Family, Self

6 Ways To Stop 'Adulting' (& Start Feeling Like A Real Grown-Up, At Last)

Photo: Photo by Dawid Sobolewski on Unsplash

“I feel like I’m Peter Pan, and I don’t know how to grow up.” That’s how a coaching conversation started recently with a millennial client of mine.

Let’s be clear, you millennials are awesome. You are still enthusiastic because life hasn’t beaten you down so hard that you see the world as a sad, daily grind. You are fervently committed to social justice in a way we haven’t seen since the 1960s.

And, because so many of you were raised by helicopter parents, you struggle not to boomerang back into your parent’s basement. Sometimes, you feel like Peter Pan — never fully grown up.

But how do you move beyond that Peter Pan phase of feeling like you're simply “adulting”, and finally grow into the mature woman or man you aspire to be?

RELATED: If You Do These 11 Things, You're DEFINITELY A Helicopter Parent

It’s not that you have Peter Pan Syndrome, where you don’t want to grow up. These folks, from all generations, flit from one job to the next. They won’t work unless they feel like it. They don’t build deep relationships. They can’t handle conflict or setbacks. They often abuse drugs and alcohol. They are always looking for a way to cut corners or the fast track to the big score. And, they blame everyone else for their failures.

That’s not you. You graduated from high school. You went to college or straight into a job. You work hard. Yet, it’s difficult breaking away from those helicopter parents, who have you on speed dial and feel free to criticize every decision you make. And that mindset has stuck with you, even once you're out of their nest.

You don’t feel like an adult, because they don’t treat you like an adult — even though you are one.

Your mother loves you, but it’s hard for her to see you grow up. (I know; I’m the mother of two millennials.) You are a part of your mother, and it breaks her heart when you leave her.

Some mothers are able to step back to let you grow up, because it’s the right thing to do. Others, sometimes with the best of intentions, cannot.

But that’s not your problem. You don’t owe your parents. They don’t own you.

You’re an adult. You can (and should!) live life in the way you choose.

Let go of the guilt. As long as you are safe, healthy, and happy, your parents have no right or obligation to interfere.

Maybe you were raised by parents who shielded you from failure. They wanted to protect you from feelings of hurt and shame. Maybe your parents organized everything for you, micromanaged your homework, made your elementary school projects themselves, and wrote your high school or college papers.

Maybe those actions seemed loving at the time. Maybe it made life easier for you. But, what they did was fail to hold you accountable for your own life and denied you the lessons of taking personal responsibility.

Part of moving from “adulting” to being an adult is to own your mistakes and to stop looking for others to rescue you.

Stop blaming others or waiting for them to make life better. Get support from a coach or counselor to build this muscle, if you can’t do this on your own.

You were probably raised believing that your parents know best. Follow the rules and you will succeed. That may work when you’re a kid and still in school. You trusted them, and that’s mostly a good thing.

But, today’s world is really complex. As much as your parents love you, there’s some truth in the whiny-sounding statement, “You just don’t get it.”

You have an inner voice that knows what’s right for you, but you’ve been trained not to listen to it.

Part of this is necessary to maintain social order. But, it can also force you to conform to a life that doesn’t fit you. You are the boss of you, and you have the right to live a life that conforms to your beliefs, wants, and needs (as long as you are safe, sober, and healthy). They don’t teach you this in school, but you have to trust yourself.

RELATED: Being Overprotective Doesn't Protect Kids — It Makes Them VULNERABLE

After all, life is all about taking calculated risks. The challenge with being a child of helicopter parents is that you were trained to look at everything as a risk.

But, you have to take risks to find success and achieve your goals or dreams. And you have to stop feeling like you're simply "adulting" and start owning your adulthood.

Here are 6 ways to stop feeling like you're simply "adulting" and start seeing yourself as the mature man or woman you've become:

1. Don't be bound by expectation.

Despite growing into adulthood, you are young. Perhaps you’re still unmarried and/or childless. This is a great time to explore and try new things. If you’re going to college, there are so many more options today than there were when your parents were young. Take time to learn about you and what makes you happy.

Color outside the box. Travel. Volunteer. Learn to paint. Take a chance on the things that call to you.

If you’re paying your own bills — and are safe, sober, and healthy — no one should tell you not to be curious about your real self and the world. You just might find a path to bliss.

2. Believe in yourself.

If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. Stand your ground and own your power.

If you’re deeply connected to that inner voice and it says “fly,” then leap off the cliff and knit your parachute on the way down. Your parents and the other adults in your world will take notice. They will start to believe in you, too.

And if you find yourself caving to others, a coach or counselor may help you learn to find your voice.

3. Be realistic about what's attainable right now.

Sometimes, you have hopes and dreams that you cannot fulfill in spite of your best efforts. Sometimes, timing is off and you need to delay your goals. That’s a part of reality and being an adult.

Rather than giving up on life, look for what you can succeed at right now. What’s the next best thing? Keep your hopes and dreams alive in a journal. They’re not dead, they’re just on hold.

4. Remember, you can be an adult and still be light-hearted.

Moving from childhood to adulting to being an adult does not mean that you have to give up having fun or being spontaneous. Being an adult does not mean that your inner child has to die.

It just means living for you and taking ownership of your choices.

5. Accept yourself fully — whether others approve or not.

We are sometimes conditioned to believe that happiness lies outside of us. It’s all about the house, the car, the trophy spouse, the corner office.

But, true resilient happiness comes from accepting where you are right now. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have hopes and dreams. But, if you are always living for happiness that arrives “someday,” you risk living an unhappy life waiting for a day that never arrives.

6. Don't shy away from responsibility.

Responsibility isn’t always fun. But, the cost of not moving powerfully into your adult self may have costs you can’t imagine.

For example, Peter Pan never grew up. He filled his life with adventure, games, and a focus on himself, but he missed out on love and family. He never knew his true self or fulfilled his true potential.

Your parents love you, even if it is hard to see it through the eyes of a dysfunctional childhood. Your parents helicoptered you because they thought they were doing the right thing.

Breaking your parent’s habit of helicoptering may be hard at first, but the rewards and possibilities are huge. Forgive them, love them, and set yourself free — so you can feel like an adult at last.

RELATED: You're Not A REAL Grown-Up Until You've Done These 11 Awful Things

Gretchen Martens is an author, speaker, coach, and happiness expert who helps support people in their pursuit of life transformation and change. Visit her website,, to learn more or follow her on Twitter at @GretchenMartens.