No matter what your age, gender, race, wealth status, or level of accomplishment, one important feature of growing up is this realization:
When I look at the immaturity all around me – in my parents, siblings and children, in my classmates, workplace peers and direct reports, in my local government, in Congress, the Middle East and a hundred other corrupted places – I realize that the immaturity I see there, also resides in me.
When I come to see that I am never that far from what I detest in others, I am ready to embark on a serious journey towards self-responsibility.
Applying this to myself, I continue to discover lots of immaturity material to work with, meaning, plenty of examples where I avoid responsibility.
What does immaturity – lack of self-responsibility – look like? Here are some markers:
1. Blaming: the tendency to find fault instead of recognizing everyone has a part to play, including me.
2. Stubborn certainty instead of honest uncertainty. Concluding without investigating. Disinterest in the backstory.
3. Whining, complaining, pouting – mistaking inconvenience for crisis, taking a “victim” position in response to a challenge.
4. Ducking responsibility: “I did it because you…”
5. Lack of resilience: Inability to recover from conflict, or from someone else’s intense emotional response, or from a setback or adversity. Or harboring a high degree of unresolved anger.
6. Making important decisions based on feelings, and lacking clear thinking. Trusting impulses above what makes sense.
7. Bemoaning the past or present instead of seeking to understand. Inability to learn from mistakes.
8. Irrational positivity: Rose-colored avoidance of growth-producing discomfort and other difficult-to-face realities.
9. Unfounded trust or distorted mistrust. Two sides of the trust coin: Trusting the untrustworthy, and mistrusting the trustworthy.
10. Automatically seeking to please vs. striving for self-clarity and candor.
11. Wanting, or believing in, easy answers to complex issues: “This all comes down to…” or “Here’s the solution,” or “It’s simply a matter of…”
12. Defending and justifying, instead of reflecting with genuine curiosity.
13. Unbounded availability and ill-conceived helpfulness. Feeding dependency. Eroding self-confidence in those you “help.”
14. Mistaking high accomplishment for emotional maturity (there’s no correlation).
15. Pretending, consciously or unconsciously, to be the smartest person in the room. Or the dumbest.
Since no one is fully self-responsible, these examples indict each of us, to varying degrees. How clearly can we see our own immaturity?
What does it take for us to finally give up the fantasy that we’re innocent, or complete, and set out to improve the way we function in relationships?
When the time is ripe for “working on self,” consider these strategies:
1. Who do you talk to about what really matters? Find a wise resource who listens well and asks thought-provoking questions.
2. One resource isn’t enough. Build a support system heavily inhabited by others who are “working on self.” Isolation seals blind spots.
3. Take care of your body. Fresh air. Exercise. Healthy food. Ample sleep.
4. Live in reality. Reduce exposure to the fantasies and lies that glitter all around social media. Solicit reality checks from people and sources you trust.
I’ve found the journey towards self-responsibility a far-from-perfect, never-ending dance of accepting that I’m not perfect, and, at the same time, pecking away at my immaturity.
Want to join me?