How does it feel to be an emotional midget

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I completely agree with you: the more appropriate term would probably be an “emotionally immature” or “emotionally insecure” person or whatever. Anyway, I like to call it being an emotional midget. Because it’s kind of funny and sarcastic, and consequently doesn’t overburden the ego. Humor is always a nice way of dealing with difficult topics. Being emotionally retarded or emotionally challenged sounds a little too harsh, on the other hand, or maybe implies even more that you can’t do anything about it – and that’s wrong, because you can (if you have growth mindset and follow kaizen philosophy). If you’re an emotional midget, it’s obvious that your life will be a lot different, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything about it or live a pretty normal life most of the time.

In this blog post, we’re going to look at several different behaviors that very obviously show that you’re an emotional midget to the world and to other people you have relationships with. There are lots of signs and different emotionally immature behaviors, so I first have to emphasize that nobody acts like an emotional midget all the time and no one possesses all the harmful emotional behaviors we’re going to talk about. Likewise, no one is a completely emotionally mature person who always properly manages their emotions and doesn’t get overwhelmed by life situations or relationships.

The purpose of this article is to list as many things as possible that will help you identify your own repeated (!) immature emotional responses and maybe even motivate you to do something about them. If you don’t have any of those issues or have them very rarely, I’m really happy for you. You can stop reading this blog post, I guess. But you can definitely share it with those of your friends who are emotional midgets. :)

As an intro, if any severe negative feelings arise when you’re reading this blog post, either towards me or towards this article, and you become a real hater, it’s quite a strong sign that you have some emotional issues. But if you’re able to read the article, form your own opinion on what makes sense and what doesn’t without going emotionally crazy at the same time, it’s a totally different story and a sign of sound rational behavior. Congratulations if the latter is valid for you, but since this article is dedicated to all of us who are a little shorter emotional-wise, let’s move on.

Stages of psychosocial development

A very good orientation for your “emotional height” are Erickson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development Theory. There are eight stages and a successful completion of each stage results in an emotionally healthy person while unsuccessful completion contributes severely to being an emotional midget. Unfortunately, if you don’t successfully complete one stage, your ability to overcome the following stages is reduced and your emotional maturity suffers even more. It sucks, but that’s the way things are.

The good news is that the stages you didn’t successfully complete while growing up can be successfully resolved later, as long as you decide to put in the effort. Here is the table of Erickson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development:

Stage Age Conflict / Crisis Resolution / Virtue
1 Infant – 18 months Basic trust vs. Mistrust Hope
2 18 m. – 3 years Autonomy vs. Shame Will
3 3 – 5 years Initiative vs. Guilt and Doubt Purpose
4 5 – 13 years Industry vs. Inferiority Competence
5 13 – 21 years Identity vs. Confusion Fidelity
6 21 – 39 years Intimacy vs. Isolation Love
7 40 – 65 years Generativity vs. Stagnation Care
8 65 and older Integrity vs. Despair Wisdom

If you don’t trust in life, if you don’t trust people and especially if you don’t trust yourself, you’re definitely an emotional midget. Sorry. On the other hand, if you naively trust others and see gold in everything that shines, the story’s no different. The biggest problem is, of course, that because you don’t trust in life, you can’t have a strong enough hope for the bright future. Therefore you see danger and negative in almost everything new. Positive outlook, hope and trust are very important elements of personal happiness and emotional stability.

If you manage to develop a strong sense of hope, you have great trust that other people will be there for you when you face a new crisis in life. If you don’t develop the virtue of hope, fear takes place instead. The more scared you are, the more emotional issues you probably have and are thus a “bigger” emotional midget. The good news is that fear shows where you have to grow in life. As we said, you can always choose to grow and become better version of yourself.

Ask yourself what you’re afraid of and is not about protecting your survival or getting physically hurt. Then challenge yourself.

If you’re extremely shy and feel shame every time you try to assert your own will, you’re again an emotional midget. The less autonomy you show, the more you’re easily influenced by others (you let people kick you around), the “bigger” emotional midget you are. Emotional midgets many times don’t see themselves as independent people able to make their own choices about their lives (usually they act as extensions of their parents, bosses, spouse or more dominating friends). In addition to that shame is feeling of not being worthy of connection on the individual level or with groups. Emotionally mature people have no trouble to connect with others. Having problems with public speaking?

