8 Signs of Emotional Maturity

8 Signs of Emotional Maturity

The Good Brigade/Getty Images

The Good Brigade/Getty Images

Emotional maturity is a person’s ability to manage their emotions and life stressors in a healthy manner. Emotional maturity plays an important role in relationships, as it helps us resolve conflicts and enter into satisfying and secure relationships. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines emotional maturity as “a high and appropriate level of emotional control and expression.”

“Emotionally mature people are self-aware, attuned to their emotions, and know how to manage them,” says Eri Nakagami, Ph.D., LCSW, clinical director of Embark Behavioral Health West LA Outpatient Clinic. “Emotionally mature individuals continue to work on various emotional and cognitive skills to help them cope with stressful or adverse situations and achieve successful resolutions to life’s challenges.”

Here, we’ll take a closer look at emotional maturity, including what are the top signs of it, when it develops, what factors impact emotional maturity, and how to develop it.

Related: Emotions and Types of Emotional Responses

8 Signs of Emotional Maturity

First, let’s look at the top 8 most prevalent signs of emotional maturity, according to experts.

You Are Empathetic

Being emotionally mature means that you are able to focus on your own needs and viewpoints at times, and focus on the emotional realities of others.

“Someone who has emotional intelligence is able to have empathy and show compassion to others,” says Lisa Lawless, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at Holistic Wisdom, Inc.. “Their thoughts and feelings are able to be expressed in a healthy and constructive manner, ensuring that they treat others with respect and require it from others.”

You’re Able to Recognize and Share Your Feelings

People who’ve developed emotional maturity are able to recognize their feelings, and also have an understanding of what is motivating them to feel the way they are doing. This is the basis of being able to manage your feelings in a healthy way, explains Dr. Nakagami. “How a person feels can help them understand why they are reacting the way they are instead of taking out their feelings inappropriately or suppressing them,” she describes.

You’re Flexible and Open-Minded

Another important trait of an emotionally mature individual is that they are not rigid in their thinking. Life is inherently challenging, and an emotionally mature person will respond to life’s challenges with an open, creative mind.

“A person who has developed a strong emotional maturity is flexible and open-minded by being adaptable to change,” Dr. Lawless says. They are able to consider ideas that are different from their own, which enhances their ability to compromise with others, Dr. Lawless added.

You’re Able to Form Secure, Healthy Relationships

An important sign of emotional maturity is the ability to maintain healthy and secure relationships with others. This is often more easily obtained in individuals who have developed a secure attachment style, says Sefora Janel Ray, MFT, marriage and family therapist at Therapy to Thrive.

“Secure attachment refers to a deep sense of trust, safety, and connection that individuals develop during their early years through consistent and responsive caregiving,” says Ray. “When I think about emotional maturity, I see its strong connection with a secure attachment, forming a foundation for healthy and balanced interpersonal relationships.”

Of course, a secure attachment style is dependent to some extent on the type of care you were given in childhood by your parents. Thankfully, though, research has found that developing a more secure attachment style later in life is possible—in fact, simply having the desire to develop a more secure attachment style can help you move in that direction.

You Take Responsibility for Your Actions

Emotionally mature people consider how their actions will affect others and will take responsibility if their actions end up causing any type of harm. “Those with a high amount of emotional maturity are able to easily apologize, take responsibility and be accountable for their actions by understanding and accepting the consequences,” Dr. Lawless says. “In addition, they change harmful behavior as they see mistakes as an opportunity to grow and learn.”

You Set Healthy Boundaries

Being able to set and maintain healthy boundaries is a cornerstone of being emotionally mature. That means that you are able to declare what your emotional boundaries are to yourself and others, and that you are able to hold tight to those boundaries when faced with conflict.

That doesn’t mean that setting healthy boundaries will come easily to you, but you will be able to recognize their importance, Dr. Nakagami says. You can think of setting boundaries as a form of self-care, self-love, and self-respect, she assures. “Not only are boundaries for oneself but also for others to know you have certain lines that you do not allow others to cross.”

