How to act like an adult

The path from adolescence into adulthood.

Welcome to the first installment of Becoming Adult. This series is about 18- to 29-year-olds and the paths they take from adolescence into adulthood. This is the theme of my work as an applied developmental psychologist. Since my years as an undergrad working with Susan Whitbourne on studies of college students growing up, I have been intrigued by the lack of understanding that we have about the critical years when we lay the foundation of our adult lives. So much happens during these years. This is when the roads taken and the roads not taken diverge and begin to have an impact on the way we live until we die.

We, as a society, have begun to take seriously the impact we can have on the lives of newborns and children in those first few days, months, and years of life. I equate the transition to adulthood with those years. I often tell my students, The first years of life are critical in terms of preparing you for early childhood, for school, and for the way you will experience adolescence. Similarly, the first years of adulthood, when you become the driver, navigating adult life for the very first time, are the very first steps of adulthood and they make a significant contribution to where you will go and how you will do.”

My goal with this first blog is to introduce you to the academic debate that is currently before us. Attention has converged on the need to define adulthood before we learn how to help adolescents and 20-somethings establish a solid base from which they can take off on successful pathways. Subsequent posts will discuss specific and personal issues experienced during the transition to adulthood. I look forward to your comments.

Inside the walls of academia, we have been privy to a resurrected controversy-what does it mean to be an adult? The most recent incantation of this debate appeared in the mid-1990s when Jeffrey Arnett took interest in this question and started talking to 20-somethings about their experiences.

Interestingly, his survey research, and that of many others told us that very few young and very few old consider the things that adults “do”—having a job, buying a home, getting married, or having a child-indicators of adulthood. Rather, it became apparent that becoming adult was about, well, becoming. Across cultures, Arnett’s findings have been replicated. Accordingly, an adult is someone who accepts responsibility, makes independent decisions, and becomes financially independent.

A sweet ‘ole ivory tower controversy is “on.”

In one corner, we have Arnett. He interviewed 300 18- to 29-year-olds to ask them about their lives and whether or not they feel like adolescents or adults. The most common response was-neither adolescent nor adult, I feel “in-between.” Turns out, the majority of 18- to 29-year-olds feel this way. Based on this, he concluded that there is a new stage of life between adolescence and adulthood and he named that emerging adulthood. This previously unrecognized stage gained popularity in some circles, and laid the foundation for the Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood, a book characterizing the age period, and an edited volume that distinguishes this stage from adolescence and adulthood.

In the opposing corner, scholars argue that there is no “emerging adulthood,” but rather, an extended adolescence that is stalling-off adulthood. The Network on Transitions to Adulthood, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, accepts that there is a psychological component to becoming adult, but refutes the notion of a new “stage.” This camp is steadfast in the belief that the roles that we take on delineate our youth from our adulthood and that preparation for these roles is the domain of adolescence. This network of scholars has produced three edited volumes covering the basics-the lengthened and individualized “new” way of making the transition to adulthood, how the transition to adulthood is different for vulnerable youth, and the economics of becoming adult. From this side of the ring, the focus remains on those old-school markers of adulthood, grappling with issues related to the timing and sequencing of graduations and entries into careers, marriages, and parenthood.

This debate between academic groups abstractly reflects our experiences in the real world. Whether or not the transition to adulthood is about the process of getting there vs. being there is an important one. Although not explicitly so, a great number of policies and programs are based on assumptions of age and adult status. There is juvenile court and adult court, car insurance is based on age, whether you go to the pediatrician or a GP for health care is defined by age, etc.

For all of us, this academic debate comes home—often at holidays—when adult children and parents confront questions about responsibility, control, independence, support, and all of the decisions involved in the transition to adulthood. Understanding what to do to help launch their children when they no longer have any legal responsibility to do so (emerging adult translation: “you have no right to control me!”) presents a different set of challenges. And emerging adults are, too, confused about what is “normal.”

