How Can I Get Over Fear of Growing Up?

Ok, so I realize this isn’t some type of counseling site, and many of you may not want to read about my depressing story. But I didn’t have anyone else I could express these feelings to w/o feeling embarrassed. (Psychologists are outta the question-- 2 expensive)… Ok, so ever since I was 10yrs old I’ve had this major fear of getting older. I never got excited over birthdays, like most kids. I dreaded them! If I had it my way, I’d stay a kid forever.

I literally went into a deep depression due to this fear; it was right after my freshman yr in HS ended. I went from feeling like a kid 1 day to suddenly realizing adulthood was only 1 chapter away. The mere thought of becoming an adult made me feel sad and terrified. When I say I was depressed over this, I mean REALLY depressed. I was having suicidal thoughts. Though a lot of it had to do with the fact that I had a very lonely childhood (I didn’t have friends growing up), and well knowing that I’d never be able to get those yrs back made me depressed. I can look back at the old me (at age 14) and laugh, now, because 14 and 17 sounds so young to me now.

Well, I’m almost 23 and I’m starting to feel almost as depressed as I did when I was 14. But It’s not just because I’m getting older. My parents; my siblings. We’re all getting so olld! My parents are approaching 50 and it’s funny bcus I’m old enough to remember when they were around my age. My brother is 27 (he’s 2 close to 30!) and my sister will be 25. I wish we were all still teenagers living in the same house. I miss those days. Funny, it feels like it was just yesterday. I still can’t believe I’m as old as I am. Feels like I was a senior graduating from high school just 2yrs ago. It was actually 5yrs ago. It actually seems like I should be making 21–not 23. It seems like time gets shorter every yr. Stuff that happened a whole year ago feels like it happened 5months ago. stuff that happened 3yrs ago feels like it happened a year & 1/2 ago. When I’m 40, I guess 2 yrs will start to feel like 6months?

How do I stop obsessing over this!? I have my moments where I don’t feel sad about it; I actually feel hopeful and fortunate. But then 5minutes later the negative thoughts start to reappear into my brain. I don’t know how to stop feeling this way. Can anyone else relate to what I’m going through???

Stop getting older?

A couple of years ago I was forced to realize that I’m old. It really sucks, so I understand your concerns. So probably the best thing to do is what you are doing now, wasting all of your youth worrying about getting old. There’s no way you’ll regret that once you get old.:rolleyes:

Frankly, I think you should seek professional help. People generally don’t want to get old, but having the inevitable that everyone faces affect your life in this way is very unusual, and probably an indication of some other problem.

Yes, I second the suggestion to get some help. It’s normal to feel like time is speeding up and that your youth got away from you while you weren’t looking. All of us are sitting here wondering how we got to be nearly 40 when we still feel the same inside as we did at 20. All that you describe is completely normal–except for the part about obsessing over it and getting truly depressed about it.

Remind yourself what the alternative is to getting older.


That’s it. Two options. Pick one.

The power and beauty of youth truly are wasted on the young. You are young, you are raw material. Every new thing has challenge and adventure in it. Every beginning is magic manifest in your life. Yet you choose, yes, choose, to waste the most precious years of your life obsessing over something you cannot ever control and that the alternative to, is death.

Get over yourself. Choose to not care. Just like you choose to not care about Jersey Shore, or Dancing with the Stars, or the Kardashians. You can do it. Just choose to.

You live in a youth worshiping society, but you get to choose whether you want to drink the koolaid or not.

Choose wisely.

Easier said than done, of course. But a CBT approach to it might help a lot.

honeybee, can you make two lists? Title one “What sucks about getting older” and the other “What rocks about growing older.” Be as specific as you can. You just might learn something about yourself.

