Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The enigma of maturity

A theme I come back to over and over is maturity. What is maturity exactly? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Should we strive to be mature or not give a shit and just be ourselves?

If it means behaving responsibly, considering other people's needs, being as kind and generous as possible, not leaning on others, not picking fights or tearing people to pieces, then I'd go along with all that.

If it means constantly restraining yourself, giving things up or toning things down, not being too gushing or flamboyant, always being polite and inoffensive, doing what other people expect you to do, suppressing your natural tastes and responses, then phooey to all that, that's just crushing your real self in the name of social acceptance.

Oldies in particular are supposed to act in a mature way and not like reckless, hedonistic youngsters. We're supposed to "act our age", dress blandly and sedately, never rant or rave, never do anything alarming or unexpected, never inconvenience anybody, and generally try to fade into the background.

Well, phooey to all that as well. If I want to rant and rave, or dress in bright pink and purple, or do something that embarrasses all and sundry, I shall do so. I'm certainly not going to shut myself down because somebody or other thinks that's age-appropriate.

But I think most of us, however long we've lived, struggle to be mature in any sense at all. We act responsibly or considerately if we feel the need, and other people are demanding it, but the rest of the time it all goes pear-shaped and we're just blindly following our impulses and our engrained bad habits.

From time to time we do something quite shocking and disgraceful, and then we think "Jeez, that was childish. I really should behave like a mature adult". And 24 hours later we do something equally shocking and disgraceful.

Maturity? A concept that's as slippery as an eel.

"Maturity is a high price to pay for growing up" - Tom Stoppard

21 comments:

Helen Devries said...

I don't remember thinking about maturity at any point...but I do realise that people are taken aback by what they see as my lack of maturity.
I am enthusiastic, combative, vociferous...but I always thought that was what I was supposed to be - until English society tried to tell me different

CheerfulMonk said...

I don't worry if I've been childish or mature. If I act in a way I wish I hadn't. I just try to figure out what caused it and correct it.

Nick said...

Helen: Enthusiastic, combative, vociferous - that sounds good to me. What would people prefer - a docile little goodie-goodie with nothing to say for herself?

Jean: A very sensible attitude. A very mature attitude in fact.

Rummuser said...

Very simple. My definition of maturity is acting courageously tempered with concern. Any other kind of behaviour where others are concerned, will be immature behaviour.

kylie said...

I've worked really hard to get to a point of maturity and most of the time I am successful at it. It need not be boring, in fact sometimes maturity is the exact opposite.

Ramanas definition sounds good. I will probably appreciate it more with more time to chew it over.

Nick said...

Ramana: A mixture of courage and concern sounds good too. I presume you mean courage to do the right thing and not just sit on your hands or follow the crowd.

Kylie: I'm not saying behaving responsibly is boring, more that it can easily slip over into ignoring your own needs and always trying to please other people.

Dave Martin said...

As long as you're not doing anyone else harm or being a nuisance, then you should just be yourself and do as you damn well please. Why feel obliged to conform to some boring stereotype just to please others?

Nick said...

Dave: I agree. But an awful lot of oldies in particular seem to think they should be "respectable" or "unembarrassing" or "self-effacing". Too much "maturity" rapidly turns into something quite deadly.

Bijoux said...

Some people act silly and 'immature' for attention. Some are just doing it because they like to have fun. Nothing wrong with having fun.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Indeed, attention-seeking is all the rage, and usually embarrassing to watch. But having fun - why not? Better than the psychological withering of always "doing the right thing".

Jay, Sparking Synapse said...

Ah .. maturity. I think officially it has several stages, doesn't it? And I think psychologists define it as an ability to respond to your environment in an appropriate manner.

That could well include ranting, indulging your own preferences and wearing unusual/bright/youthful clothing, I suppose it depends on our ability to tone it down when we need to. And I think most of us can do that without suppressing our own selves too much!

susie said...

My teenager thinks I'm immature.

Nick said...

Jay: Responding to your environment in an appropriate manner - that's a good definition. Though of course there will be argument about what is "appropriate". As you say, sometimes ranting and self-indulgence and loud clothing can be as appropriate as toning things down.

Susie: She probably just means you're quirky and unpredictable. And why not?

Secret Agent Woman said...

Maturity, to my way of thinking, has nothing to do with being boring or stodgy. It's about reaching a certain stage of emotional development that includes things like the ability to be emotionally stable, to delay gratification, consider consequences and act accordingly, consider others perspectives/be empathic, be responsible, and so on. None of that precludes being able to take a child-like delight in this world or enjoy things in an uninhibited way.

Nick said...

Agent: In theory you're quite right, that maturity shouldn't mean being boring or stodgy. But I've known plenty of people (particularly my parents' generation) who are just that. Their devotion to being respectable, not making a fuss etc seems to have taken all the joy out of their lives.

Grannymar said...

I was expected to be seriously mature since before I reached double figures. Now I go with the flow of life and do what I want and so long as it does not hurt those around me, I am happy.

'It's never too late to have a Happy Childhood!'... This time I make the rules.

Nick said...

Grannymar: A perfect philosophy. I also intend to have a happy childhood!i

tammy j said...

i love this post nick!
and what i've always enjoyed too are so many varied comments on your thoughts.
i hope to be mature in that i accept things i can't change with a particular grace now.
i hope to be mature enough to live and let live and do no harm.
that's about as far as it goes for me.
i feel like a 12 year old inside most of the time.
it was a very good year for me. my inner self was pretty well in place. and i liked that 12 year old. i still do!
and that has a certain maturity to it too i hope. xo♥
fun post nick! i'm so glad i broke my shy silence. LOLOL.

Nick said...

Tammy: Yes, accepting gracefully things you can't change is my attitude as well. Ditto live and let live. I don't feel like a 12 year old though, when I was 12 I was still pretty limited by what adults expected of me! I don't feel any age inside, I just feel like me, constantly changing and evolving in a fascinating way.

Liz Hinds said...

Maturity is definitely over-rated. So good to be 'older' and able to feel less concerned about keeping up appearances.

Nick said...

Liz: There's still far too much "keeping up appearances". How can we know a person's real self if they're busy pretending to be something they're not?