I'm not going to lie: I was a very annoying child. Throughout the entirety of my elementary years, I had no impulse control, I would never keep my hands to myself, I was loud, and my teachers despised me, and I honestly don't blame them. I'd even hate to have to interact with younger me. Throughout the years I wondered why teachers didn't like me or why I only had one friend in elementary school; it didn't help my social issues that my classmates bullied me into a different school district, but that doesn't totally excuse my poor behavior.
Looking back, I fully understand how immature I was. It wasn't necessarily my fault; all kids are immature, because they're kids. That's just how it is. As for me, I was probably one of the least mature kids I knew. Adults told me I needed to do some growing up. My childhood friend said I needed to "man up." It really wan't until I got into high school that I finally started to learn how to actually be mature. I was faced with a little more independence, time management, and actually making wholesome connections with my friends and teachers. But now, as I near the end of my first year of college, I've noticed the presence of two different kinds of maturity: societal maturity and self-maturity.
Societal maturity is most likely already a concept we probably have a good idea as to what it means. Societal maturity includes things like learning proper time management, fiscal responsibility, or paying your own cellphone bill. Many of these societal responsibilities become important when people reach college, a time when you're forced to become your own person and learn what's best for you when it comes to living as a human being. People who lack these skills are seen as immature as most of society. How many times have you seen in a movie a character who lives in their mom's basement and plays video games all day as a full-grown adult? This is one of many images we think of when we imagine what society deems as an immature adult. In this example, we see very clearly that being an adult does not equal maturity. In America, 18 years old is the legal adult threshold, but some people don't mature for years and years later.
I began to learn about these skills in high school, along with most people, and started to learn how to perfect them in college. However, just as I thought I was perfecting my growth of maturity, I heard a very subtle statement from a friend of mine. He said:
"If you don't have your word, you have nothing."
It didn't mean much when I heard it, but that saying has sat inside me for a while, forcing me to reevaluate all I knew. Of course I've heard this phrase said in movies or in real life being said to other people, but it was this time that this phrase was said directly to and about me. And it's because of this phrase that I realized that there exists a second type of maturity: self-maturity.
We've seen it in movies and TV over and over again: a character who appears suave but treats people terribly, and is all around just an ass. Yes, they might fulfill the requirements to be socially mature, like how they take care of themselves, pay bills, have a job, etc. But how much does that contribute to their overall maturity when they're a terrible person? Spoiler alert: it doesn't.
What does it mean to have self-maturity? Self-maturity has nothing to do with what society says you should do or say, because let's face it: society is wrong about a lot of things. No, self-maturity is all about what you know about yourself and how you treat others. Take for example Bojack Horseman from the Netflix-original show "Bojack Horseman." He may be a semi-functioning adult who owns a home, a car, and pays bills, which might deem him societally mature. However, he's a mean, irrational, and foul-mouthed jerk who abuses the people around him and never takes responsibility for his actions. This indicates Bojack having a low self-maturity. And this isn't the only type of personality that has a low self-maturity.
A very annoying thing I always found about maturity is that people can sometimes associate types of personalities with being mature or not, and I'm pretty sure we could all say that's just plain untrue. People associate maturity with "quiet" or "calm" people. And while those people may be mature, they could also be a loud or fun person while still being mature because they can still have a good sense of self-maturity. This is because self-maturity is not about your personality, it's about you and how you treat others.
This might sound obvious, but self-maturity can become attainable when you have a strong sense-of-self. For some, it takes a lot of soul-searching to truly realize exactly who they are and how to be true to that. You can't really be true to yourself when you're constantly worrying about what people think about you and how you should change who you are to be more appealing to others. This is where the difference of what people think about you and what people think of you comes into play. You've probably been told that no one's opinion about you matters more than your own, and that is true. You know yourself better than anyone if you have the confidence to do it. But what does matter is what people think of you. What people think about you is just a bunch of objectifying and shallow opinions based totally on your exterior as a person. What people think of you dives a little deeper. Things that people think of you deal a lot more with your morals, thoughts, and how you present yourself to others. Typically, close friends can gather a good thought on what they think of you because they have spent time and have had intimate conversations with you. This is why it's important to have friends that can share thoughts with you in an honest and kind way. But now that I've been tossing the word "self-maturity" around for a couple paragraphs now, what does it exactly mean to be self-mature?
Self-Maturity is rooted in your own identity and the way you interact with others.
Like I previously mentioned, self-maturity can be achieved with any personality, so the sooner you get the equation "personality=maturity" out of your head, the better off you'll be. Let's start with one of the biggest factors of self-maturity: your own identity. People have been telling us to just "be ourselves" from a young age, and I can say for myself that this advice is surprisingly applicable. Everyone has the right to be themselves and no one has the authority over you to make you change who you are. But here lies the difficulty of self-maturity: it's all on you. Since no one can change who you are, it's up to you to define your own maturity.
What does self-maturity entail? Being mature means being able to talk and listen to people at the same time. Being mature means not push people past their comfort limits without permission. Also, being mature means having confidence in yourself and the knowledge that not everything you face is under your control, and that's ok. It's how the world works. But how does my quote work into this? Why did it resonate so much with the topic I'm writing?
"If you don't have your word, you have nothing." No doubt we've heard this somewhere before, but it was this quote that inspired me to write on the subject of maturity. This song reflects the characteristic of integrity. Like I previously stated, you can have any personality and still be mature. You could be a silly and loud person with maturity, or a bitter quiet person with maturity. But something all these personalities needs is a sense of integrity; the driving force of trustworthiness. As humans, we are social creatures that thrive by working together, and something everyone needs to properly cooperate is integrity. The people in your life will respect you and admire their relationship with you so much more when your words can be trusted.
To me, this is what it means to be mature. You yourself have the best judgement on whether or not you're mature, but also don't forget to listen to the helpful feedback of your friends every now and then. Be open-minded, be trustworthy, and above all, just be you.