What the two sides agree on is that there is no road-map to guide young people through the transitions. Whether this is a distinct stage or not, we do know that recent generations are entering into these years with little guidance and few resources compared to those available to them as youth, and there are few institutions, policies, or programs designed to meet their distinct needs. Keeping the conversation going is essential for refining our understanding of this important demographic. They are, regardless of how they get there, the future of society.

A lack of trust is at the heart of the workplace issues in places like Yahoo and Best Buy.

A lack of trust is at the heart of the workplace issues in places like Yahoo and Best Buy.

For more than a decade now, I’ve struggled to define what fuels the most sustainably productive work environment — not just on behalf of the large corporate clients we serve, but also for my own employees at The Energy Project. Perhaps nothing I’ve uncovered is as important as trust.

Much as employers understandably hunger for one-size-fits-all policies and practices, what motivates human beings remains stubbornly complex, opaque, and difficult to unravel. Perhaps that’s why I felt so viscerally the shortsightedness and futility of Marissa Mayer’s decision to order Yahoo employees who had been working from home to move back to the office, and Hubert Joly’s to do the same at Best Buy.

Here’s the problem: Employees who want to game the system are going to do so inside or outside the office. Supervising them more closely is costly, enervating, and it’s ultimately a losing game. As for highly motivated employees who’ve been working from home, all they’re likely to feel about being called back to the office is resentful — and more inclined to look for new jobs.

At its heart, the problem for Mayer and Joly is lack of trust. For whatever reasons, they’ve lost trust that their employees can make responsible adult decisions for themselves about how to best get their work done and add value to the company. Distrust begets distrust in return. It kills motivation rather than sparking it. Treat employees like children and you increase the odds they’ll act like children. You reap what you sow — for better and for worse.

As an employer, I stay focused on one primary question about each employee: What is going to free, fuel, and inspire this person to bring the best of him or herself to work every day, most sustainably? My goal is to meet those needs in the best ways I can, without undue expense to others.

In the end, I’m much less concerned with where people do their work than with the value they’re able create wherever they happen to do it. The value exchange here is autonomy (grounded in trust) for accountability.

As CEO, I myself work from home for an hour or two in the mornings most days because it’s quiet and free of distractions. I find it’s the best way for me to get writing and other high-focus activities accomplished, and I know that’s true for many other business leaders.

One of the senior members of our team is a 35-year-old woman with three children under the age of nine. She lives 90 minutes from work. I’d love to have her at our offices every day, because I enjoy being able to interact with her around issues as they arise. I also just like having her around as a colleague.

But to make that possible she’d have to invest three withering hours commuting each day — a huge cost, not just in time, but also in energy, for work and for her family. Demanding that she make that trip every day would only prompt progressive fatigue, resentment, and impaired performance.

Instead, we settled from the start on having her come to the office two days a week, which is when we schedule our key meetings. Those days also provide time for spontaneous brainstorming of ideas across the team.

Another one of our team members, a woman with two teenage kids, travels frequently in her role. When she gets back from trips, she typically works from home the next day — both to recover, and to have more time for her family.

Two of our other staffers — one male and one female — work mostly at the office out of personal preference, but also have young kids and work from home on some days when their kids are on vacation, or get sick.

Two younger, married team members recently requested permission to move to Amsterdam for eight months — for no other reason than they wanted to experience another culture. For a moment, I bridled. But since technology makes it possible for them to do their jobs from anywhere, we were able to make it happen. They agreed to work during our regular office hours, and to visit our office for a week every two months. So far it seems to be working seamlessly.

Every one of these people is highly productive. I do have moments when I find myself wishing all of our team members were in the office more, and even wondering what they’re doing when I haven’t heard from them.

When those feelings arise, I take a deep breath and remind myself that my colleagues are adults, capable of making their own decisions about how best to get their work done, and that all good relationships involve some compromise.

It gets back to trust. Give it, and you get it back. In over a decade, no employee has ever chosen to leave our company. The better you meet people’s needs, the better they’ll meet yours.

How to act like an adultBe a man!

Ever heard that exhortation before?

Of course. We all have.

Anyone ever told you HOW?

Granted, there’s more than one way to do it…

the first step is to GROW UP!

