13 Hallmarks of Maturity

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1. You know the concept of ‘better’ is arbitrary. In our youth, everything was about competing and ‘being better’ than others: our grades, extracurriculars, social media likes, fashion, college acceptances, etc. And while in the teen world some people really can seem holistically better, through adult experiences you’ve learned there is no real way to judge who’s holistically ‘better’ than someone else. 

2. You see people as they are, not as a fantasy. When we’re young, we’re prone to putting others on pedestals and falling in love with their potential. Nowadays, you see people as they are without any add ons. When we put people on pedestals, not only are we likely to be disappointed if they don’t fulfill our vision, but to see someone this way is to project our own wishes onto them without allowing them to be as they are.   

3. You know that all of the hardest decisions have to be made by you. When younger, we go to others for advice, but eventually, you learned that the ultimate decisions have to be made by you. A saying that reflects this sentiment is the saying, “A girl’s mistakes become a woman’s bad traits.” Eventually, we have to take accountability for ourselves. 

4. You know people aren’t solely ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ For the sake of lazy simplicity, many people, groups and organizations will finger point individuals or groups as the sole origins or encouragers of evil. However, you know there’s always more to the story.

For every evil thing someone did, there was either ignorance or another person’s evil deed triggering it. Is someone bad because they were ignorant? And are they bad if someone did something bad or unfair to them first and they reacted to protect themselves?

5. You see your parents as humans. Some people get trapped in the fallacy of forever seeing their parents as omniscient gods who failed them. While many people can endlessly complain of all the things they wished their parents did better, fewer people live with the understanding that their parents are like anyone else, people who lived their own challenging lives before doing their best in raising their children.

Now, some parents really are horrific and took no accountability in the challenge of parenting. But either way, whether you like or dislike your parents, one thing is true: you see them as human.

6. You’ve overcome bitterness over any injustices you’ve faced. While you still have scars and painful memories, you’ve reached a point where you’re able to have productive discussions about these problems in the name of moving forward and making progress. 

7. You don’t have low self esteem. The core of low self-esteem is lack of acceptance. People with low self esteem desperately wish they were someone else to the point of believing they don’t deserve love or care.

With life experience, not only have you grown to accept the parts of yourself that you can’t change, but you’ve likely discovered that there are others like you as well. You’ve also applied self compassion to your past wrongs, knowing that there’s no reason to punish yourself with excessive suffering if you’ve already learned the lesson.  

8. You don’t hate the people who hurt you. Conflict is an unavoidable part of being human and maturity has allowed you to have a more holistic understanding of the people who hurt you. While you still might have strict boundaries regarding your contact with them, you don’t hate them. 

9. You’re not trying to be what you’re not. When we’re young, we can have a vision or idea of who we’d like to be regardless of what our natural talents or life experiences are. But eventually, the truth of who we really are gets harder to hide.

As the Buddhist proverb goes, “Two things never stay hidden long, the moon and the truth.” The more you try to resist your true nature, the more you’ll suffer. Eventually, for the sake of peace, you learned to accept and be your true self. 

10. You’re open and flexible. At some point, you discovered that your attachment to a desired outcome was proportional to how hurt and disappointed you were if it didn’t happen. From this, you’ve learned to be more open, flexible, and not to clench onto any future dream or vision too tightly.

When we’re young, we’re taught that we’re responsible for (and therefore in control of) our fate after high school. If we didn’t get into a good college, it’s because we didn’t study hard enough, didn’t do enough extracurriculars, etc. However, this mindset can lead people to be perfectionistic control freaks. The truth is, we can work as hard as our limits allow and still not achieve a desired outcome. Such is life.

11. You’re open to new experiences because you know there’s a difference between knowledge and wisdom. There’s endless knowledge, and someone can become knowledgeable about anything and still not know 99.9% of things there are to know.

Unlike knowledge, wisdom can’t be studied for. Although parents tell their children the same wise words over and over again, their kids are prone to making the same mistakes because despite hearing the words, they haven’t had the experiences to forge the wisdom. Where knowledge comes from studying, wisdom comes from reflective experiencing. You’re open to new experiences because you know studied knowledge can only teach so much. 

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12. You know you can’t save everyone. Many young caring people think they can save everyone. However, once they mature, they realize that not only are many problems beyond their ability to individually solve, but we can’t protect people from themselves.

13. You know a relationship can only be as good as the character’s of the people involved. Perhaps you used to believe that every relationship could be saved. However, with experience, you’ve learned that you can only do your part. If someone isn’t willing to match your efforts, accept what they’re willing to put in, and decide whether or not the relationship is worth keeping.

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