Have you ever been told you need to grow up? It’s one of those irritating comments that can get right under your skin and then undermine anything you say. The insinuation is that you’re childish and that you’re making an idiot of yourself, and when it’s said in front of other people it can make you feel about an inch tall…
But regardless of how this off-hand comment can affect you in the short term, the real question you need to ask is whether or not the person who said it is right. Do others agree with them? Are you regularly making these kinds of faux pas? And if you do indeed need to grow up… how do you go about doing so? Here we look at whether they might be right, and at if and how you need to modify your behaviour and attitude.
What Does It Mean To Be Grown Up?
Before we go into this further, we need to think about the definition of what it is to be ‘grown up’ and what the opposite of that might be. Only then can we decide if it’s a desirable transition or not…
And what we find when we try to do this, is that it’s a rather arbitrary term that can change in meaning depending on who’s saying it. Of course they don’t mean that you should physically grow up – because that’s rather out of your control. And while they might mean you need to get a job or settle down with a partner, you can do all those things and find that people still accuse you of not being ‘grown up’.
Rather then, it seems that they are normally talking about your attitudes and beliefs and the way you act. The insinuation is that if you aren’t acting ‘grown up’, that you must be acting ‘childish’ or ‘immature’. Which presumably would mean misbehaving, playing with toys, being a little self-centred and having your head in the clouds amount other things – as children tend to act.
Is Being ‘Grown Up’ Desirable?
Normally if someone has told you to grow up, then they will have been thinking of one of these traits in particular, and whether or not you should take heed of their advice will depend on which trait they think you need to develop and why they said what they said.
Growing up in every sense is not an unqualified success. If someone means that you need to grow up by becoming more serious for instance, then that actually isn’t particularly good advice. You don’t need to be serious in order to achieve… well anything really… and if you can achieve the same things in a more light-hearted way you’ll find that you have more fun.
Likewise, if growing up means leaving behind your imagination or your quirkiness and accepting social norms, then that’s not necessarily a good idea either. Being imaginative is how many of us have our best ideas, and being optimistic or unrealistic is what encourages us to chase our goals. Most of the most brilliant men and women throughout history have been a little immature in that sense.
If someone thinks that growing up means ‘accepting’ reality and taking on a boring job, giving up your dreams, and stopping clowning around, then you should whole heartedly ignore that advice. Remember: the ‘norms’ of society are actually completely arbitrary and are only formed out of habit. Do what comes naturally to you, and what you enjoy doing, and don’t worry about what people think you should be doing.
Ways In Which Growing Up May Be Advisable
That said, being completely immature isn’t wholly advisable either. When immaturity actually affects other people, then unfortunately you do need to smarten up and take that into account. Be immature when it doesn’t matter sure, but when your family needs you you need to accept your responsibilities, and when the chips are down you need to keep your resolve and be a rock for others. Keep up the jokes if it helps, but don’t give in to the childish impulse to shirk your responsibility.
The Perfect Balance
To be frank, often the people who tell us to grow up aren’t very bright. They think that you don’t care about anything because you go through life with a smile on your face, or that you’re an idiot because you still play computer games. What they don’t realise is that having a smile makes the tough times easier, and that perhaps you don’t find every obstacle as much of a challenge in the first place.
The problem here is that many people misunderstand what the term ‘mature’ means. It doesn’t mean boring, or bland, or serious, or rule-following. What it really means is to be wise enough to know how important it is to enjoy life, confident enough to not care what other people think, but experienced enough to know how your behaviour affects others and responsible enough to put them first.
Do be unrealistic, optimistic, fun-loving, different and imaginative. Don’t be self-centred, stroppy or selfish. Look after the people you love. Have fun. Ignore the bureaucrats.
Then you will be perfectly grown up enough…