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Last Updated on August 1, 2017

Growing Old Is Easy, Growing up Is Painful

Growing Old Is Easy, Growing up Is Painful

Ever since we have been able to think, we’ve been looking towards the future. We imagine how we will look when we grow up, the sort of people we are going to become. Without even knowing it, we set these expectations for ourselves because everything seems possible. From a young age we hear time and time again, “you can do anything that you set your mind to.” Untainted by the harshness of the world, we believe it.

The idea of growing older whispers promises of freedom. At this age you’ll be able to drive, at that age you’ll be able to vote. Eventually you’ll go on to pursue a career or a particular lifestyle. You think that when you’re older, you can be whoever you want. As a child I was always very fond of drumming and always wanted to be a drummer. But I was told it’s better for me to focus on my study before I pursue my passion in music. So I knew that I had to wait until I was bigger to be the self-proclaimed drummer I longed to be.

But as we do start to get older, those who have been facing adulthood long before us warn us to enjoy our youth. Take advantage of the freedom that we have now. Freedom? But we thought freedom came with adulthood; when we make the choices for our future. That is because we romanticize the idea of growing older, not growing up. Advantages come with age, but so do responsibility. Sadly, we don’t know until it comes.

Growing old doesn’t always mean growing up

So why the rush? What makes us want to skip ahead in time? The imaginary privilege and advantage I guess.

While we’re young, adults seem to have it all. Throughout growing up we are told to abide by certain restrictions based on our age, such as drinking coffee or dying our hair. There is no actual law stating this, but social norms dictate how old you must be for certain practices.

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Then there are the benchmarks that are dictated by law for certain practices such as gambling, drinking, or driving. Unable to do this at our own free will while “under-aged” we long for a time when we are in charge of our choices.

Growing up should be defined by experience, not age

Let’s face it. Adulthood sucks, and we all know it. How did it get this way? Where did we go wrong? The truth is, adulthood seems to such because the expectation does not match the reality.

Growing up is different than growing old, because getting old is inevitable. The presence of maturity brought on the wisdom and experience is what signifies growing up. Your experiences have shaped you, define the person that you are, and the person you continue to grow into. Maturity is defined by the way how you perceive experiences, how you react to them, self-reflection after the fact, and the way that you carry on after the fact.

Any obstacle or experience is a chance to shape yourself. You only have two choices really, let the outcome make you a stronger, better person; or let it break you. Face responsibility, and sort out a solution. These are actions of a grown-up individual.

The idea “we can do more when we are older” is just an illusion

Just like realizing Santa Clause isn’t real (spoiler alert) we grow up to realize that adulthood really isn’t all that it’s hopped up to be. It’s a hard knock life. Instead of freedom, we get restrictions, lots of it. There are tons of rules and social standards to abide by as an adult; and we are vulnerable to judgment if we dismiss these standards.

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In the working world, you are not judged by who you are as an adult. Instead you are judged by how adult you are. Are you responsible? Organized? Punctual? Articulate? You need to appear and sound like you have it all together. And the older we get, the more responsibilities and expectations get thrown at us. The best part? No one is going to help or show you the way.

You’re an adult, figure it out.

No one really knows how to “adult”

When it comes to adulting, no one really knows what they’re doing. We are all just trying our best. Many people appear to be really good at it, but deep down they are probably questioning themselves as well. The best we can do is ask for advice from our wiser, older friends and family. No one can really tell you what to do in any given situation, but they can only tell you what they would do. We all want something different out of life, therefore we all make different decisions to support our cause. We spend our whole lives trying to figure it out, taking chances and hoping for the best.

Growing up is similar to parenting. No one is ready, and no one really knows what they’re doing. As you grow, you realize all of the corny anecdotes your parents tortured you with hold some truth. You’re actually very much like them. The older you get, the more you start to respect your parents and realize that they are just people doing the best that they can do.

You really need to make time for the things you want to do.