Being assertive in a healthy manner and having a sense of autonomy as well as being aware of the right to fulfill your own desires and needs lead to an emotionally healthy life. Shyness, shame and self-castration (symbolically) lead to becoming an inhibited and bitter person, an emotional midget. A sad and depressed emotional midget.

It’s the same with doubt. Doubt has killed more dreams than failure ever will. Doubt and feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem are all signs of being an emotional midget. If you doubt yourself and your abilities, you let yourself stay small and unimportant. But you’re the one who lets that happen, not others.

On the other hand, if your assertiveness becomes aggression and you don’t know how to maturely handle your primary underlying wishes and desires in a socially acceptable way, you’re no better off than if you stifle your emotions. You can do that with sublimation, which means expressing your aggressive urges in games, sports, work etc. or humor and other healthy psychological mechanisms.

Fighting with other people, physically or verbally, bullying other people, showing extreme rage and aggression, making fun of other people, being a hater, even worse if behind a fake user profile on the internet (because of cowardliness), they all show extreme emotional immaturity.

Internet haters

Then we have feelings of guilt that can further suppress your assertiveness and the initiative to do things you’re interested in. There’s an easy exercise you can do that shows whether guilt is hindering you and making you an emotional midget. If you have any feelings of guilt when you play games, do sports or any other relaxing activity, or if guilt prevents you from contributing ideas, showing your creative side and having fun in life, you’re an emotional midget.

You may not even be aware of it at all. If you just don’t like to play or if you think you aren’t a creative person, that’s a good chance that you have an enormous issue with guilt on a subconscious level. A lack of initiative can materialize on many other different levels. For example, if you’re very indecisive or have problems with clearly deciding and communicating what you want, you’re again making yourself small. You should follow your own goals in life and have no problem taking initiative and pursuing what you, only you, really want in life. Period. Let’s go on to the next stage.

It’s no secret that you’re an emotional midget if you feel inferior to others. Well, everybody must experience failure in life and should probably suck at some things (I just can’t play any sports involving a ball), so that they can develop modesty. Neverthless if you haven’t developed a crucial amount of your talents through life, you can feel inferior to others and inferiority is a sign of being an emotional midget. Only regularly developing your talents and your competences and constantly improving yourself can help you grow up and become successful and proud of yourself while staying modest. Otherwise you can stay an emotional midget forever, feeling inferior or superior to others.

The next phase shows two very obvious behaviors of an emotional midget. The first one is the identity crisis – you don’t know what you want to do in life, you don’t know where you belong and how you can contribute to markets. An emotional midget usually doesn’t know what to fight for and how to contribute and add value (and capture value with charging for work done) or tries to fight for his own goals impatiently with excessive force instead of gradually building his status and position in the society. Emotional midgets use dominance instead of prestige (here you can find two ways to the top study). If you don’t know what to do with your life or if you don’t know how to achieve your goals with collaboration and healthy competition, you’re an emotional midget.

You’re also an emotional midget if you have issues with committing and staying faithful – drama, emotional intensity and manipulation are clear signs of being an emotional midget. If you don’t develop a healthy sexual identity and ability to form healthy relationships, you definitely hinder yourself from living a quality and stable life while enjoying loving relationships with others.

An inability to commit, take care of other people you love and be taken care of, and have loving relationships in general, including contributing to society, leads to isolation, loneliness, bitterness and depression, which are clear signs of an emotional midget. The more isolated you are and the less healthy social circles you build in your life (family, friends), the “bigger” of an emotional midget you are.

The last stages and signs of being an emotional midget show stagnation, being unproductive, uninvolved in community activities, depression and hopelessness. A very big sign of being an emotional midget is also a lack of integrity. On the other hand, people who grow up emotionally, develop virtues of care and wisdom, and are thus able to conclude their life with a sense of closure and completeness, while also accepting death without any fear. Something emotional midgets have a hard time doing.

Mistrust, shame, guilt, doubt, extreme rage, inferiority, indecisiveness, infidelity, isolation, fear, extreme shyness, procrastination, depression, hopelessness, low self-confidence, inferiority, lack of integrity, despair, self-castration and stagnation are all big signs of being an emotional midget. The first step is to start loving yourself.

