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Ever feel like you’re still not a ‘real‘ grown-up? Here’s why...
Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - Ever feel like you’re still not a ‘real‘ grown-up? Here’s why

Do you always feel like an actual, proper adult? The kind who's put together, in control, and unafraid to do things like schedule a GP appointment or go to the bank? If your answer is "no", you're not alone.

When we were kids, the grown-ups in charge really seemed to have everything figured out. After all, these masters of our little universes had authority over everything in our lives (for better or for worse) and they made it look so easy. That had to be for a good reason, right? Well, now that we're the ones in charge, we've learned the hard truth: adulthood actually isn't a one-way ticket to self-reliance, confidence and practical knowledge. And, as the years keep coming, that can leave us feeling left behind, or even like big fakers pretending to be something we're not — capable.

Counselling Directory member Donna Morgan says that loads of us deal with, as many of her clients report, this kind of 'imposter syndrome' over being a grown-up. She explains one of the reasons for this is that it's actually a lot harder to meet all of the traditional benchmarks for maturity that our parents hit when they were our age. The heady combination of financial independence, long-term relationships and linear career progression that helped give generations past a veneer of shiny adulthood is a bit more elusive these days. Counseller Laura Wood-Holden agrees, pointing out that buying a house is one of the things that's so much harder now than it was then.

Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - Ever feel like you’re still not a ‘real‘ grown-up? Here’s why

"Another landmark of being an adult," she adds, "is getting married, which may not interest younger generations as much, maybe due to social expectations not being as strong and, again, the financial situation of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. This means they often cannot afford a big party with all their family and friends.

"The people who are just entering adulthood have also had a major pandemic occur in a pivotal time of their life, and many are feeling that their maturity level hasn't recovered yet from the time missed during lockdowns." So what can we do if we want to feel a bit more like capable grown-ups who actually have it together? Tanya Stephenson, a Mental Health and Peak Performance Coach who works as a Research Officer and Teaching Associate with Monash University, has some tips on how to "foster a strong sense of identity" — which, among other things, can help you step more fully into your properly, inescapably adult self.

She says we should be employing positive self-talk (which is beneficial in more ways than just this one), and trying to challenge any negative stereotypes and biases we're holding on to, as these can actually backfire onto us and "undermine a sense of self-worth and identity." It's no good beating yourself up if you can't afford your dream house, or big fancy wedding or even a baby right now — it's not your fault we're in a cost of living crisis, and, while it might not make those pills any easier to swallow, remember there are so many adults in exactly the same boat as you.

Further to that last point, Stephenson recommends fostering a sense of belonging with adult peers who are in this boat with you, and setting some goals for the future by asking yourself "open-ended questions to begin to narrow and focus on purpose". Morgan and Stephenson both say we should do some self-reflection that, as Morgan puts it, fosters "a sense of personal growth and self-acceptance."

"This includes setting realistic goals, acknowledging and celebrating personal achievements and understanding that everyone's path to feeling like an adult is unique." Morgan is also an advocate of "faking it 'till you make it" in some cases, and argues that it can actually be "a natural part of the growth process." "But," she adds, "it's equally important to cultivate a genuine sense of self-efficacy and to recognise the competencies we do possess. By doing so, we can redefine what adulthood means to us personally and embrace it with confidence and authenticity."

Ultimately, what we've got to remember is that no-one in the real world has all the answers just because they hit a certain age — no matter how much it might look like they do. "It's important to recognise that adulthood is not a destination," Morgan says, "but a journey with a myriad of experiences and expectations that can often make us feel like we're in a perpetual state of 'becoming' rather than 'being' adults."

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