Otherwise they’re not going to happen. Don’t keep telling yourself, “when you get older.” Cause eventually you will realize that time has escaped you, and all you have left are your dreams. The more you age, the faster time seems to go. That is because your time is already consumed.

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Let’s say that you sleep for 8 hours a night, work 8 hours a day. Let’s omit 3 hours for eating, commuting, and showering. Now, you are only left with 5 hours of your day. You’re not as young as you used to be, and you might not feel so energized and motivated to pursue your own interests. It’s difficult to find the time to do the things that interest you when you have a set routine. Don’t rely on a promise of the future. You need to make the time for it now.

Nobody is thinking about you (or that meme you shared).

Now that we’re older, we are consumed by responsibilities. We all are. And that’s why most people are incredibly self-focused. Because we have to be. Times are very different when we were just teenagers, when we had all of the time in the world to just hang around and gossip.

We don’t have the freedom to be so carefree as we age. We have ourselves to look after. Those of us who have spouses and children have even more obligations. “Hanging out” is no longer a priority, instead it’s been replaced with goals and responsibilities. Our attention is directed towards more worldly matters as displayed on the news and the media. Most people share the same opinions and interests as us, so we tend to lose interest in those people and their lives.

Adulthood is a grey area, there is no right and wrong

Life is very straightforward as a child. Adults are constantly telling us the difference between right and wrong. But as we grow up, things are not unidirectional. And things that you may have grown up to believe start to show another side to them. There are two sides to every opinion or fact, and we have to choose which side we stand on.

Example: You are raised to believe the C02 emissions are bad, and very detrimental to the environment. While the former is true, we struggle to have reliable transportation without it. For your information, this conflict is known as Cognitive Dissonance.

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Working for your dream= 99% suffering + 1% chance to succeed

When we’re young, it’s so easy to picture ourselves exactly where we want to be. Our parents and teachers encourage us to chase these dreams because of the benefits. If we decide to be a doctor, then we get to save lives. If we decide to be an architect, we can design beautiful buildings and bridges so people can travel and live comfortably.

What they don’t tell you is how hard it is to achieve these dreams. It takes tons of work and self-sacrifice, and in the end might not work out. This is the part that adults like to leave out. What they should tell us, is that if we want to be a doctor then we need to study super hard, no holidays, you need to work shifts in the hospital while you study which makes it very difficult to maintain a work/life balance. And worst of all, you can’t save all of your patients.

These days we can’t blame ourselves for giving up so easily. We were led to believe that if we wanted someone hard enough it would be ours, but we were never shown how to work for it. We were never told how much suffering comes along with chasing a dream.

Growing old is easy, but growing up is painful

To be the best person you can be, you need to experience as much as you can. Take those experiences, and let them shape you into being stronger, smarter, and better. Things are going to constantly blindside you, so learn to adapt. Keep your mind open, always be receptive to more knowledge. The moment that you stop learning is the moment that you stop growing.

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Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Published on July 13, 2018

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

What if you could discover some tools and methods that could improve your relationships? What if by gaining a little knowledge you could understand your relationship dynamics better and give them a boost up?

By learning what secure attachment is and how to restructure your thoughts, you can become more self-aware of your relationship dynamics. After becoming more aware, you can then take a few steps to make them better than ever. That’s something that many of us could benefit from.

When we hear the term secure attachment, our mind typically goes to a relationship. And that’s exactly what it’s about.

In this article I’ll discuss the concept of secure attachments in more detail and how restructuring your thoughts can help you strive towards achieving better relationships.

Relationships are a hugely important part of our lives and whatever we can do to improve them is a good thing for everyone involved.

What is attachment theory?

Let’s do a quick overview of what attachment theory is. This will provide a good foundation for the rest of this article.

The esteemed psychologist John Bowlby first coined the term attachment theory in the late 60’s. Bowlby studied early childhood conditioning extensively and what he found was very interesting.

