Estimated Reading Time | 7 Minutes
“I’m in my thirties but still feel like a kid and when I was younger I thought, ‘Yeah, when you’re 30 that’s when you’re a proper adult,’ but I still don’t feel like one and I feel nervous and vulnerable at times.” You are not alone. It’s common to still feel like a kid at 30. We feature licensed professional counselor, Steven Goff, to explain why.
The Millennial Bug And Feeling Like A Child Syndrome
You may be wondering, “Why do I still feel like a child inside. I’m a grown man.”
In my experience working with a range of male clients, in our society men in their thirties often don’t feel like an ‘adult’ and may feel some self-esteem issues or even shame about this. Some of this has to do with the economy and job market (lack of money). Also, gender roles are changing and people are having children later on in life.
You may still feel like a kid in your thirties. However, social psychologist today say that adolescence in our modern society doesn’t end until 35.
This also has to do with the fact that in our society you have more ability to discover yourself. Decades ago a person was a product of their gender, socioeconomic class and family. You went to school, got a job (probably in the field your parents suggested) and you believed and acted like a manufactured product of your upbringing.
However, nowadays we have access to information, the privilege of living after people who have questioned and changed societal norms and, in most cases, the freedom to question and discover who we really are.
This takes time, mistakes and trial and error. Taking the time to actually know yourself is worth every year it takes to discover. Yet, this can lengthen the time it takes to feel like an ‘established’ adult.
We also live in a society that glamorizes the young and wealthy. TV, movies and music all send a message to us as to what the ‘norm’ is. Most of the time it is a very unrealistic standard.
Putting Our Parents On A Pedestal
Trying to model yourself on your seemingly ‘got it together’ parents can make you still feel like a kid at 30. Most parents want to present a consistent and stable image for their children. This sometimes means not letting struggles or weaknesses show. Perhaps, like many, you grew up thinking your dad was invincible.
I recently asked my father what he was worried about when he was my age and he mentioned some very similar issues that keep me awake at night. We seem to only see the final product of our parents.
When we become adults and can finally start appreciating what they do for us, we see retirement and the product of life-long hard work. However, that isn’t the full picture. We haven’t seen the mistakes they’ve made and the fears they’ve experienced along the way.
The ‘Inner Child’
The inner child has a lot to do with your subconscious. Your childhood (how development occurred and nurturing was given or not given) has a profound impact on you and is a deep psychological reason why you might still feel like a kid at 30.
Because children’s minds cannot handle two opposing thoughts (for example, my dad says he loves me but hits me), they tend to bury the negative experiences and thoughts in the subconscious or detach from them. This fragmented part becomes underdeveloped and wounded.
This impact carries into adulthood and often plays out in relationships. Because this part of you was not dealt with, nurtured or developed, it may still be ‘stuck’ in a childlike state (immature, acting out, highly emotional). So while day to day you may act like an adult, the inner child appears in relationships or when handling stressful events.
An example of this is a boy who has a distant mother due to her bouncing in and out of relationships. As she searched out for comfort and validation in men, she most likely neglected her son. He may try to do all he can to get her attention and approval but with no success.
At the same time he idolizes his mother and longs for her to provide love and care for him. Thus, a conflict or fragmentation is created.
As he ages he may vow never to marry someone like his mother and thinks he has put all of that behind him. However, he ends up in a relationship with someone who is emotionally distant — just like his mother was — and likely feels the need to constantly try to win her approval and attention. This pattern may repeat over and over again in different relationships.
Becoming More ‘Adult’
Many times what we needed as a child is what we still need today. Without it, this will surely make us still feel like a kid at 30. Being or giving to yourself what others were supposed to give you helps you heal, creates self-reliance and intrinsic motivation. Just like when a child is throwing a temper tantrum, fighting and yelling and just saying “no” doesn’t really work.
Remaining calm and trying to understand what the child needs and is trying to communicate is key. Many children throw things and bite because they are unable to actually communicate what they feel or need. Figuring out what your inner child needs and then providing that for yourself is the key to resolving the tantrums.
This may come in the form of finding healthy validation in a career versus the dad that could never be pleased. Or competing and completing a race or other goals.
In addition, it’s important to understand what may have worked for you and got you what you needed as a child (screaming, withdrawing, or other unhealthy habits) no longer works for you in your adult life. Yes you needed that as a child to cope and get by but you’re not a child anymore. You can call on and create for yourself other new skills and coping mechanisms.
Like a security blanket that you leave behind as a child, give yourself permission to leave those old behaviours behind. You no longer have use for them. You don’t have to beat yourself up about it but rather understand that you no longer have use for that behaviour and you have the skills as an adult to create new ones.
How To Feel More Like A Man
Knowing and being kind to yourself is the way to healing the inner child. If you can understand why you feel and do what you do, you can understand what you need. Even if it’s pain that you feel, it has a message it’s trying to communicate to you. If you can stop for a moment and not run or try to numb it, you will begin to understand yourself.
One strategy that I tell many of my clients is to write a letter to your younger self. What would you say? What did you need to hear then?
If you still feel like a kid at 30, this will help you soothe the inner child and help you make steps towards feeling more like a man. If you feel you’re experiencing any of these issues, feel free to contact me to discuss how I can help.
Gentlemen. Do you still feel like a kid at 30? Feel free to share your experience with us in the comment section below.