15 Things Emotionally Mature People Do

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cheerful emotionally mature woman with folded arms wearing glasses

Emotional maturity is the number one most important thing in relationships, the number one skill set we can work on to get great ones, and the number one most important thing to a happy and effective life.

Contrary to some misconceptions, emotional maturity is not about “self-mastery,” or self-development. Mature people may pursue these, but they have nothing to do with emotional maturity.

Someone can be ambitious and hard-working, yet still lack any semblance of emotional maturity.

What is emotional maturity?

The number one sign of emotional maturity is taking responsibility for ourselves.

Emotional maturity doesn't mean having all the answers or being the wisest person in the room.

To be emotionally mature is to have the ability to control one's responses to a situation — to take a step back and consider what caused it, its context, who the key players were, what motivations prompted their actions, the fallout and how it impacted those who were affected, and having a "bigger picture" perspective in general to be able to assess overall what emotional energy is useful and worth spending under the circumstances.

Our mistakes, our emotions, our needs, and our wants — all of these are valid and worth taking into consideration, and an emotionally mature individual absolutely does this, while also being thoughtful and intentional about expressing their feelings and responses to the unpredictabilities life continually puts in our paths without getting carried away and thrown by the wayside.

RELATED: Your 10-Step Guide To Totally Mastering Emotional Maturity

If you read and absorb nothing else, just make it this: the most important thing is taking responsibility.

This is not the same as blaming ourselves — being a martyr is equally emotionally immature.

The solution is simply to ask ourselves, “what can do to fix this?” or “what can I do differently?” It’s understanding the difference between what we control (only ourselves) and what we don’t (other people.)

15 Signs of emotional maturity, according to experts

1. The ability to recognize and admit when you're wrong.

“It’s far easier to get defensive and deny responsibility, or become overwhelmed with shame for our act of imperfection or ignorance. Being able to acknowledge when we’re in the wrong takes humility, self-compassion and courage.” — Megan Bruneau, Psychotherapist and Executive Coach

Emotionally mature people “spend zero time blaming others for their problems. They take accountability for their actions as a way to further learn and grow. Life and life’s circumstances, at the end of the day, have to be dealt with from our own will and volition, and admitting wrong is woven deeply into the fabric of mature people because they view humility and admitting wrong as steps up the mountain, not steps going backward. The mature person is able to understand that life is what they make it. That every person’s destiny is within their choice. Those with maturity live life making conscious decisions knowing that whatever the result is, they are the one’s responsible.” — Sherrie Campbell, Psychologist, Author, Speaker

“Responsibility has to do with the choices you make about how to think, feel and act about reality.” — Roger K. Allen, PhD

2. The ability to recognize and admit when you're being biased.

And illogical and messy and imperfect. Because all humans are.

“We all have innate biases and prejudices. It’s impossible not to: we’re socialized into a stereotyping world. So what’s important is learning to cultivate an active awareness of these biases and prejudices, and examine how they might influence our decisions and actions. Ask yourself where you might be practicing discrimination (subtly or unsubtly), and how you can begin to counter these ingrained behaviors.” — Bruneau

3. The ability to recognize and accept your own feelings and needs.

This is the opposite of the above. Some of us struggle by wallowing too much in our emotions but giving them too much authority in our lives. Others struggle by denying our feelings altogether, which is impoverished in another way.

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4. The ability to recognize that your feelings don’t run the show.

We are not victims of our own lives. People are not out to get you, or hurt you. The universe has not conspired to bring you down, break your heart, or make you sad.

Life is only partly what happens to us, and mostly how we respond to it. We choose our reaction — and viewpoint.

The difference between “sad” or emotionally impoverished people, and those who are emotionally strong, is not that nothing bad ever happened to the second group, but rather that they chose not to assume a passive role.

5. The ability to set healthy boundaries.

Being mature means stating what is acceptable to you and what you will and will not allow. Once you define that line, defend it. Don’t let anyone cross it.

Boundaries are important because when they are set, our character also sets, becoming more resistant to nonsense and drama. When someone charges ahead and breaks through our boundaries, we are compromised.

Don’t kid yourself. We suffer emotionally and can sustain lifelong damage. Don’t assume people will know your limit either. It’s your job to tell them.