His research showed that when a very young child has a strong attachment to a caregiver, it provides the child with a sense of security and foundation. On the other hand when there isn’t a secure attachment, the child will expend a lot more developmental energy looking for security and stability.

The child without the secure attachment tends to become more fearful, timid and slow to explore new situations or their environment.

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When a strong attachment is developed in a child, he or she will be inclined to be more adventurous and seek out new experiences because they feel more secure. They know that whoever is watching out for them will be there if needed.

Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, took the theory further. She did extensive studies around infant-parent separations and provided a more formal framework for the differing attachment styles.

How attachment develops

Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Attachment doesn’t have to go both ways, it can be one person feeling attached to another without it being reciprocated. Most of the time, it works between two people to one degree or another.

Attachment begins at a very young age. Over the history of time, when children were able to maintain a closer proximity to a caregiver that provided for them, a strong attachment was formed.

The initial thought was that the ability to provide food or nourishment to a child was the primary driver of a strong attachment.

It was then discovered that the primary drivers of attachment proved to be the parent/caregivers responsiveness to the child as well as the ability to nurture that child in a variety of ways. Things such as support, care, sustenance, and protection are all components of nurturing a child.

In essence a child forms a strong attachment when they feel that their caregiver is accessible and attentive and there if they need them; that the parent/caregiver will be there for them. If the child does not feel that the caregiver is there to help them when needed, they experience anxiety.

Different types of attachments

In children, 4 types of attachment styles have been identified. They are as follows:

  • Secure attachment – This is primarily marked by discomfort or distress when separated from caregivers and joy and security when the caregiver is back around the child. Even though the child initially feels agitated when the caregiver is no longer around, they feel confident they will return. The return of the parent or caregiver is met with positive emotions, the child prefers parents to strangers.
  • Ambivalent attachment – These children become very distressed when the parent or caregiver leaves. They feel they can’t rely on their caregiver for support when the need arises. Even though a child with ambivalent attachment may be agitated or confused when reunited with a parent or caregiver, they will cling to them.
  • Avoidant attachment – These kids typically avoid parents or caregivers. When they have a choice of being with the parent or not, they don’t seem to care one way or the other. Research has shown that this may be the result of neglectful caregivers.
  • Disorganized attachment – These children display a mix of disoriented behavior towards their caregiver. They may want them sometimes and other times they don’t. This is sometimes thought to be linked to inconsistent behavior from the parent or caregiver.

What attachments mean to adults

So the big question is how does this affect us in adulthood? Intuitively it makes sense that as a child, if we have someone who will be there when we need them, we feel secure. And on the other end of the spectrum, if we aren’t sure someone’s going to provide what we need when we need it, we may become more anxious and fearful.

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As an adult, we tend to wind up in one of three primary attachment types based on our childhood experiences. These are secure, avoidant, and anxious. Technically, there is a fourth one, anxious-avoidant, but it is quite a bit less common. They are described as follows:

  • Secure – When you have a secure attachment, you are comfortable displaying interest and affection towards another person but you’re also fine being alone and independent. Secure types are less apt to obsess over a relationship gone sour and handle being rejected easier. Secure types also tend to be better than other types with not starting relationships with people that might not be the best partners. They cut off the relationship quicker when they see things in a potential partner they don’t like. Secure attachment people make up the majority of the attachment types.
  • Anxious – Folks who have an anxious attachment style typically need a lot of reassurance from their partners. They have a much harder time being on their own and single than the other styles and fall into bad relationships more often. The anxious style represent about 20% of the population. It’s been shown that if anxious attachment styles learn how to communicate their needs better and learn to date secure partners, they can move towards the secure attachment style.
  • Avoidant – Avoidant attachment style represents approximately 25% of the population as adults. Avoidants many times have the hardest time in a relationship because they have a difficult time finding satisfaction. In general, they are uncomfortable with close relationships and intimacy and are quite independent. They are the lone wolf type person.
  • Anxious-avoidant – The anxious-avoidant style is relatively rare. It is composed of conflicting styles – they want to be close but at the same time push people away. They do things that push the people they are closest to away. Many times there can be a higher risk of depression or other mental health issues.