A lot of people seem to think that being a man is just about being tough. But there’s more to it than that. Much more. It’s really about maturity, self-reliance, and being secure in who you are. In other words, being a man means no longer being a child.

If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us struggle with some aspect of leaving childhood behind. But adulthood is a journey – and being willing to work at it shows that you’re ready.

Are you? If so, read on.

How to act like an adult#1. Define Yourself And Your Values

Commanding respect is rooted in understanding what you have to offer. If you assume you aren’t going to contribute anything and act like it too, most people won’t bother to look beyond that.

Your strengths may not be obvious to you. We tend to have a blind spot when it comes to our strengths AND weaknesses. If you want more clarity on what yours are, think about what accomplishments you’re the most proud of and ask yourself what traits that helped you. Coming up blank? Ask someone who knows you well and whom you trust. Don’t dismiss any achievement as too small or insignificant. The values that helped you fix up your garage or prepare your kid brother for his SATs can be built on as you move on to bigger things.

When you know what you’re about, you can build an identity that you communicate with your personal style and the first impressions you make. If you focus on what you uniquely bring to the table and what’s most important to you, it will show.

A final note on this: define yourself by what you are, not what you aren’t. The presence of a strong set of core values beats the absence of fear, weakness, or any other natural human experience that society may look down on. If you’re living honestly, you’ll still have these experiences. Just remember that the power is yours to decide to rise above them.

#2. Learn Life Skills

You’re a grown man. Your dad’s not here to fix things that you break and your mom’s not here to clean up your messes. It’s up to you to learn how.

Seriously, to be a man you need some basic skills. Being prepared for whatever life may throw at you is a key marker of maturity. Start by learning how to be prepared for emergencies – take a first aid or survival class, get CPR certified, help your family plan what to do in the event of a natural disaster. Even if you never use what you learn, you’ll feel better about yourself knowing that you can take charge when all hell breaks loose.

Of course, every problem you encounter won’t be an emergency. You’ll want to learn independence and preparedness in your day to day life too. At the very least, know how to feed yourself from scratch if you have to, keep your home organized, and do your laundry without ruining your clothes. You should really work to develop some basic repair skills as well. Can you shut off an overflowing toilet? Deal with a blown fuse? Hang a shelf?

How to act like an adult#3. Be A Man – Be Reliable

The above guidelines tie into one basic principle: a grown man should be able to take responsibility for problems that come up in his life. That means following through on what needs to be done and not making excuses. A few specifics follow.

Be on time – be smart about your own time and show others that you value theirs. If punctuality doesn’t come naturally to you, commit to finding a system that works – you have plenty of options.

You have to be able to rely on yourself before others can rely on you – and you can’t do that when you’re overwhelmed. Simplify and organize your life. Think carefully about where you tend to drop the ball and focus on confronting, and fixing, those problems.

You don’t have to be perfect, and you needn’t expect an overnight transformation. Hold yourself accountable and stay focused on small but steady and continuous improvement. Those around you will notice.

#4. Be The Bigger Man

Conflict is a part of life. People will disagree with you. Some will disrespect you. A few may even hurt you. But no matter how gravely you’re wronged, one thing is certain: how you handle it is up to you. An important part of learning to be a man is learning to pick your battles.

Some people may annoy you but are essentially minding their own business. Do the same. Some are just trying to get a cheap rise out of you. Ignore them. And some, you’ll have to stand up to. When you meet them, you’ll be glad you didn’t waste your energy on smaller nuisances.

You can stand your ground and be strong without being angry and reactive. You can be understanding without being spineless. It’s your responsibility (and within your power!) to decide what to fight and what to walk away from.

How to act like an adult#5. Take Initiative, Take Action

When it comes to your goals and life aspirations, the only factor you can really control is yourself. When you’re facing overwhelming odds or life throws tremendous suffering your way, that may not feel like too much power.

In reality, it’s quite a lot. Your control over yourself is incredibly powerful. It is always YOUR decision to act like a man. You can always take a step, however small, towards what you’re after. You can always choose NOT to be a victim!

Be honest with yourself about what you want out of life and what it’ll take to achieve. If you’ve made choices you regret, understand that while you can’t go back, you can go forward.

