I Don’t Feel Like An Adult

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

This is very difficult for me. I am a 19 year old female who feels more like a kid than a woman. I think the problem is that I still haven’t come to terms with my adulthood. I don’t drive, don’t know how and honestly don’t want to get my license. I have basic cooking skills, but I’m more of a burden in the kitchen than a major help. I don’t turn around when people address me by “Ma’am” or even “Miss”. I find it terribly awkward when adults talk to me in a tone they would use with other adults. Whenever I’m with a group of my peers or older adults I feel as if I don’t belong in the conversation, and I find it strange to have a one-on-one “adult” conversation with somebody. It’s really hard to explain. I’ve heard some people describe me as innocent and pure-hearted but idk. I feel strange. I feel like a child. And I know with the way I act I portray myself as someone submissive, needs to be protected, guided, and dealt with patience. A few years back it didn’t bother me much but now that I’m older and starting to make my way into the world, I’ve been noticing I’m not like others my age. I don’t identify as an adult. I get confused and frustrated when I’m presented with tasks that I feel are too much for me or when I’m treated a certain way. Not unkindly, but with a weight. Its just so confusing and frustrating. I get irritated when I feel I didn’t act like an adult and lash out at my family. How can I find out what’s wrong with me?

A. One is considered an adult at the age of 18 but what does this really mean? In the United States, it means that you can vote or fight in a war, among other things. Biologically, one is considered an adult when he or she reaches puberty. With regard to the brain, it is now commonly accepted in the scientific community that the adolescent brain is not fully developed until the age of 25. In light of those facts, 18, as the age of adulthood, seems rather arbitrary.

You seem to have arbitrarily decided that a 19-year-old adult “should” be behaving in a particular manner. In your mind, there is a particular standard that you are not meeting. Your comparisons are based on your perception of how others your age are behaving. The problem with arbitrary guidelines and standards is that they are not often based on reality and thus may be inaccurate.

You stated that you portray yourself as submissive. You feel that you need to be protected, guided and described yourself as someone who is easily confused. At the heart of this issue may be a lack of self-confidence. You may feel disempowered or that you do not have the capacity to be independent.

For instance, you have not obtained your driver’s license and are not certain that you want to. It would be interesting to know more about why you don’t want a drivers license. If the reason is because driving frightens or intimidates you, then this could be an issue of a lack of self-confidence.

With regard to cooking, there is no standard age by which someone is expected to know how to cook. Some people never learn how to cook. Some people have no interest. Culinary skills take years to develop. They are not skills that individuals are born knowing. It often takes many years of training to develop good culinary skills. The fact that you have difficulty with cooking simply means you have yet to learn those skills; it is not a sign that something is “wrong” with you.

At 19, lacking self-confidence is relatively normal but it is something that can be overcome. One generally develops self-esteem and self-confidence through life accomplishments. The fact that you have identified this as an issue is a good first step. My recommendation would be to see a therapist to discuss these issues in more depth. He or she could thoroughly analyze the situation and assist you in developing the necessary skills to be successful in life.

I would also recommend devoting yourself to gaining knowledge in every area that interests you. For instance, if you want to learn how to cook, take a class, practice at home and read the best cooking books. Knowledge is empowering. The more knowledge that you have in an area, the more confidence you will feel. I wish you the best. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Dec 2011

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2011). I Don’t Feel Like An Adult. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/12/25/i-dont-feel-like-an-adult/