Here’s where it gets really interesting:

Move towards secure attachment

The good news is that it is possible to move from one style to another. Specifically, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style.

Now as you might imagine, this is not an easy or a quick process. Like any type of big change where you are attempting to alter such a deeply ingrained mindset, it takes a strong will to accomplish.

The first step is developing an awareness of your attachment style. The next step is to have the desire and drive to move your attachment style towards the more secure style.

If someone with an anxious or avoidant style has a long term relationship with a secure type, the anxious or avoidant person can slowly get brought up more towards a secure style.

The opposite is also true, they could bring the secure person more towards their attachment style. Therefore, you have to be conscious of your type and if you want to move more towards secure, it takes persistence.

Therapy is an option as well. Anxious types many times need to work on their self-esteem, avoidants on their connection specifically and compassion.

How to restructure your thoughts

Ready for the way to do it? Here we go:

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For the Avoidant Style

As with any type of change on such a deep level, the first step is awareness. Realize you have an avoidant style and be aware of it as you have interactions with your partner(s).

Try to work towards a place of mutual support and giving/taking. Try to lessen your need for complete self-reliance. Allow your partner to do some things that make you a little uncomfortable that you would normally do yourself.

Don’t always focus on the imperfections of your partner. We all have them, remind yourself of that.

Make yourself a list of the qualities that your partner has that you are thankful for.

Look for a secure style partner if at all possible, they would be good for you to be with.

If you have a tendency to end relationships before they go too far, be aware of that and let it develop further.

Get into the habit of accepting and even instigating physical touch. Tell yourself that it’s good for you to have some intimacy. Intimacy can help you feel safe and secure.

And over time you can realize that it’s okay to rely on other people.

For the Anxious Style

For the anxious style, the #1 thing to work on is learning to communicate needs better. This is a huge issue for the anxious style.

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First and foremost if you communicate your needs more clearly, you will have less anxiety, that’s already a big win. This will also allow you to better assess if a potential partner is good for you.

Try to bring your feelings more to the surface and most importantly, share them with your partner. Remember that secure attachments typically communicate pretty well, this is what you are working towards.

For the Anxious-Avoidant Style

The anxious-avoidant is a very small percentage of the attachment styles. Since this type tends to be anxious in the relationship AND more or less a loner, the key here is working hard to be very self-aware of your actions.

Use the parts of striving towards secure attachment from the anxious tips and the avoidant restructuring of your thoughts to consciously work towards being more secure.

When you find yourself pushing someone away, ask why. If you feel worried that your partner is going to leave you, again, ask yourself where this is coming from. Have they shown you any reason to believe this? Many times there is no real evidence. In that case, allow yourself to calm down and try not to obsess over it.

For the Secure Style

Since the goal is to move towards a more secure attachment style, there isn’t much needed here as you might imagine.

Something to be aware of is being in a relationship just because it’s “okay”. Don’t stay if it’s not a good place for you and your partner. If your partner is of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, stay mindful to not start developing characteristics of those styles.

Strive towards Secure Attachment

As we wrap things up, you’ve probably developed a good idea of the benefits of secure attachment. If you don’t currently have a secure attachment style, here are some benefits of restructuring your thoughts more towards this style:

  • Positive self esteem and self image
  • Close and well adjusted relationships
  • Sense of security in self and the world
  • Ability to be independent as well as in relationships
  • Optimistic outlook on life and yourself
  • Strong coping skills and strategies for relationships and life
  • Trust in self and others
  • Close, intimate relationships
  • Strong determination and problem solving skills

If you are an anxious or avoidant style or the combination of anxious-avoidant, it is possible to move towards a secure attachment style.

It takes self-awareness, patience and a strong desire to get close to being secure but it can be done. You will find that putting the effort into it will provide you with more open, honest and satisfying relationships.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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