TAKE ACTION, gentlemen. Don’t just wait for your goals to materialize on their own. Part of being a man is honestly evaluating what you want out of your life – and then going after it with everything you’ve got.

Huc venite pueri ut viri sitis.

Come hither, boys, and become men.

Not sure how? I can help you with that. Right now. With a personal challenge. I teach my coaching clients a 7-step game plan to build a personal brand that gets them instant respect. Men pay thousands for this information (and earn it back in increased income.) I’m giving 150 readers a sneak peek at it for free. Will you be one of them?

If you truly want to step up, be a man, and do what it takes to succeed – you don’t want to miss this powerful opportunity. Click here to see if there are any spaces left for my FREE exclusive masterclass.

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About Antonio

Antonio Centeno is the founder of RealMenRealStyle having studied style in London, Hong Kong, and Bangkok. He is a former US Marine Officer with an MBA from UT Austin and BA from Cornell College. Want to discover how to Command Respect, Attract Opportunity & Increase Income by leveraging science of style? Click Here To Find Your STYLE SCORE!.

How to act like an adult


So you’re a grown-ass adult who still looks like a teenager. If you’re one of those women out there who doesn’t care that “you’ll love it when you’re older” [Ed: But really, you will], you’re not alone: We received an email from a baby-faced 26-year-old who said she was sick of getting categorized as a “young and innocent thing.” Yeah, been there. I am there.

I have this problem: I’m 26 years old and people still guess my age at 18 at times.

I’m short and slightly built and just happen to have a cute and childish looking face. First impressions count a lot in meeting people and most people’s first impression of me apparently is “young and innocent thing”. I get that from men (a horrible thing in dating because I attract exactly the men I despise: guys who like to feel superior to their woman) but also from women. Anyone who talks to me for a while will realize the discrepancies, though they may still believe I’m young but an overachiever – “What, you’ve done x and y and z?? Amazing!!” – which not what I’m going for either, since upon learning my real age they also lose that impressed look on their face.

Here’s what I know: I know I’m an accomplice in all of this. When people say “Oh I thought you were 19. ” I smile and basically say I agree, I do look young. When men patronize me a part of me wants to scratch their eyes out while another part’s intuition is to pout in a cute way – both reactions that delighted my father and other older men when I was little but have no place in the adult world.

But what *is* the right way to react? Do I say “Mister, I don’t appreciate you treating me like a toddler”? That’s all that comes to mind and it doesn’t sound right at all. How do I lose my stupid conditioning and “grow up”?

So far, it seems to me that the best way to counteract my being taken for too young is to dress conservatively and expensively, though that is hard while still being a student. I’ve also resolved to use more make-up (which usually I don’t bother which, both on the grounds of idealism and lazyness) and come off as unfriendly rather than childish (see above).

I’d appreciate your help, and I’m sure so would a few other women I know.

I know exactly how you feel, because I’m also short and slightly built and look younger than I am, which can complicate professional and personal situations; people always assume I’m an intern or a student, and guys think it’s hilarious to ask me whether I’m old enough for them to buy me a drink. Until recently, it really bugged me when people gave me shit for looking like a teenager, and it bothered me even more when people didn’t understand why I cared. (“You’ll love it when you’re older!” they always promise. “You’ll be carded until you’re fifty!”) But perfecting comebacks to obnoxious comments about my looks has made me care a whole lot less.

I like to call the conversation you’re referring to “The Age Interrogation.” Nowadays, it takes place less often than it used to, but still occurs at least a few times a month. It doesn’t matter where I am or who’s questioning me; the conversation is always the same. Here’s how it used to go before I wizened up:

“No way,” he or she (bouncer/grocery store cashier/nurse/random douchebag) will say at first, furrowing his or her brow, looking me up and down like I’m a small animal at the zoo.

Shereen Lehman, MS, is a healthcare journalist and fact checker. She has co-authored two books for the popular Dummies Series (as Shereen Jegtvig).