Practical examples

More practical examples

Let’s look at even more practical examples of human behavior indicating that someone is an emotional midget. I just listed all the things that came to my mind. If you have any idea what to add, just drop me an e-mail. Here we go: as an emotional midget…

  • You’re moody most of the time. Someone says or does a small thing you don’t like and you can go from an extremely good mood to an extremely bad mood without even knowing why.
  • Moodiness is, of course, connected to being too sensible. As an emotional midget, you don’t distinguish between other people’s feelings and your own feelings, so many things that aren’t even your problems make you feel sad and powerless. Additionally, you’re also very easily offended. Maybe reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck can help with that or The Fuck It Way.
  • You’re anxious and feel insecure all the time, because as we mentioned you don’t trust in life and yourself. You want to have everything under control in life, but you simply can’t. You’re paranoid and you easily panic. You see danger in everything while others simply enjoy life. Someone will rob you, etc.
  • Being too cynical, skeptical or suspicious are also signs of a lack of trust in yourself and life and thus they make you an emotional midget. Only emotional midgets don’t know how to relax and trust in life and put effort in honest communication.
  • The sign of a first-rate intelligence is being able to adapt to a situation; you stay flexible, lean and agile. Being an emotional midget makes you rigid in your thinking and thus unadaptable. Being stubborn is a nice example. You want everything to go your way, but that’s not how life works.
  • As an emotional midget, you don’t know how to play and relax and have fun. You’re dead serious about every situation in life. It’s not about being irresponsible, but about being able to enjoy life.
  • You’re pessimistic and you see only negative, even on positive situations. You always find something bad, even in good things. Perfectionists are emotional midgets.
  • You’re shy, quiet, reserved and unsociable, because you’re afraid of being judged, criticized or somehow seeming inferior to others. It’s easy to be a king in your own room or in your own yard, but when you socialize with people, the society shows you where you really stand, like a mirror. Because emotional midgets are afraid of that mirror, they isolate themselves, but that only leads to even greater depression.
  • As an emotional midget, you go to extremes: you’re a workaholic who never rests or you abuse alcohol, drugs, sex, TV, video games or have any other unhealthy addictions. As an emotional midget, your toxic behavior is your own worst enemy.
  • Emotional midgets often can’t control their anger. They verbally abuse other people, yell, curse, insult and have rage outbursts. If they aren’t actively aggressive, they can be passive-aggressive, guilt-tripping other people, punishing people by ignoring them etc.
  • The smallest emotional midgets abuse people in the worst possible ways, like rape, slavery, prostitution and other criminal activities, but I won’t even go there. We need police, military, prisons and weapons because of the 3 – 5% of people who can’t integrate into the society and obey the basic laws that are good for everybody.
  • As an emotional midget, you can also get easily excited, you naively believe everything you hear, you’re an extreme optimist and act very impulsively. But you’re also very changeable and can change your mind and feelings about something in a matter of seconds. If you’re an adrenalin junkie, always looking for a kick, you’re probably also an emotional midget.
  • Emotional midgets love to manipulate other people (by lying, being hypocrites etc.), gossip around and do unhealthy politics in social circles. They start gossiping about you the moment you go away.
  • Emotional midgets love labeling other people and themselves, especially with negative labels. Negative labels are a very good starting point for gossiping, negative thinking and seeing yourself as an inferior person or many times feeling superior to others. I’m so clumsy, he’s so egoistic, she’s such a bad writer, and so on are examples of such toxic labels.