I didn’t want to grow up either. I guess I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to handle grown-up responsibilities, and I just don’t dig change in general.
I went ahead and got old, at least (40). Along the way, I took on responsibilities and found out they weren’t impossible to deal with. At this point, I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

I think my daughter is dealing with much the same problem. She’s nineteen, and although I’ve forced her to learn to drive, she still has a lot of anxiety about it. She likes school, but the idea of having a job upsets her. She is getting professional help now (and I’m 90% sure she’s snagged a job as well). I think as she continues to have new life experiences, her fears will fade. Hopefully it will work that way for you too.

I really don’t know what to tell you, except deal with it while your brain is still young and limber (counselling is not always expensive) lest you become my father, who at 60+ will become a weeping, hysterical wreck of a human being every birthday. One of these encounters sent me into therapy - consider it isn’t just your own life you’re messing up.

Let me ask you something. You mention that you feel the loss of not having a more “ideal” childhood (welcome to the club). Why aren’t you concerned about losing even more of your life by obsessing over something that you can’t change? What are you doing right now to develop the kind of life you really want to be living? Is this really a distraction from other feelings, of helplessness or incomptenance, that you’ve layered onto the fearsome idea of “grown up” so you don’t have to address them in your life? are you afraid to be happy and content, because then something might take it away?

A lot of us feel like 23 year olds stuffed inside an older carcass. Just sayin’.

I can somewhat relate - I’ve lost all my grandparents, a sister, and my dad. I am having some trouble with the idea of me dying - I know it’s inevitable, but…what happens then? I have no particular faith to smooth over those fears. I guess what I basically do is just push those fears away - I can’t solve them, and I can’t do anything about the inevitability of dying, so I consciously re-focus on the life I’m living right now.

Like Dung Beetle said, I think accomplishing things will help you with getting older, too. If you look at your parents and grandparents and people their age, it looks like they know everything and can do everything, but they learned all that one step at a time, too, just like people your age. I don’t regret aging (I’m 44) - I’m so much more capable now than I was 20 years ago, and I’ve got a lot of really cool stuff. :slight_smile:

This is what worked for me:

At eighteen I got a weird realization: This is it. This is what I’ll feel like for the rest of my life. This is me, and I’ll have to live with me forever.

At nineteen, I got a major case of getting-old panic. And I didn’t feel any different from eighteen, and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I felt like the time I had to have fun in was gone. No more fun. All wasted and gone. And then I looked around, and one of my friends was 23 at the time, and he was a fun guy. He was still having fun, he was finishing the education I had just started, and his life looked pretty good. And I thought: “I can do this. I can do 23. It won’t be too bad.”

And at 23, I looked around at my older friends (more of them now), and guess what? None of them had stopped having fun. Their lives looked good. And I still felt no different then I did at eighteen, but hey, late twenties doesn’t look too bad, I can do this.

And now I’m 26, will be 27 soon. And I still feel eighteen, but hey, my thirty-year-old friends are still a pretty fun bunch. I should probably get my life in order soon, but no rush. I’ll feel no different next year, and I can do thirty.

Good luck. It gets easier.

You are 23, this is normal. If it’s really actually hampering your day to day life, seek help. Otherwise understand that having an existential crisis in your early 20s is part of being in your early 20s and keep on living your life.

One other thought. If you are afraid of growing old, you are fucked. Best to come to terms with that now. But if you are afraid of growing up? Don’t. No one says you have to start acting like an old person even when you are an old person. Go out and have fun, and if you don’t like birthdays or getting older, don’t celebrate them. But celebrate something. Have a good time, and steadfastly refuse to grow up.

This. Exactly this. I mean, no one likes getting older - but so long as you make the choice to keep having fun, you can still have fun. I’m 27, turning 28 in a month - and yah, I’m less than thrilled at how fast 30 is coming up. But on the other hand, most of my law school friends are already past 30, and still having fun. Hell, I was dating a 35-year-old woman a couple months ago, and she was still both very hot and a lot of fun. (Also a bit of a religious fanatic, which is part of why we’re not still together - but the point stands).