6. The ability to pause between feeling and reacting.

Think it through.

“Through practicing mindfulness, we can increase the amount of time between feeling a particular emotion and reacting to it. We gain a sense of spaciousness with regard to how we observe our emotions — rather than clinging to our feelings immediately and reacting instinctively, we learn how to first observe, and then react more carefully and productively.” — Bruneau

“Between an event and your response is a moment, however fleeting, when you decide whether to surrender control and react automatically, or to interrupt a negative pattern and search out responses more in alignment with your long-term self-interest.” — Allen

7. The capacity to love, when defined as compassion.

“One does not fall in love; one grows into love, and love grows in him.” — Karl Menninger

“Judgment is at the heart of hate. It is what fuels unhealthy relationships with ourselves and others. If you’ve learned or are learning how to be more compassionate, not just to others but also to yourself, you’re moving closer to enlightenment.” — Bruneau

Everything is interconnected, and the energy we put out into the universe is a direct reflection of ourselves.

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8. The tenacity to maintain to composure, have grit, and endure setbacks with grace.

“Life is going to be full of problems. The acceptance of this allows mature people to stay calm and think more clearly during life’s more difficult moments. The whole process of meeting and solving problems is what gives life its deeper meaning. Mature people have established the emotional intelligence necessary to understand that life’s difficulties are the cutting edge of what distinguishes one from being a success or a failure.”

“Tolerate feelings of discomfort long enough to find solutions to their problems. An immediate solution may represent gratification to many, but mature people know that the best solutions come with delaying the need to get rid of the problem quickly. The most lucrative solutions are found in the process of thinking through the problem.” — Campbell

“Change is not always easy… Sometimes the most important adjustment is in our attitude.” — Kuehn

9. The resilience to demonstrate positivity and optimism.

“A positive attitude comes naturally to the mature person… [and] keeps mature people in a state of harmony with themselves and others because from their vantage point there is a way to make every situation a win-win experience.” — Campbell

Incidentally, one of the smaller, more specific secrets to a lasting relationship is: always assume the best of your partner.

10. The capacity to uphold honesty and integrity.

“Mature people live with high integrity. They are committed to knowing, hearing and working within the truth no matter how hurtful or stressful that truth may be. Mature people are also willing and committed to telling the truth even when it is humiliating and difficult for oneself or another. They have an open mind to hear counsel and to respond to reproof.” — Campbell

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11. The ability to practice self-control and delayed gratification.

“The mature are willing to tolerate feelings of discomfort long enough to find solutions to their problems. An immediate solution may represent gratification to many, but mature people know that the best solutions come with delaying the need to get rid of the problem quickly. The most lucrative solutions are found in the process of thinking through the problem.” — Campbell

12. The ability to express humility and gratitude.

“Mature people live with a natural feeling of thankfulness and appreciation for the expansive range of people, events, and circumstances in their lives. Because maturity is based in responsibility, mature people live with higher levels of happiness and lower levels of depression and stress. The emotionally mature turn their happiness into sharing and generosity. They offer helpful services to others as a way to spread their own wealth and joy in ways that circle back. When their giving circles back, the emotionally mature experience even deeper levels of pleasure, personal satisfaction, and gratitude for what they have been given in life to now gift back.” — Campbell

13. The capacity to listen in order to understand.

Not simply to respond or share your own grievances when they stop talking.

14. The ability to take a step back and not take it all so personally.

Ego is a major cause of misery in the world. (That, and unrealistic expectations, especially around our assumptions around change and control.)

“Detach yourself from the situation.” — Nadja El Fertasi

15. The ability to not make it personal when communicating with others.

Because we assume that whatever someone said or did was a personal attack on us, we often retaliate in like kind. But this isn’t an emotionally mature response — especially given that we’re often wrong.

Most of the things we assume are personal actually aren’t.

“Arguments or difficult conversations get worse when you make the other person directly responsible.” — El Fertasi

In summary... “Maturity is a choice for everyone. The more you value who you are and what you have to offer, the more responsible you will be in taking care of yourself.”

As psychologist and psychotherapist Albert Ellis said, “The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president… You control your own destiny.”

RELATED: 4 Ways To Stop Taking Things So Personally

Kris Gage is a freelance writer whose work can often be found on Medium.