ADULTING CAN SUCK, BUT IT DOESN'T HAVE TO
By Katie Cockrell MSW, LCSW
Adulting. By now, most have heard this phrase and can identify with it. It's a simple word that encompasses the idea of what it means to be an adult; what adult life is supposed to look like, and what adults actually do. It also describes all adult tasks, expectations, responsibilities, milestones, and behaviors typically experienced by adults. Some of the well known examples of adulting are: paying bills, buying or owning a home, getting married, having children, and working a full time job. The phrase also acknowledges the stress that can often come along with some of these experiences.
It seems that in an ever changing world, where expectations develop and adapt all the time, the expectations or pressures of being an adult seem to stay the same. What do I mean by this exactly? Well, there appears to be this idea, especially in western culture, that suggests that adulthood looks like the following: working full time jobs, owning homes, being married, and having families. For some, this idea of adulthood is exactly what they want and they create goals to accomplish this idea. For others however, it may look different...a lot different...and this can sometimes cause feelings of confusion, despair, failure, depression, anxiety, and an overall loss of identity. Does this mean then that those who want the job, house, marriage, and family are wrong? NO, absolutely not! Does this mean that those who do not have or want a house, are not married yet nor want to be married, or do not have or want a family are wrong? No absolutely not! Life can be DIFFERENT for everyone.
Maybe you have just completed college and are starting life for the first time no longer being a student. This can be really scary! The transition is new and can be uncomfortable. No one seems to talk about or identify that this transitional period exists for some students. Living life as a full time student and making the transition to full time work, for some, can feel wonderful and exciting! It has a different focus, new challenges, and different responsibilities. For others, this can feel very negative and may be hard to adjust to. If it does happen to feel this way for you, THIS IS COMPLETELY NORMAL!
Maybe you didn't choose college and have been working since high school. Maybe you are experiencing pressure because you didn't complete the traditional educational life that others feel you should have. Maybe you are feeling guilty because you did not or could not further your education. Maybe you are worried that you will miss out on an opportunity that should have happened if you would have continued with your education. Maybe you have a fear that others will think you are less qualified due to not furthering your education. Education alone, does not always prepare one for the real-world. Many times it is hands on work experience that provides one with knowledge, the ability to practice life-skills, develop responsibility, and produce personal growth.
Maybe your adult life has been shaped by something different, such as an unexpected death, illness, or crisis in which you had absolutely no control over. Maybe this unexpected event has caused some delay in developing your personal goals or plans for your future. Just because one experiences a delayed start on adult life, does not mean that they will miss out on opportunities or that they do not possess the appropriate skills to manage their lives. Circumstances change constantly and things happen unexpectedly which can put one's life on a completely different path. Whatever the case maybe, this societal pressure that suggests that one NEEDS to create or have or live life a specific way, by the time one reaches their 20's, 30's and beyond, is simply not true or realistic.
So then what is adulthood truly about? It's about allowing yourself to stay focused on what is important to you and your happiness. It's about allowing yourself to figure out what goals/accomplishments are providing fulfillment in your life. It's about setting the appropriate sized goals to achieve what it is that you want or need and make sure that these goals match the life that YOU want to have. It's about giving yourself time to find yourself by trying new things, exposing yourself to challenges, and failure. It's about building a life that matches your personal values and that you are personally proud of. Maybe this means owning the house,renting the apartment, having children, not having children, getting married, or living the single life. There is more than one way to experience adulthood and to develop a satisfying life. Life is hard...sometimes it's very hard, and guess what, it doesn’t get any easier!
You cannot Pinterest your way through life and expect good results, it just doesn't work that way. So instead, consider these tips:
9 Tips for Adulting
Written By Brittany P. Male LCSW, CADC
1. Acknowledge the struggle.
I often have conversations with clients regarding the difference being being hopeful and being dismissive of “struggle”. Before I can help a client move forward, I help them acknowledge where they are. As a therapist, I have a hopeful nature. I have hope that people can change. I have hope that people are good. I have hope that good things will happen. I have hope that we can overcome the obstacles we face. With all this hopefulness, though, I make it a point to also acknowledge the struggle others are experiencing and encourage them to acknowledge it themselves.
To acknowledge this may mean to simply say to yourself, “I am struggling right now and that is all right.” Life can be difficult and messy and while we can practice gratitude, we can also take time to provide compassion to ourselves through the “struggle” by simply acknowledging it. It is okay to not be okay.
2. Give yourself permission to struggle.
I give you permission to acknowledge your struggle. I give you permission to allow yourself to be both resilient and vulnerable as a result of the difficulties you’re experiencing. You can know that it will get better or easier yet simultaneously be overwhelmed. You can be grateful yet long for resolution of the challenges you’re facing.
3. Accept that the glass is both half full and half empty.
The truth is that the glass can be a little empty and also a little full. Read that again. Instead of trying to see things from only two positions as is our nature to do, you can instead be both. The glass can be half empty and half full at the same time.
4. Provide yourself with validation.
Once you allow yourself to acknowledge the challenges you’re facing and provide yourself or receive validation, you can then begin to move forward. Every session I have with clients includes validating their thoughts and feelings. So many of us don’t experience the validation we should receive from family and friends. Over time, this has taught us to be dismissive of our thoughts and feelings. In therapy sessions, validating someone acts as a corrective emotional experience, allowing them to learn to validate themselves and healing the wound that was caused by being dismissive of their past struggles.
5. Use validating and encouraging language with yourself and others experiencing struggle.
When we share words of encouragement such as “It will get better”, we do a disservice to those struggling. While certain types of encouragement be helpful, instead we need to first remember that encouraging them to acknowledge or validate where they are is necessary. Instead of saying to a friend, “iIt’ll get better'', say, “I see how hard it is for you right now. Please know that it does get better, and I can help you get there if you need.” I am not going to apologize to my clients for being hopeful in session, but I make certain that first and foremost, they feel heard and validated wherever they are presently.