I should also note that you can still make major, major changes to your life for a very long time. I’ve got friends who started law school after 30, and are doing well. Friend of a friend did the Peace Corps in his early 30s - walked away from a BigLaw job to do it. And I think we’ve got a law student in her forties on this Board.

Your life will continue to be a lot of fun for a long, long time to come. Don’t sweat getting older. Heck, my mid-twenties were more fun than my early twenties - and while my life isn’t perfect (boring job), in a lot of ways I’m having even more fun now. Good friends, insanely loyal cat, and in a couple of weekends I’m going hiking with the woman of my dreams. In fact, that raises one more point:

I think you get braver as you get older. You really, really do. Mostly because you do more stupid things and find that the world doesn’t end. Heck, I’m even taking motorcycle lessons next month. Scary? Absolutely! But I’m finally learning not to be scared of so many things, and my life is richer for it.

You’ll be fine, OP. Honest. (Though you may want to get help if your current fears are interfering with your life - no shame in needing help now and again.)

You guys that are 27 and 28 and reminiscing about your youths are cracking me up. Then again, at 25 I felt like a bitter old man whom life had passed by. I realize now how foolish that was. In a few months I’ll turn 50, and I’m looking forward to that being the best decade of my life.

Wow! I didn’t expect to get so many responses so quick. For everyone who took the time to read what I had to say and actually respond, thank you sooo much!

@ TriPolar: yes, I realize obsessing over getting older won’t benefit me the least bit. That’s why I don’t understand why I continue to do it anyway. When I was 10 I wanted to be 8. When I was 12 I wanted to be 10 again. When I was 18 I wanted to be 16. And when I turned 20 I wished I was 18 again! Every yr I look back and think, “wow, I felt so old at this age. I thought my life was so miserable at that time. I wasted another year feeling old and miserable when I wasn’t old nor was my life all that bad!”

@tdn: Thanks for responding. I tried to come up with a list, and, I couldn’t think of any great things about getting older but I could think of things that suck about getting older, IMO.

  1. I feel pressured to act more serious and mature, even though I’m naturally silly and childish a lot, well, probably most of the time.

  2. I feel pressured to have a career making X amount of money by this particular age. I feel like I must have a husband and kids BEFORE that particular age. And once I have a family, I fear my life will no longer be about me, but my kids instead.

3.I won’t feel attractive when I’m older. Others won’t view me as attractive.

4.Your siblings (along with other family members) now have a family of their own and are doing their own thing.

@HelloAgain: Thanks for responding. I really liked your response, because it really made me think. The insane part is that I REALIZE I’m wasting more of my youth by obsessing over it vanishing. And yet I continue to do the same thing over and over, year after year. I’ve changed my hair color and even moved to a different city thinking it would make me a happier person—neither worked. Sometimes I don’t even know what I want. I think it’s friends; that’s what I’m missing. I never had friends to hang out with, laugh with or just share my feelings with. It’s not that no one likes me. I suffer with social anxiety (have my entire life) and it makes it EXTREMELY difficult to form relationships with ppl. (But that’s not the point of this thread.) To answer your last question, yes, I am afraid of being happy because I constantly fear that it won’t last forever. Funny you came to this conclusion all on your own w/o me even saying it lol. It’s weird. Even when I’m having the time of my life, another part of me feels sad because I think it wont last. Sometimes I can just be talking or laughing with one of my parents or my sister, and all of a sudden I’ll start to feel sad. I start feeling sad because I know tomorrow is not promised and I fear that I will one day lose them. Its crazy. I’m always obsessing over things I can’t control: time, death and even other people.

It does sound like you hve more going on that could use some attention. This sounds more like anxiety than depression to me. CBT might help you gain control of repetitive thoughts and cut off negative feedback loops. Check out Feeling Good.