How to act like an adult

Elva Etienne/Getty Images

We’ve all heard of child-like adults, adults who have the heart and spirit of children. Gifted kids are the opposite; they are adult-like children who often seem to think and act like adults. More importantly, they sometimes feel like adults. This feeling can lead to frustration for both the gifted child and the adults around them.  

Why It Can Be Problematic

Because they see themselves as adults, gifted children may expect to be treated like adults. They can feel insulted if they are not asked for their opinion or if they are not allowed to make their own decisions.

No matter how intelligent these children are, they are still children and simply don’t have the kind of life experience and understanding to make the kinds of decisions they often want to make.

A three-year-old, for example, cannot be expected to make decisions that could affect their future, nor should they be expected to make decisions involving the running of the household.

Unfortunately, even gifted children don’t have the kind of maturity it takes to know that they don’t have all the knowledge and understanding that making some decisions requires. Many gifted children also have a strong sense of right and wrong and believe that being treated as less than an adult is grossly unfair.

Their frustration can lead to a number of behavior problems. They can get angry or rude, and even become bossy and demanding.

Why Parents of Gifted Children Are Often Frustrated

Parents of gifted children who feel as though they should be treated as adults also feel frustrated. They feel like life is one constant battle, as they find themselves continually arguing with their children over rules and decisions. They are constantly asked to justify their reasons to their child who is always asking why he should have to do something he doesn’t want to do or not be able to do something he does want to do.

The parents are worn out by temper tantrums and other emotional outbursts. They may begin to see their child as emotionally immature, a view that is often supported by teachers’ comments.

How to Handle Children Who Think They’re Little Adults

Here are a few tips to help you manage frustration on both sides.

Try to See Things From Your Child’s Perspective

These kids see themselves as adults and may genuinely not understand why they are being treated like children. It doesn’t mean you need to treat them as adults, but it does mean they should be treated with respect. Nothing will upset these children more than a condescending or patronizing attitude.

Give Reasons, But Don’t Debate

If your child needs the reasons behind rules, requests, and denials, then, by all means, give them the reasons. Sometimes that’s all they want to know. But don’t fall into the trap of debating with your child. Gifted children can be excellent debaters, even the very young ones, and parents often find themselves caught in something like a courtroom debate. It is still important for children to know that the parents have the ultimate say in what happens in the home.

Give Your Child Some Choices

Consider the possibility that your gifted child may need to feel as though they have some control over their lives.

Children are constantly being told what they can and can’t do. Try giving them some control. Let them make some decisions, but limit the types of decisions or their choices so that you still maintain control of the household.

For example, you might ask your daughter if she wants her peanut butter sandwich plain or with jelly. You might ask your son if he wants to clean his room before or after dinner.

Treat Your Child With Respect

Even though your child can’t make major decisions, he or she can certainly be allowed to express an opinion and that opinion should be listened to respectfully. Listening to an opinion does not require you to agree with it, and it’s important that your child understand that from the beginning.

Life with a gifted child is not always easy, but it can be made easier when parents understand their gifted children and what lies behind their children’s behavior.

Narcissists behaviors can be mystifying and maddening if you expect them to consistently act like adults.

Though narcissists can behave like adults much of the time, when they feel embarrassed, ignored or inferior they may revert to a childlike state, acting like children during the terrible twos.

In a way, this regression makes sense. Narcissistic personality disorder or a narcissistic style often develops due to early trauma or family influences that can leave aspects of a person stuck at an emotionally young age.

For example, picture a young child caught with his hand in the cookie jar when told to wait until after dinner. Children respond to such situations with one or more of a dozen instinctual responses. By the same token, adult narcissists use sophisticated versions of these same childlike responses.

As you read through the following examples, you may want to think of a narcissist in your life and note any similarities with how the narcissist you know responds when feeling stressed, slighted or thwarted.

What a child caught with his or her hand in the cookie jar might do

1) Deny they did it

I didnt eat one. I was just looking for later.

2) Blame someone else

But sis said it was all right.

3) Pretend they dont know what you are talking about

4) Throw a tantrum

5) Say they had no choice

I was so hungry I couldnt help it.