You’ve Able to Resolve Conflicts

There’s no escaping the fact that conflicts are going to arise in life, but it’s a matter of how you handle them. Emotionally mature people will seek to resolve conflicts, rather than prolong their existence, or thrive off of their chaos.

Learning how to manage conflicts means developing some specific emotional and behavioral skills. “Those who are emotionally mature can resolve conflicts effectively, as they are excellent active listeners and are skilled at finding resolutions,” says Dr. Lawless. “When they encounter aggression or manipulation, they are able to address it respectfully and know when to disengage.”

You Can Manage Stress In Healthy Ways

Another given in life is that you are going to encounter stress. An emotionally mature person will not try to push the stress away or avoid feeling it. At the same time, they won’t plunge into despair anytime they are inevitably faced with it. Instead, they will learn how to manage stress.

“Stress management is a big part of emotional maturity, as it allows one to self-regulate emotions and navigate difficult situations,” Dr. Lawless descriptions. “Practicing self-care is vital for all of us, and those who are emotionally mature value this and make sure to practice it.”

Related: 18 Effective Stress Relief Strategies

At What Age Do Most People Reach Emotional Maturity?

Emotional maturity is not something we are born with—it develops throughout our childhood and youth. According to the APA, emotional maturity begins to develop as early as infancy when babies begin expressing their feelings through smiling, frowning, and crying. It’s further developed in childhood as we learn which behaviors are and aren’t acceptable, and as we begin to learn simple methods of emotional regulation.

Emotional maturity takes a greater leap during adolescence, but most adolescents are still struggling with becoming more emotionally mature. Research shows that the brain reaches a level of stable and mature development—particularly in the region of the prefrontal cortex—by the age of 25. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that a person becomes emotionally mature at the age of 25, since other Factors, such as genetics, environment, and childhood experiences, shape our ability to become emotionally mature.

Related: How to De-Stress With a Smile

What Does It Mean to Be Emotionally Immature?

Being emotionally immature means that you are unable to handle your emotions in a healthy way. You may have trouble forming secure and healthy relationships with others. You may have difficulty recognizing and sharing your feelings, and you are unlikely to handle conflicts and life challenges well. You may not be able to restrain yourself from lashing out at others, or behaving in ways that are inappropriate or harmful. People who are emotionally immature may seem to “overreact” when it comes to normal life stressors, and may be seen as maladapted.

Related: What Is Narcissistic Rage?

How Do You Develop Emotional Maturity?

Although emotional maturity is something that usually develops naturally as we move through adolescence and early adulthood, it’s not something that occurs easily for all of us. The development of emotional maturity is dependent on several factors, including:

  • Genetics

  • Environment

  • Pregnancy and postpartum

  • nutrition

  • Sleep patterns

  • Medications

  • Childhood healthy and well being

  • Psychological stress

  • Substance abuse

  • Adverse childhood experiences

People with neurodivergent brains, such as those with ADHD and ASD, may also have a more challenging time developing emotional maturity, says Dr. Lawless. “This can impact how they handle certain stimulation, including their emotions,” she explains. “In some cases, that can mean increased insights, empathy, and a sense of justice, while in others, it can mean challenges in processing things like sarcasm, changes, sensory stimulation, and being overstimulated easily.”

Wherever you are in your emotional maturity journey, and whatever roadblocks you may have faced, there’s hope, Dr. Lawless offers. Simply having the intention to change is an important first step. “By facing and overcoming challenges, we can better acknowledge our flaws and strive to improve,” he said.

Becoming more emotionally mature may involve:

  • Learning to become more mindful of your emotions; learning to name them and manage them

  • Learning different methods for resolving conflicts

  • Learn how to listen to others, and broaden your ability to listen compassionately

  • Learning how to destress and what boundaries are needed for you to live a more balanced life

  • Learning how to develop more securely attached relationships, and ending relationships that aren’t healthy

Importantly, becoming more emotionally mature isn’t something you are meant to do on your own. Therapy is a great way to work on your emotions, understand what triggers them, and learn methods for handling them with greater ease and grace. Therapy can also help you deal with relationships with more emotional maturity.

If you have any further questions about emotional maturity, or how to work on it in yourself or your loved ones, please reach out to a mental health professional.

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