Extended family in living room smiling

by Rion B. Kweller, Ph.D.

For many of us, adulthood seems like it takes way too long to achieve. When we are younger, we often cannot wait to get there. Then, despite working long hours or raising our own children, feeling like an adult can be elusive. Isn’t it odd to be 20-something, 30-something or even 50-something and still be asking the question, “When will I finally feel like an adult?” This is not an issue about chronological age, but rather it is a state of mind.

As spring holidays approach many of us prepare for family get-togethers. What will seeing everyone be like this time? Will we fall into those familiar childhood roles when we are back at home? Perhaps it is Mom or Dad treating us as if we are still twelve years old. “Sit up straight. Don’t mumble, sweetie. Eat your vegetables, blah…blah…blah…” Then there are siblings who fall into those old, sometimes good, sometimes not so good but familiar patterns, or the family members who still poke and push just to be playful (or annoying). A spouse might remark about how your mother still waits on you like you are the prince but expects her to help wash dishes, or how it doesn’t seem fair that no one seems to listen when you talk but they hang on every word from your sister. Family roles can be rigid and can lock us in struggles that last long past a family get-together. They can control our lives.

What is the key at any age to feeling like an adult and hanging onto those hard-fought growing pains and growing up victories? The power is within each of us. We need to maintain control over our thoughts and feelings, even if circumstances push us in another direction. We must not give our power away.

No one can make us happy or sad. We assess a situation. We interpret. Then we feel. It all happens in an instant. If anyone tries to make us feel small, stay big. They imply put down or disapproval? Apply logic. Do not be drawn in to their view. What is the evidence? What has happened in this situation and what generally has happened apart from them? Do you do a good job as head of your household or handling employees or colleagues at work? Sounds like competence. Sounds adult.

It is too easy to accept someone else’s assessment. It is too easy to be reeled into how it has always been or how it has frequently felt. And sometimes, that childhood need for approval or acceptance just spills out and overwhelms the adult. We are back to the unsure ten year-old in a flash. It does not feel good. Staying big takes practice and discipline. It helps us to stand on our own. It leaves room for accepting feedback, bolsters self-esteem, and leads us to feel like the grown-ups we truly are.

About the Author:
Rion Kweller, Ph.D. is an executive life coach and a licensed psychologist in Williamsville, NY. His websites are www.iplanforsuccess.com and www.bhnet.org. To reach Dr. Kweller call (716) 634-1184 or email him at rion@iplanforsuccess.com,