You’ve heard the term, but what is “adulting?” People in their 20’s and early 30’s—what some call the dreaded Millennial’s—use the term “adulting” frequently. When we are productive, when we choose responsibility over having fun, when we start cooking at home, or when we get excited about buying a vacuum cleaner, we shout “I adulted today!” But what does it really mean? What are the deeper implications within society and how we operate within it?
It appears that people from Generation Y feel pressure to conform to societal expectations of what being an adult looks like. Yet, times have changed. This is causing them to feel lost, inadequate, exhausted, guilty, and shameful for who they are and where they are in their lives.
Have you heard any of these questions lately?
“Are you married?”
“Do you have kids?”
“Do you own a house?”
“Do you have a college degree?”
“Are you working towards your career in a position with upward mobility?”
We know these questions all too well as we hear them regularly. Yet, rarely do people ask, “Are you happy?” Why is it that we do not rank success by the amount of passion and satisfaction we are experiencing? Why can’t being happy with where we are in life be the new adulting?
This sense of needing to be everything all at once and knowing exactly who you are is causing dissonance. Adulting is a false sense of achievement. Adulting is the death of nonjudgmental fun. Adulting is a loss of self. We are living in a time where most people feel lost in who they are. They feel they are not doing enough—and not living up to some invisible expectation set by the overarching society.
When we live in a society of scarcity, it means that we never feel like we have enough or are enough. And whether we are conscious of it, this gives us negative messages about ourselves every day such as, “I need to be more. I am not doing enough nor am I enough. I should be more accomplished in life than I am right now. I should have more. I should know what I want by now.” We compare ourselves to what others have achieved or what other people’s lives look like. But how do we know that the ‘successful’ people who appear to ‘have it all’ are happy?
It’s like putting a mask on everyday just to feel like we are fitting into the mold of society. It is time to take off our masks and embrace what makes us unique and happy. It is time to stop conforming and feeling inherently less than if we are not molding to the traditional, cookie cutter life path. It may work for some people, and for some, that is what they want, and that is okay.
It is time to find your own normal. What works for one person may not work for you. If you are trying fit into a mold that works for others by being an ‘adult,’ then you are in a never-ending race that you may not win or may be unhappy with at every step. Redefine what being an adult means to you and live by that.
Begin by noticing your negative thought patterns. If you are being overly critical of yourself, take a second to stop and think about where these thoughts are coming from and the validity in these statements. Then, decide to be gentle with yourself and flip the script. You won’t always do this perfectly, but it is a place to start. Ask yourself how your actions and where you are going in life is serving you, regardless of comparisons. If you find that you are content in your journey now, then acknowledge and celebrate that! It is all a process, and you will get to where you’re going in your own time—not someone else’s. Look inside yourself and decide to redefine what adulting truly means to you, not what you feel like it should mean. It’s okay to feel lost at times, and that you aren’t doing enough. Use that to spark your motivation and realign with what you feel makes a content, satisfied ‘adult.’
In the end, what does adulting really mean to you?
Dmitra Danilenko-Dixon is a therapist at South Platte Counseling Group in Englewood, CO.
Dmitra received her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Regis University and is a licensed professional counselor candidate. She believes that human connection is the birthplace of healing and has a passion for walking alongside people on their journeys of self-discovery.