What you are feeling is normal, and the early 20s can be a tough time. There are some advantages to getting older. In time, you will actually be able to do all those things you dreamed of doing as a kid. It’s a nice feeling to actually live the dream and make an impact. But it can be hard to see the path from where you are to where you wish you were. Keep your eye on the prize and it will work out eventually. Never foget your dreams, even when you are strugglig, and there is a good chance you’ll get them. It may be a long and twisty path, though.

But it looks good from this side. I wouldn’t trade the experiences, wisdom, maturity and fun I have at 30 for the insecurity and aimlessness I had at 20. Ask your sblings and they will likely agree

At any age, life is what you make of it. An active, engaged, learning and growing 60 year old beats a stagnating, distant, closed off 20 year old. Focus on doing the best with what you have and leave the past in the past and the future in the future. Humans suck at predicting what will make them happy, anyway, so it’s silly to worry about future emotions that you are almostcertainly going to guess wrong.

I enjoy being an adult a lot more than I enjoyed being a kid. I have more power, more freedom, more opportunities, more control over my life. I’ve spent several decades learning how to be happy, how to have a good life, what works for me, etc., so now I’m a lot better at it than I used to be. And I hope to get even better in the future.

OP, I’m wondering if maybe your parents and/or the other adults in your life weren’t very happy or very good at being adults, so that you didn’t have any good role models. Maybe the solution is as simple as finding so happy, optomistic, joyful old people and hanging around with them.

Oh, and whatever you do, do not listen to this song.

BTDT. Went through a serious emotional crisis when I transitioned from high school to college, and again when I transitioned from college to grad school. Spent the second half of grad school dealing with depression, mostly due to the realization that there was nothing more to come after grad school except decades of unstructured, formless, shapeless life. After finishing grad school, I literally almost did not survive my first day of work. But things got better. There are a great many things I miss about my childhood and young-adult days, but now that I’m 40, there are a great many things about my life now that I would not want to give up either.

You might be interested in this thread from about a year ago. Not quite the same issue as yours, but I think there’s enough overlap so that you might gain some useful insight from it.

There’s a bit of a false dichotomy about aging/maturing. You can still have fun, have a “youthful” outlook (whatever that means), have a vibrant personality, etc. etc. etc. while still being an adult, responsible person. On the whole, I think most people should grow up in the sense that they learn how to manage their lives, act responsibly, make good decisions, suck it up when it’s time to suck it up, etc. That doesn’t mean you have to Sell Out to The Man, wear pants up to your armpits, and reduce your social life to watching *NCIS *reruns with your cat. Adult <> Boring, necessarily. Reconcile this fact. It’ll help.

And I third the suggestion of getting into some counseling if this issue is clouding your daily life. A little “omg I’m not going to be 20 forever” is normal; the degree that this is interfering with your state of being is not. Fuck the money, figure out how to see a counselor.

Admittedly me telling you this won’t fix things, but just so you have other ideas:

  1. Who cares what other people think. You are you. Be you. Nothing wrong with silly 40 year olds that think they’re 18 at heart (and probably are). Sure, there are times to be mature, but it’s not ALL the time! Despite my year-of-birth and receding hairline, I’m pretty sure I’m only half as old as the calendar says.

  2. There really isn’t any pressure. I mean, cosmically anyway. I can imagine you might get pressure peers and family ,but again, it’s your life. You don’t have to get married and have kids by any time/date (or at all). The bit about kids in your life changing priorities… well, that’s partly true. Your life is still about you, but it’s different. There’s probably a few 100 threads on that already.

  3. I’ve seen an awful lot of people I find attractive and age is definitely not the driver. Of course, attraction is rather subjective! (That’s a good thing.)

  4. Well, yeah. They’re doing their thing. You can do your thing. Just cause they have kids and jobs and mortgages and lawns and… doesn’t mean you have to. They might be wishing they had made the decisions you did.

Don’t let it bother you. (Easier said than done, I know!)

Interesting simulpost, MobiusStripes. I think we’re using different words to say the exact same thing.