I Don't Want to Grow Up: What Should I Do About That?

Woman lying down on bed

PhotoAlto / Frederic Cirou / Getty Images

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Let's face it: being an adult can feel like a bit of a disappointment in comparison to what we pictured the future would be like when we were kids. Back when we had bedtimes, couldn't choose our own clothes, and had our meals decided for us by our parents or caregivers, many of us thought that one day, when we were grown up, everything would be better. We imagined a world in which we could eat candy endlessly, stay up all night playing video games, and watch endless television.

What we didn't picture was getting tired in the middle of the afternoon, being bogged down with responsibilities, and having to eat healthy food to keep our bodies healthy. In addition to these daily inconveniences, it's harder than ever before to reach milestones of adulthood, such as being able to buy a house, than it was for previous generations—especially without help from parents.

If you think growing up sounds like a lousy thing to do, you're far from alone. However, just because many people feel this way doesn't mean that it's conducive to a good or functional life. Ahead, we'll examine the reasons a person might feel like they don't want to grow up, then look at some solutions to help them mature into a more responsible adult.

Reasons Someone Might Not Want to Grow Up

There's no one main reason that any person feels like they don't want to grow up, but there are some commons ones. These are a few examples of why someone may be hesitant to grow up.

A Lack of Good Adult Role Models

It's been shown that not having solid role models negatively impacts adolescent behavior, whereas having good role models impacts youth behavior in a positive manner.

If you don't have the opportunity to witness how wonderful life as an adult can be, and you see only negative examples of adulthood, it's understandable that you don't feel great about the idea of growing up.

And while you might not have realized when you were young that you didn't have solid role models, it still may have affected your view of adulthood in a big way.

Adulting Isn't Always Fun

Even if you have a career you love and are passionate about, work can be challenging—and sometimes it just doesn't feel fun. It can also not feel fun to have to schedule your own appointments, to go to the dentist, to work through therapy, or to be a parent yourself and have to take care of others.

The fact that being a grown up isn't always the great time we all hoped it would be can make a person feel like they just don't want any part in it. This may seem a little silly to those adults who are very responsible and love it, but it's a valid feeling.

We're programmed to seek new experiences, which in turn makes us happier as people—and being an adult, performing the same duties day in and day out, can feel pretty repetitive and mundane.

Being Alone Is Scary

As a child, you're rarely by yourself. Parents or caregivers are who you start and end your day in the company of, and in between that you spend your time in school, which is full of peers and teachers.

As an adult, though, you may find yourself completely solitary, especially if you live alone and don't have a social job that involves working much with other people.

Being alone can feel scary, and it can make a person want to revert to younger days, when they were around friends more. It can also be much more challenging to make friends as an adult, or to find other people who also take part in hobbies you enjoy.

Childhood Trauma

Dealing with abuse, neglect, or other childhood trauma can age you before your time. You might not have had good adult role models, but even if you did, trauma can make growing up feel particularly unappealing.

Undergoing childhood trauma at the hands of adults can lead to confusion about the roles adults have in the lives of children, too. Also, children who experience trauma often feel like adults before they're of legal age, so it makes sense they aren't looking forward to adulthood when they do technically get there.

Aging Is Considered Unattractive

Our society is incredibly youth-focused. Twenty-something actors are often cast as parents to teenagers, who are themselves also twenty-something actors.

News outlets share photos of celebrities getting older in a way that age shames them, as if it was a crime to age.

We talk about people being "over the hill" and "put out to pasture" as if older folks have less value than young ones. Who wants to move from a young person to an older one, knowing that? It makes sense that the ageism in our society leads people to not want to grow up.

Fear of Death

A fear of death is called thanatophobia. While it's perfectly normal to have some fear of death or dying, getting preoccupied with the idea can lead you to worry about getting older or growing up.

Everyone will eventually die, but that fact shouldn't affect your life. After all, you're alive right now!

The more you fixate on being afraid to die, the more it might be intimidating to grow up. Growing up is synonymous with getting older, which bring you closer to the eventual inevitability of death.

What to Do When You Don't Want to Grow Up

Now that you understand some of the reasons why a person might not want to grow up, let's look at some action steps that might help give you better feelings about being an adult.

Keep Healthy Elements of Youthfulness

There's no rule book that says you have to give up everything about being young. In fact, members of Gen X, who are in their 40s and 50s now, are notorious for not dressing like adults. Many have tattoos, or colored hair, as well.

You can absolutely continue expressing yourself in the manner that feels best to you, even if you're an adult. Adulthood is about your actions more than it's about your appearance.

So, if your hesitancy of growing up is centered around you not being able to express yourself, you should be aware that as an adult, you get to dictate that yourself—and you can be as youthful as you want to be, while still being responsible and mature.

Focus On the Joyful Parts Of Adulthood

Inasmuch as there are difficult parts of growing up, there are some pretty amazing ones, too. Getting to stay up late talking with a friend, spontaneously going out for ice cream, or taking yourself out to see live music are just a few examples of things adults can do on their own that kids cannot.

By focusing on the positive parts of adulthood, rather than just the negative ones, you can reframe your attitude. And once you do, growing up might not seem all that bad after all!

Attitudes are known for shaping behavior, which means that by choosing to enjoy the happy parts of adulthood, you can bring yourself to take part in even more of them.

Discover the Beauty of Personal Growth

It may feel safe to be a child, but there is so much to be said for how proud you can feel when you experience self-growth.

The quest to be a better person is an unending one, and it can bring you joy. It can also be incredibly rewarding, because by growing as a person yourself, you can also improve the lives of others.

You can choose to grow in ways that directly affect other people, such as choosing to embark on an anti-racism journey. Or you can begin a gratitude practice, keeping tabs about what in your life you're grateful for. If you aren't sure where to start, you can look at self-help books to decide what path feels right for you.

Press Play for Mental Strength Tips

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares five mental strength exercises you can do right from your couch (like practicing gratitude). Click below to listen now.

Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts / Amazon Music

A Word From Verywell

Growing up can be incredibly daunting. Know that you aren't alone in having difficulties on this topic, and that there are many different avenues you can take to get yourself on the path of becoming a happy adult.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lee H. How many young homebuyers get support from their parents and how much of a difference does it make?. Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. November 28, 2018.

  2. Hurd NM, Zimmerman MA, Xue Y. Negative adult influences and the protective effects of role models: A study with urban adolescents. J Youth Adolesc. 2009 Jul;38(6):777–89.

  3. Heller AS, Shi TC, Ezie CEC, Reneau TR, Baez LM, Gibbons CJ, et al. Association between real-world experiential diversity and positive affect relates to hippocampal–striatal functional connectivity. Nat Neurosci. 2020 Jul;23(7):800–4.

  4. Johnson MK, Mollborn S. Growing up faster, feeling older: hardship in childhood and adolescence. Soc Psychol Q. 2009 Mar;72(1):39–60.

By Ariane Resnick, CNC
Ariane Resnick, CNC is a mental health writer, certified nutritionist, and wellness author who advocates for accessibility and inclusivity.