6) Recite good things they have done

But yesterday I put all my toys away. Aren’t you proud of me?

7) Cry or act like a victim

Youre so mean to me. It’s not fair.

8) Hide or run away

9) Try to charm you

But I love you so much, Mommy.

10) Change the subject

Can I go outside and play?”

11) Ignore you or stonewall

12) Get mad at you for catching them

Stop spying on me!

Such childlike responses bear an uncanny resemblance to the key tactics narcissists use to avoid responsibility and manipulate others:

  • Denying
  • Blaming
  • Pretending
  • Acting out
  • Making excuses
  • Seeking credit
  • Playing the victim
  • Running away
  • Charming
  • Distracting
  • Stonewalling
  • Attacking

Recognizing the childlike nature of narcissists responses can empower you when dealing with narcissists. The next time you find yourself confused or on the defensive by a narcissists behavior, envision him or her as a two-year old in an adult body. Doing so can give you perspective and allow you to respond rather than react.

If an adult narcissist acts like a child, perhaps you need to treat them as you would a child. As an adult or parent, you can see through childrens attempts to avoid blame and shame. You dont take it personally but you also set healthy limits, as that is in their best interests as well as yours.

The difference with adult narcissists is they have more power than children. Their tactics can affect you and pose danger. You have to choose your responses wisely. Here are some strategies that can help:

Give them choices

If you take your child to a crowded restaurant when youre in a hurry, you give the child choices. Instead of asking what they want to eat, you say Do you want pizza or a PBJ? Similarly, suggesting options or choices to an acting-out narcissist may let them think they are in control and can move the situation along.

Have realistic expectations

You dont expect a small child to act in a mature adult fashion. Similarly, you are generally not likely to go wrong by underestimating a narcissist’s level of maturity. You dont have to tolerate abusive behavior. But expecting emotional maturity from a two-year-old of any age will just leave you frustrated.

Dont take it personally

You dont take a two-year-olds pouting personally. They are in the throes of emotions they havent yet learned to contain or soothe.Similarly, narcissists generally cannot contain their feelings when they are embarrassed or disappointed. Recognize that they are awash in emotions that to them are so huge they cannot cope in a mature fashion.

Photo credits Upset princess by MN Studio Tantrum kid by Lorelyn Medina Covering ears child by Sharomka Steaming mad boy byPathdoc

Do you have a dysfunctional family?

Are you an adult who’s fighting with your mom and dad? You’re not alone. Honestly, I thought I could never get angrier than when my parents took away my Barbies when I was 6, or when they grounded me from going to my senior prom because they found pot in my bedroom. But it’s proven that the older we get, the more aggravated we become with our families. And, more specifically, mothers feel a tension with their daughters. (Ladies, do you feel me?) As we all enter adulthood, why do we have trouble acting like adults?

As we grow old, we become settled into our personalities. We’re individuals. We have our own kids, and most likely, our parents want a say in how to raise them–when it’s not really their business in the first place. Let me guess–this has probably caused a fight or two in your family.

So instead of focusing on the problem, let’s try to think of a solution. How do we create a healthy relationship with our parents once we’ve all entered adulthood?


Change the power dynamic. You don’t need your parents approval anymore. When we’re growing up, we are constantly seeking our parent’s love. Don’t bring that into adulthood. If you’re still trying to find the perfect spouse, job, car, and house just to impress your parents, you’re never going to be happy, and you’re probably never going to make them happy either. Start doing things for yourself. Most likely, that’s how you’ll end up earning your parent’s respect.


Treat your parents with respect (always) but don’t treat them like your superior. Once you’re an adult, you’re a fully functioning human being with a set of responsibilities and an active role in this world. Most likely, you have your own family or at least a plant or cat that you take care of. If you act like an adult, and talk to them like an adult, they’ll probably start treating you like one too.


The sooner you set boundaries the better. Let your parents know they have to give notice before they come over. That you’ll ask them for advice when you want it, otherwise you need to do your own learning in the world and they raised you perfectly well to do that. Let them know that one phone call a day is a great amount of talking. It might hurt their feelings at first, but it will give your parents their own free time and ultimately they’ll realize they raised a cool, confident adult.


