The problem with the phrase, “when I grow up,” is that “growing up” is so hard to define. Yes, we are always growing and learning and moving through life, changing our perspectives as we become different people (at least we should be), but when are we grown up? Two common theories that I used to believe:

1. You are grown up when you reach a certain age. I think this is a common misconception, the one we believe as children, though I don’t know who fed it to us. Probably no one. We probably just looked at people we knew as “grown-ups” and saw that they had very different lives than we did, and thought “when I grow up, I’m going to like so-and-so.” I know I did. I wanted to be an actress, a singer, a pastry chef, a forensic investigator, an author, a wife and a mom, a small-business owner, a CEO, a painter… But I never thought about the far-off point in my life when I’d actually reach those goals. Looking back, I’ve realized that I’ve become some of those things in some capacity before I’ve decided I’m all grown up, because I really don’t think I am. I’ve acted in seven stage productions by age 15, published a book 18, got married at 22, was a regular member on two different worship teams by 21. If there is a specific age at which I can say I’ve grown up, I definitely haven’t reached it. Therefore, theory 2…

2. You are grown up when you achieve your goals. Awfully vague, isn’t it? Which goals? Your “when I grow up” goals? What if you never snag that dream career? You could change your mind and find something else you love. You could be stuck in hard labor your entire life. It happens. You should have many goals, small ones, like “I will live an at least moderately healthy lifestyle,” and “I will make a new friend every year.” Make goals you know you can achieve and that make you a better, happier person. But how many do you have to achieve before you’re grown up? There is no answer. Regardless, I think this is a more realistic and understandable way of thinking about the concept, albeit with a little twist (and this is my opinion): 

You are grown up when you are happy with yourself. You may not agree with this, because by my logic, a sixteen-year-old could be grown up, and no one will believe that. But it’s more than just being happy. It’s being confident and comfortable in your skin and in whatever situations life throws at you. By the same logic, a 45-year-old might not be grown up. You probably know someone just like this. Overly insecure, petty, lazy, etc. These are not mature or adult things to be. I think a lot of other things fall into place when you are confident in who you are as an individual and you really know yourself. Such as: Asking for promotions. Applying for jobs for which you may not have the experience but you definitely have the passion. Staying married for 50 years and still being in love with your partner. Being someone who helps others without needing to be asked or without expectation of reciprocation. The list goes on and on. Whether being happy with yourself is a result of being a full-functioning adult that contributes to society or vice versa, the point is that “when I grow up” is going to be different for everyone. Everyone has different life experiences and influences that cause them to reach certain milestones at different times in their lives, so to expect everyone to become grown-ups at the same time (and by the same definition!) is just setting many people up for years of unnecessary pressure and anxiety. The way I see it, life gets a lot easier when you accept that you don’t have to be a certain thing by a certain time. Just be kind to others and yourself. That pretty much covers everything else.


How do you define being “grown up”? Are you grown up yet? (I’m not!) Sound off in the comments! 🙂


4 thoughts on “When I Grow Up

  1. When I was young I couldn’t wait to grow up, to be older. I was in a hurry to escape childhood. I tried to act older and even became embarrassed by the way other children my age acted. Looking back now I am saddened by my haste to be an adult. The wonderment of childhood and the feeling that anything is possible is a trait that would serve ‘grown-ups’ well.

  2. Hi Amelia, it’s Dad. When your brother, Eli, was about four years old he asked me a question (I don’t remember the question) that i didn’t know the answer to, but I answered him with some nonsense that was over his head but delivered as if I knew exactly what I was talking about; He believed every word I said even though he didn’t understand it. He just trusted that I was Dad and Dad knows. I was just goofing around but he didn’t know that and he believed me. Immediately I had a very sobering thought: “My kids will absolutely believe anything I say. I could wreck them. I need to grow up right now.” I was 40 years old at the time.

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