach, we ignore it. How could we not be happy with having all the things in life we thought we wanted?
But that’s the thing. Our conscious mind can become clouded by all those things that society makes us think we need. It’s our subconscious we can’t trick.
Emotions might be uncomfortable, but they can teach you so much about yourself if you allow them to.
When you ignore feelings, you give them more power.
Since we’ve established that emotions are lessons, it goes without saying that you can’t ignore something that’s demanding you feel it. Over time, you’re giving that feeling more power. Before you realize it, those feelings will control your life.
That’s the exact position I was in when I tried to end my life in 2018. I tried to cover up the sadness I felt with relationships and jobs that would make me money. I didn’t want to feel the sadness. I tried to ignore it.
But that’s not how emotions work. Before I could make sense of it all, the sadness enveloped my life; I couldn’t see anything but despair and a constant feeling of numbness.
Luckily, I’m still alive today. And while I never wanted to re-live that summer in 2018, I can reflect and see what was going on. My sadness controlled my life because I refused to acknowledge it. But once I did, I could start doing the work to make those feelings go away.
Everyone has a different version of you in their head.
There’s no use in getting everyone to like you because it’ll never work. There will always be someone who thinks you’re annoying or mean. And a lot of times, that won’t have anything to do with you.
You see, people perceive the world based on their experiences and beliefs. A simple example of this is one person thinking a passing poodle is cute but their friend feeling terrified as they move away from the dog. They both saw the same dog, but since a poodle attacked the friend as a child, she’s terrified of them.
Someone could see you and, right off that bat, not like you because your face reminds them of their ex. Or perhaps your outgoing personality makes a person feel insecure about their lack of confidence.
So if you live your life forever worrying whether people like you, you’re more likely to change based on this fear. Even though, no matter how hard you try, there will always be someone who doesn’t like you.
Every emotion will eventually pass.
In the depths of my depression, the one shred of hope that I clung to was that the pit of despair that lived in my stomach would eventually pass. And I was right; it did. Because of that experience, I tattooed a permanent reminder of that sentiment on my body.
If humans were their emotions, we’d all be fucked. I couldn’t imagine what a person built of fear would look like, nor even someone made of joy. Both would be exhausting.
Because we’re not our emotions, think of them more as temporary residents. They come when they need to — sometimes for survival and other times, to tell us something — and then leave. But our minds work against us by making us think that our feelings are part of us.
Thankfully, they’re not.
If something doesn’t work out, your world won’t end.
A beautiful part of growing older is all the experiences you accumulate. You can reflect on all of those and deduce a lot about life. Like all the times, I thought my world would end, but it didn’t.
An example of that is my struggle with depression that I talked about, but the same goes for when love ends, or your career doesn’t work out. There will be times in life that throw you a curveball, but you know you can get through it with emotional maturity.
Now, that’s not to say it won’t hurt. It sure as hell will, but you at least know you’re capable. And really, confidence is what matters more than your actual abilities.
Happiness is a journey, not an end destination.
Emotional maturity taught me that life isn’t about avoiding any negative emotions. It’s about equipping yourself to handle the downs and becoming aware enough to enjoy the ups.
If you make decisions based on the idea that happiness is perpetual, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. You’ll also waste a lot of time overlooking the more minor things that build a life where you feel ready to handle obstacles.
The truth is, happiness is elusive. But it’s found when you invest in the aspect of your life that matter to you, like friendships, passions, hobbies, and goals. For me, it was finally living my life for myself rather than for everyone else.
But none of that has a stopping point because happiness will always be a journey.
Like I said, emotional maturity wasn’t always a pretty path. It takes many questioning things, uncovering emotions, and admitting how you’ve always done things isn’t helping you anymore.
But once you realize these lessons, you start to see emotions as a friend, not the enemy. And that, amongst many things, is what I believe to be the secret to a fulfilling life.
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