Bad news: your parents are most likely stuck in their ways emotionally. The only thing that you can control is yourself and your own actions. That goes for pretty much anything in this world, actually. So, when your parents are doing something you don’t like or something that triggers you- keep your cool and figure out what the best way for you to react is that dissolves the situation. Part of being an adult now means being able to walk away from situations if you want to.


If you ask for advice, be prepared to hear something that you don’t want to, well. hear. So proceed with caution. Be careful what you wish for.


If a conversation or action does end up turning into a fight, remember this is family you’re dealing with. You’re stuck with them. So always lead with love and kindness. Remind them of all their positive attributes and your appreciation of them, and then segway into, “and, when this happened, it made me feel _____.” Reminder: it’s actions that are problematic, not necessarily people. So target specific things they are doing that need to be amended rather than their whole personality. The best thing about being a grown up is that temper tantrums aren’t your only means of communication anymore.

Family can be a difficult thing to tackle. Especially during the holidays. Good luck!

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How to act like an adult

I don’t know if this happens for everyone, but for me there have been a series of moments or experiences lately that, in reflecting, are slap-you-in-the-face-you’re-an-adult moments. And as scary and weird as that sounds, it’s actually incredible. Knowing what you want, who you want to be, how you want to act, love, celebrate and live is fucking empowering. I’m pretty sure I’m glowing I’m so happy. Not like college-spray-tan glowing, but like I can’t stop smiling glowing.

Of all of the experiences that stick out to me where I’ve felt this way, dating is the most recent. The thing about dating that I’ve always found super annoying is that at the beginning, there is this unspoken expectation that you have to act a certain way. For women, it seems to be super polite, reserved, agreeable, charming and sexy at the same time (thanks, Steve Carell) and other forced qualities. That’s exhausting and frankly, I’m too old to fake it (yes, I mean that in every way you think) anymore, so in this “adult” phase of my dating life, I’ve decided to approach it entirely differently by promising five things to myself:

Don’t fake it: I think “that’s what she said” is hilarious every single time, I have a laugh that is so loud it turns heads, sometimes I ask really (really) stupid questions, I cuss more than I should and most of the time I should count to five before I respond but, that’s who I am. If I want someone to be interested in me (the real me), I need to just let it all out, right from the start.

Try new things: I live a pretty routine life (it’s embarrassing, I know): wake up, grab my Starbucks, work, workout, watch bad TV and go to bed. While I thoroughly enjoy that, it’s okay to switch things up by agreeing to do something different, something out of my comfort zone, to get to know someone I’m interested in.

Be honest, at all times: At the beginning, all you want to do is impress him, so you may say that you enjoy something, or know of something that you actually don’t. Well, that’s just ridiculous. The “getting to know you” part of the first few weeks will likely be awkward more often than it won’t, but that’s okay. If there is a show he likes, that you just don’t, you don’t have to say that you do to appease him. Even more important is when you start to get to the heavier stuff. If you want it to last, just tell the truth. It’s been liberating for me to just tell it exactly like it is.

Don’t give up what’s important to you: Since I’ve started this “adult dating” thing (and since I’m a chick) I’ve been reading all of these ridiculous articles about “what he wants,” “how to keep him happy,” “dating 101” and other awful titles. One in particular that I read was a timeline of sex, and it said that he expects it on the third date. I was shocked by this. I mean, sex is great (GREAT), and once it happens the first time with someone I care for, I hope it doesn’t stop, so it’s not that I’m opposed to sex. I just feel like three dates is incredibly fast. I don’t know what the right date number is, as I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but I do know that I’d like it to feel right. For both of us.

Have fun: This may seem obvious, but I think dating often becomes stressful because people get hung up on concerns, rather than enjoying the experience as it’s happening. Stay up too late laughing together, send funny texts when you’re not with each other, share a meal neither of you have tried. whatever it may be, have fun with it.

I am by NO means an expert in dating, but I can tell you that with this new approach, I have not stopped smiling and I am more comfortable with it than I have ever been before.