Most people believe that maturity comes with age.
And while research does suggest that emotional maturity improves with age, that’s not the case for everyone.
You might feel stuck on your journey to becoming emotionally mature — or have no idea where you are in your growth. But that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in self-improvement. It simply means you need to learn how to improve your emotional maturity, and we’re here to help you do that.
Let’s review what emotional maturity is, where immaturity stems from, and signs of emotional maturity to gauge your progress.
What is emotional maturity?
Emotional maturity means having the self-control to manage your emotions and work to understand them. As an emotionally mature individual, you don’t view emotions as a weakness. Instead, you value them and don’t try to hide them. Acknowledging your feelings and learning from past experiences — even if you struggle to let go of them — means you have strong emotional intelligence.
Part of emotional maturity is understanding that it’s an ongoing process. You can’t become emotionally mature in a week and carry that title through life. It demands sustainable effort, dedication, and grit to continue growing through all stages of life.
Like any type of maturity, there’s no finish line to cross. Maturing is an ongoing process throughout your life in several areas:
Physical: Your body goes through four stages of maturity to grow from being an infant, child, adolescent, then adult.
Mental: You grow your cognitive skills, such as how reasoning through problems or processing information.
Emotional: As you age and develop, you gain better control over your emotions. For example, you may go from having emotional reactions like tantrums as a toddler to expressing yourself with words and taking the time to reflect on your actions as a teenager.
Signs of emotional immaturity
Emotional immaturity manifests in many different situations, but learning how you might show this trait helps you identify specific habits to develop and skills to improve.
Here are four signs of emotional immaturity to review:
Incapable of expressing emotions. Do you avoid being in contact with your feelings at all costs? You might be emotionally immature if it’s difficult to be vulnerable enough to express your feelings or admit to negative experiences.
Blames others. Something’s gone wrong, and your first instinct is to blame others. It’s an automatic thought not to hold yourself accountable for your actions, even when you know it’s your fault. That’s a sign of immaturity.
Doesn’t ask for help. It might indicate immaturity if you don’t use your communication skills to ask for help even when you need it the most. You’re too afraid of seeming insecure or weak, so you refrain from asking a coworker for guidance or acknowledging that you’re burnt out at work.
Doesn’t respond well to stress. You had a stressful day, and everyone knows it. If you become easily upset with others, it’s likely because you keep repressing emotions. Studies have found that repressing emotions leads to stress-related reactions like anxiety, poor sleep hygiene, and migraines.
Factors that contribute to emotional immaturity
Learning what causes your emotional immaturity will help you better understand how to grow. Here are a few factors that contribute to emotional immaturity:
Those factors might seem a little vague. Let’s review some examples of emotional reactions to put some of them into perspective:
You find yourself in an argument with your sibling. Do you take the time to examine your feelings and think before saying something to them, or do you let your negative emotions spill out and blame your sibling for the argument — bringing up similar past arguments in the process — while refusing to accept responsibility?
Your manager has given you some feedback on your last assignment, and it’s mostly negative. Do you acknowledge that this wasn’t your best work but that receiving this feedback will help you grow, or do you blame a team member for distracting you and call your manager rude for giving you harsh feedback?
Showing accountability demonstrates that you aren’t afraid of making and learning from your mistakes, which is a mark of emotional maturity. If your instinct is to be defensive in any form of confrontation, it might indicate that you aren’t in a place, to be honest about your actions and feelings.
Taking the time to understand yourself, your habits, and past experiences will help you pinpoint what’s stopping you from maturing.
Emotionally immature parents
Think back to the home you grew up in and the people who influenced you the most: your parents. Growing up with emotionally immature parents greatly shapes your own emotional maturity. You become accustomed to immature behavior and emotional responses without positive role models.
Emotionally immature parents usually create a relationship where your emotional needs aren’t met. They aren’t comfortable sharing their feelings with you, meaning you don’t form a trusting bond. Without this intimacy and connection, you won’t feel safe or supported.
Parents like this make you feel like your interactions are one-sided, that their needs always come before yours, and that you can’t express your feelings. This can stunt your personal development because you’re conditioned to be apprehensive about expressing emotions.
But the consequences of emotionally immature parents stretch beyond impacting your relationship with them. Clinical psychologist Lindsay Gibson has studied emotionally immature parents and found that they take a mental and emotional toll on children that lingers with them well into adulthood.
Here are a few ways emotionally immature parenting impacts you:
You could also feel disappointed in your parents for not being emotionally mature. As a child, you counted on them to support your emotional needs, and they fell short. It might be difficult to move past how they made you feel, but you have the power to improve your own emotional maturity for the present and future.
How to improve emotional maturity
Improving your emotional maturity is a significant journey that requires you to be self-aware. Confronting the emotions that you’ve repressed is demanding — you might feel overwhelmed at times, but that’s OK. Remember to rest as you strive toward personal growth. This is your time to focus on yourself and your needs, but you can’t forget to take care of yourself along the way.
Here are five tips to help you improve your emotional maturity:
1. Develop a growth mindset
A growth mindset is crucial when you’re setting and working toward goals because it welcomes the necessary learning and improvement to progress. Focus on continuous self-improvement and growth rather than nitpicking failures and shortcomings.
2. Set healthy boundaries
Your friends and family could have a habit of crossing the line and making you uncomfortable, but you can limit that behavior in the future. Set healthy boundaries that keep your well-being in mind and make you feel safe. Remaining firm with these boundaries is a sign of emotional maturity because you’re respecting your emotions by standing up for yourself.
3. Understand your emotions
To be emotionally mature, you need to understand your emotions. That’s easier said than done — vulnerability is scary, but recognizing emotions helps you handle them more maturely. When you understand what makes you angry, sad, or excited, you can use that to your advantage instead of retaliating at the first hint of negativity. Ask yourself what makes you mad or uncomfortable and why.
4. Own your mistakes
You’ll make mistakes from time to time. But it’s how you handle those mistakes and take responsibility that matters most when you’re striving to be emotionally mature. Next time you make a mistake, apologize for your error without making excuses for yourself. View each mistake as a learning opportunity to expand your skills and learn more about yourself.
5. Find a role model
Your parents could have been emotionally immature and weren’t good role models for you growing up, but others around you could become a mentor to you as you improve your emotional maturity. Consider another loved one, a colleague, or a trusted friend to be your role model.
Watch as they handle challenging situations and how they respect their emotions. It could give you insight into better habits to form and inspire you to keep working to develop your maturity.
Growing toward emotional maturity
Putting in the work to learn how to improve your emotional maturity is tough. Being emotionally mature doesn’t happen once you reach a certain age. It’s something you need to work toward each day.
But now that you understand what emotional maturity means, you can learn to stop bottling up your feelings and fearing vulnerability. Emotional maturity helps you communicate better with others, have healthier relationships, and express yourself clearly. Your upbringing might have made you feel like expressing emotions is a bad thing that leads to conflict, but it isn’t.
Moving forward, know to never be ashamed of how you feel. Your emotions are valid, and the more you mature, the greater your self-acceptance. This journey will be tough at first, but it’ll get easier with time — and it’s worth the investment.