Millennials can easily launch anything into pop culture status, making or breaking a current trend. The term adulting, frequently associated with the generation, is a characteristic that has been applied via societal targeting to the Millennial demographic.

Adulting: The Millennial Label

In diving into the concept of adulting3, it can easily be noted that Millennials often judge other Millennials if they don’t fit into the “adulting4 phase” mold. One Millennial is just as apt to prejudge another if they don’t exhibit the typical traits and characteristics of millennials: a bit brash, outspoken, obnoxious but intelligent, and still not yet reached full-fledged adulthood. This is what is referred to as an identity slot.

To further elaborate, identity slots are created in society to establish social norms based on communication and social presentation (Bratu, 2014). Enter adulting5. While the term has many definitions, it is a phrase society has bestowed upon Millennials who are in transition and not yet considered full-fledged adults. During this stage they are beginning to experience mature situations that are making them “grow up” at a rate that perhaps they may not be comfortable with.

Additionally, the term can be used self-referentially by Millennials to describe any process or action relating to adulthood. Similar to how teenage years are described as an awkward stage for many (e.g. bad fashion, acne), adulting6 is that potentially awkward stage for Millennials prior to reaching adulthood. This phase may include learning how to pay bills on time, grocery shopping, not relying on parents, a full-time job, and the list continues. The fact that Millennials have a term that can be used to describe their journey into adulthood as a way to shed some humor and insight into their struggles can make them look self-deprecating. But what can be seen as self-deprecating is actually a sense of self-awareness.

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Times Are Changing

Young adults are putting off marriage – with pets as their own form of parenthood, focusing on school first, building a career, and renting while saving to buy a home. Arguably, being a twenty-something and thirty-something today has a completely different meaning than someone of a similar age a few decades prior. Today Millennials may forever seem to be adulting7 because they are looking to break free of the identity slot others have placed them in.

Millennials who are self-aware that they are in the adulting8 phase may also be quick to judge other Millennials and exclude them from this generational label when they have seemingly conquered the phase. In other words, they seem to be within a different stage in life compared to their peers. Every Millennial has that ONE friend. The friend that seems more mature, has a “steady” life plan, perhaps is a parent, and essentially learned things at a faster rate than everyone else. This friend may be seen as the “responsible one,” the “mom” or “dad” of the group, while everyone is still somewhat figuring things out. That doesn’t mean one person is more successful than the other, it just means they reached a certain stage in life at a quicker rate.

Millennials Learning Through Shared Experience

When engaging Millennials who are at different stages of adulting9, understanding different perspectives as a whole increases an individual’s social intelligence. To understand the stage in life a Millennial is in, individuals must rely on the use of perspective-taking.

Perspective-taking emphasizes that individuals experience situations from vantage points that are not alike from that of others (Todd & Galinsky, 2014). These vantage points can lead to discrepancies amongst Millennials, especially when relying on identity slots to characterize peers. Discrepancies, however, can be overcome by learning how to be socially intelligent. Intelligence extends further than having a skill set to perform a task, but can be applied to building socially strong relationships.

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With the assistance of perspective-taking, Millennials can learn how to become socially aware of how other Millennials are dealing with adulting10 and learn through shared experiences, while simultaneously paving their way into entering full-fledged adulthood.

Transitioning To Full-blown Adulthood

To a certain degree, Millennials are tricky. They are often seen as the generation, that while educated and poised to be leaders, are spoiled and arrogant, and seem forever stuck in the adulting11 phase – i.e. still trying to figure out what the road ahead entails and live the life they want.

But that’s fine. It’s not a race. Millennials march to the beat of their own drum. When the time is right, every single one will conquer this stage and enter the next phase of their lives: full-blown adulthood. Then again, the term adulthood is also open to interpretation.