I remember, when I was in my late twenties, a friend telling me: wait till you hit thirty, then things will fall into place and you will really understand who you are. It will get easier. You will see.
Recently it was my 37th birthday and as I’m reflecting on my life so far, as people do around that time, I keep thinking: wow, she was right! I could have never imagined it.
What is different now than what it was in my twenties, or early '30s? What has changed?
Yes, it’s maturity but what is that exactly?
It comes down to this: if you do your work you will reap the results. It’s impossible not to. By ‘doing the work’ I simply mean being in touch with yourself.
As those of us who are doing the work know, it’s simpler said than done.
Growing up in a culture that supports getting outside of yourself on all levels (food, media, shopping, sex, drugs, money, etc.) doesn't make it as easy as it should be to grow into a mature human being.
Add to that the trauma we all carry inside of us to some degree, the missing elders that should show us the way, we have everything going against us to get to a place in our lives where we can truthfully say:
My life is great. (and I mean on all levels, no hidden, suppressed stuff)
or at least:
It’s getting better and better.
When you know what you are feeling then you are in charge of what you need to do. When you are disconnected from your feelings (and I mean the deep feelings) then they are in charge of you.
So, if you are on a path of growth, sometimes you may feel like it’s a neverending story of processing, digging, and challenges.
Will it ever get easier? The answer is: yes, it will!
I’m writing this article to encourage you on your quest and to share with you my good fortune, in the hope that you will reap the same results one day!
I feel the truly best thing about getting older is that I know who my people are. It hasn’t been always that way. I used to be surrounded by toxic people. People that were not supporting me in any way, and instead just leaching of my energy.
Of course, they were an essential part of my journey: they taught me about discernment, about boundaries and got me in touch with my real values. Now I can say, I am blessed with my friends. Each person that is close to me is a ‘safe’ person.
A safe person is an emotionally intelligent person, someone who takes responsibility for themselves. Someone who doesn’t engage in blaming and shaming and who practices honesty and cultivates their virtue.
A safe person is someone you can trust and rely upon on all levels. You can be truly yourself with them.
If we want to truly thrive we need safe people around us. If you don’t have them, there is some work for you to do still.
2. Less Self-Doubt
Somewhere along the way, I realized that I stopped doubting myself so much. It’s a refreshing realization. I used to always carry this nagging voice inside of me that kept me in the loop of ‘Am I good enough?’ and that kept me from taking action and pursuing my goals and dreams. Staying stuck made me doubt myself even more.
I think maybe this is the biggest sign of maturity because it came from one big insight: no one is perfect.
We are all as fucked up as each other. Imperfect. We all are great at some things and suck at others. What a relief!
Being around the block several times and experiencing the flaws of people that I used to look up to, the ones that I wanted to become like, was sobering and relaxing at the same time.
I can only ever try my best. And trust that people will feel my heart and forgive me for my shortcomings.
3. More Trust
Having seen all the unexpected events in my life that shaped who I am today and that brought me to exactly this moment, there is less fretting about my future than there was in the past. I have lived through moments of no money, no place to live, letting go of all that I owned, of moving to new countries several times, breaking up from long-term relationships, being in some toxic ones…
And I survived! (and so did you if you are reading this)
When facing the Unknown now, it still feels uncomfortable at times, but it also takes me much less time to come back to trust and excitement about what the universe has in store for me this time.
The advantage of experience is that you can look back and really see that you are always being carried and supported, one way or the other.
As the old saying goes: the end is always good. If it’s not good then it’s not the end yet.
4. No Drama
I guess it goes without saying, but there is much less drama in my life now than what there used to be when I was younger. Being hooked in other people’s stories and dramas is very addictive. (Most of our sitcoms are based on that).
The root cause of all addictions is the feeling of emptiness and aloneness and not belonging that we try to avoid at all costs. Being swept away into drama and self-obsession gives us a wonderful distraction to avoid that pain.
But once you do, once you go to that place deep inside, it slowly will lose its grip over you. And that is only possible through a combination of your willingness to look inside as well as receiving the support from ‘safe’ people.
Drama is like junk food and bad television shows for your heart and spirit. It hijacks your neurology by stimuatling dopamine and makes you feel depleted afterwards.
Internal safety through embodiment, especially in connection to others is what truly nourishes us. When we feel that, we are not interestd in drama anymore!
5. Less Addictions
Goes without saying that more nourishment also means fewer addictions on other levels, like my relationship to food. There are genuinely fewer cravings in me than when I was in my 20’s where I grew up in a culture addicted to sugar.
Walking past cakes in the supermarket was hard and sometimes required all my willpower!
Now it’s like it doesn’t even exist. Junk food literally doesn’t have any hold over me anymore. Nor does alcohol, or binge-watching, or social media. In fact, my body’s natural rhythm is back intact to the degree that it always communicates with me what its true needs are: rest, safety, connection, etc.
And of course, lest you think I am perfect, I do fall off my horse at times. I go for hot fries and chocolate for example! That depends on how much ‘in’ or ‘out’ of capacity I am (how much stress I am experiencing).
But if you have cultivated a healthy relationship to yourself, even when you fall of the horse (which as humans we all do from time to time), it’s so much easier to course correct!
In the past it was more like: I ate something bad and that gave rise to shame and blame which would keep me in the loop of doing the wrong thing again and again.
That’s how addiction works. Now, I meet that same part with compassion and I know how to parent her back to a state of safety.
6. More Focus
What happens when there are less fear, drama, and addictions in your life? You become more clear on who you are, what you want, and where you are going! You become more focused.
All those points mentioned above are powerful distractors in our lives. They keep pulling us away from reaching the gold in our lives, the stuff that really matters. They drain our vital energy, make us sick and make us feel shit about ourselves.
The more you remove those ‘toxins’ from your life and free up your energy, the more the mud you have been swimming in previously starts settling allowing you to feel and see more clearly what is truly important to you.
It’s easy to have an idea. What constitutes mastery however is to commit to it and to have the fuel to stay focused on it. There are other qualities that play a role here: determination, persistence, self-honesty, but also kindness and compassion towards self.
These are all signs of the character you have been building!
Staying focused, which means being able to say no to distractions (toxins) functions like an immune system. It helps protect your vitality, is deeply rewarding, and strengthens your core.
I feel this is my favorite quality that I keep noticing evolving in me.
It goes together with humbleness, simplicity, patience, fewer needs, and enjoying the little things in life.
It’s the part that now is truly happy to go and sit with my grandmother (she turned 86 yesterday) and chat about the garden, about how different life was when she was a young girl, and be able to fully soak up the wisdom that's there in front of me.
As a youngster, I tried to do that, and yet, there were aspects of me that were, well, you guess it right: distracted.
There was always so much going on! And it was all so important! I had no real-time for the little things in life.
Now that there is more of me in everything I do, there is more focus, more direction, and fewer distractions, there is also more spaciousness in my heart to simply enjoy. There is more peace!
When you relax more into who you are, letting go of self-obsession, appreciation of all of the aspects of life around you starts naturally arising. It’s a wonderful feeling.
I could keep writing this article forever. But I hope that the red thread connecting all these points has revealed itself. Growing into a mature human being is an act of self-love. The more we say no to what doesn’t serve, the more we come back to balance, and all the points build on each other.
And of course, it’s not about the age, really. But I do believe that it takes some time to grow into our maturity. It’s not something that we can reach in our ‘20s (even though we can certainly have mature qualities already back then).
So I hope for you to be able to take heart and to be reassured that wherever you are at, if you keep close to your true self, life will get better and better. Enjoy the process along the way!