Emotional maturity and social intelligence – a blessing and a curse

“Wow, that’s very mature of you”, “You have a pretty advanced social intelligence for your age”. That’s something I’ve heard before, but I don’t agree with what I think they meant. However, I can see where they’re coming from and I think I have some explanations for why I think the way I do about emotional things.

I’ve been told I think like an adult, specifically a man. While it’s not really fair to label a way of thinking as male or female, from my experience the general trend lines up in this case. It’s a little odd for me to hear as a teenage girl that I think like a man, but I understand what people mean when they say this. I am very measured and controlling in my reactions to situations; I don’t like to let emotion take control. Most of my responses tend more toward logic than emotional reactions. Sometimes that makes me seem emotionally unavailable, insensitive or blunt. But I try my best to bring in empathy as well as logic. It’s all about balance so that people can trust me to be calm when they tell me something I may not like. I don’t want anyone to hide something from me because they’re afraid of how I’ll react.

I am consistently surprised at how different my life and thought processes are to my friends. It boggles my mind at how little control some of them appear to have in their own lives; seen mostly in the sheer amount of things their parents still do for them. I don’t know how they’ve gotten this far without knowing how to do things I consider to just be basic skills. These things seem like common sense to me, I can cook for my family and myself, I’ve planned almost all of my own birthdays since I was 12 or so and I’ve been making my own lunch since I was 7. Now, I realise that makes me sound very self-righteous; La Di Dah, I can make food for myself! I don’t mean to put myself on a pedestal – far from it as I hope you’ll come to see. But in conjunction with the ways that I allegedly excel, I can see parts of my life where others have advanced more than I have. Upon reflection, I have found that I’ve always been precocious in some responsibilities in my own life. I did plan to give examples here, but I think that conflicts with the main point of what I want to say.

Basically, I think I’ve had to grow up a bit faster than some of my friends; due to both parenting techniques and other circumstance. Interestingly, I’m usually one of the youngest in my friendship circles. Apparently I like hanging out with slightly older people, maybe this is telling of my opinions on the value of life experience. In some ways I’m glad I can be responsible and take care of myself independently – it’s a very important skill. But it often leaves me feeling a bit left out. It’s like the opposite of being sheltered, but not in a cool way. No-one boasts about the fact that they know how to cook dinner and wash their own clothes. No-one is impressed when you want to save money instead of buying drinks in the city with friends. I don’t necessarily want to impress people, but the point still stands.

I said 2 weeks ago that I don’t think it’s fair to make choices for other people and my last post was all about using self-control. I feel very strongly about these 3 ideas in tandem. But few young people I know share my views on these. They simply don’t think in the way I do about how their actions affect others and what it means for them to control information flow to other people. Either that, or they have no opinion to be passionate about, because they’ve never put much thought into what they value. The fact that I put thought into these issues and have firm opinions is apparently indicative of a high level of maturity. I feel like that can’t possibly be right – I’ve been like this ever since I can remember! I couldn’t have been ‘emotionally mature’ as a 10 year old, could I? Apparently I was; probably not as much as I am now, yet still ‘ahead’ of my peers. I’ve never thought that my problem-solving methods were particularly clinical, but almost everyone around me seems to think so. I don’t like the word ‘ahead’ in that context though. It sounds too superior, but I can’t find a more accurate way of conveying what I feel.

This emotional maturity I apparently have gets me into some unfortunate situations. People think I’m judgemental or condescending because I’ve grown up quickly. I don’t want anyone to think that – I do my best not to make judgements on people because I don’t know what led them to have the beliefs that they have. People seem to assume that I think I’m better than them because I know myself so well. I don’t want to make anyone feel that way – there could be plenty of reasons why you don’t do the same things as me. All I know is that this works for me, and for the most part is keeps me out of trouble. It may not work for you, and that is absolutely fine.

I’ve had to come a realisation about my way of thinking; as a teenager always having a reason for my actions isn’t ‘normal’. ‘Normal’ people don’t obsess over how they react to situations in order to maximise their chances of being regarded positively. The teenage years are apparently the time when you’re supposed to take risks and act without thinking. According to most of the world, reactions are ‘meant to be’ impulsive –they act as an indicator of your true feelings. Yet for me, having deliberate choice over my reactions is habitual, it’s just the way I do things, it is my norm. Somehow, despite controlling and choosing my reactions, they’re still always true indicators of what I really think. But just because it’s my norm, doesn’t make it anyone else’s norm. This is a running theme in my life – I have to learn that no-one is quite the same as me. No-one has exactly the same values as me, no-one grew up in the same circumstances, no-one has had my same experiences in life. No-one can read my mind; ultimately, no-one is the same as me. However, the biggest ‘but’ of all to everything I just said: that doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else. Just different. This is a power struggle I’ve had with myself for quite some time. So many occasions in the past I’ve found myself thinking my approach to confrontation is superior to all others… how wrong I was! Of course people will disagree with how I think, feel and act! No-one’s honest opinion will line up perfectly with mine. I don’t even know if my approach is the absolute best for me 100% of the time, so how can I tell anyone else the ‘right way’ to think?

The purpose of my blog (and life choices for that matter) isn’t meant to be to tell people how to act, think or feel. I want to encourage people to form their own opinions. Spend some time thinking! Too many people just cruise around not really understanding what they believe and why they believe it. I don’t expect anyone to go to lengths I do because as I’ve realised, no-one is the same as me, so you may have no reason to ‘restrict’ everything you do. But think about what traits you value and believe are important in a person, and then display those traits! There’s nothing wrong with growing up – don’t be in such a rush that you can’t value the time of being young, but don’t be afraid of responsibility either. Whatever emotional maturity looks like for you, adopting or moving towards that won’t do any damage. If you think lying is wrong, then don’t lie. If you value loyalty, then be loyal to your friends and family. Cultivate what you believe in.

2 thoughts on “Emotional maturity and social intelligence – a blessing and a curse

  1. Really enjoyed where this post went! Agree with what you see maturity as; that it is basing your decision-making on logical reason and being able to share that with others empathetically.

    Liked by 1 person

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