Criticising others

  • Control and criticism are two favorite tools of emotional midgets. If they aren’t in control of everything, with micro-management, dominance or something, they go crazy; and as perfectionists, they also like to criticize everything, because nothing can achieve their high standards. They like to point out imperfections to make other people feel smaller.
  • A very common thinking scheme of emotional midgets is all-or-nothing thinking. You’re either their friend or enemy. You either do everything as they say or you’re nothing. Everything is as they imagined or life is a pure catastrophe. But that’s not how life works, there are many shades and middle paths that one can walk in life.
  • Emotional midgets love negative self-fulfilling prophecies. Because they don’t trust in themselves and they don’t trust in life, they automatically assume bad things will happen to them. Consequently, they think so much about negative things that they really do happen to them. If you expect the negative, you will get it, and so emotional midgets become a magnet for negative and misfortunate situations.
  • A good sign of being an emotional midget is if you jump to conclusions that are usually extremely dramatic. Like, someone doesn’t reply to a message the next second and they’re probably plotting against you or something really bad happened to them, like a dinosaur ate them or something.
  • Emotional midgets are often arrogant people and narcissists, full of themselves and feeling better than other people. They either feel inferior or superior to others. It’s kind of an emotional roller-coaster of love and hate towards yourself and others. Emotional midgets simply don’t have the ability to think that we’re all humans with pluses and minuses. Being bullied and not standing up for yourself on the one hand or being a bully on the other all show big emotional issues. Any extreme thinking is an obvious sign of emotional instability.
  • Both extremes, being either too selfish or too altruistic, show that you’re an emotional midget. If you’re too selfish, you lack the ability to live and work happily in the community of people, and if you’re too altruistic, you probably take care of others in the deep hope that others will somehow take care of you (because you were not enough taken care of when young), but at the same time you forget about yourself.
  • Procrastination, laziness, boredom, piggy-backing, exploiting other people or a system, they all show very well that you are an emotional midget. On the other hand, many people who feel doubt or guilt that prevents them of taking initiative, or are greedy emotional midgets, learn soon very well how to exploit other people and systems to survive (they don’t create value themselves, but make sure other people create value for them).
  • It’s no different if you give up immediately after the first obstacle and run away when things get a little bit tougher. Running away, if it’s not life or death situation, usually makes you an emotional midget.
  • If you’re as cold as ice, not able to have loving, caring, emphatic and tender relationships, you obviously lack the capacity for love and are emotionally inhibited. Emotional midget.
  • Extreme and unhealthy competitiveness show a lack of self-esteem and an excessive desire for outer conformations, the outer approval that makes you feel a little less small. In reality, only you can make yourself feel bigger, no real outer event or approval.

Accomplishments can help you with self-esteem but they can’t make you a happy and emotionally healthy person.

  • Being in a chaotic state, indecisive and confused, letting people boss you around, not knowing how to contribute to the world and where your place is show very well that you lack assertiveness and that you need to grow up.
  • If you want to always be the center of attention, if you speak most of the time when you’re in a group of people, you are maybe not as important and colossal as you may think, but instead people see you as an emotional midget always wanting to be the center of attention. If you make other people feel small, you’re the smallest one.
  • We’re all people, we all make mistakes and if you can’t forgive other people or forgive yourself, you’re definitely an emotional midget. If you hold grudges for years and can’t move on, you lock yourself in an emotional cage that prevents you from living a full, happy and free life. Living in an emotional cage only makes you a smaller person.
  • If you’re impatient, if you want everything you see in commercials and you want it now, maybe even want it without putting in any effort, you definitely have emotional issues. Rome was not built in a single day.
  • Jealousy and envy are very clear and obvious signs of an emotional midget. They’re like the most obvious signs of emotional issues.
  • Lust, gluttony, greed as well as sloth, wrath, envy and pride were already identified as the attributes of the “biggest” emotional midgets possible way back in the biblical times, and got a reputation of seven deadly sins as something you definitely shouldn’t do in life.
  • If you moralize people, what they should do and what they shouldn’t do, and if you impose your values on others too aggressively, you’re definitely an emotional midget.
  • If you get obsessed with things or people, if you’re looking for surrogates for love, like money, achievements, status, sex, fame with the greedy approach, you’re definitely an emotional midget. Greed is good? Come on.
Greed Is Good

Greed is Good?

  • If you don’t know how to compliment people, hug them and say thank you or sorry, or show respect to others, it’s clear that there must be, if nothing else, at least a small emotional midget in you, pushing other people away, afraid of commitments.
  • If you don’t know how to behave in public, how to be a gentleman and you show childish behavior where and when you shouldn’t, you’re probably an emotional midget. A mature person knows when to have fun and take care of their inner child, and when to act like an adult.
  • If people tease you a little bit or make a joke on your account, but it totally throws you off center and you feel offended for days, you definitely aren’t emotionally stable.
  • It’s obvious that you’re an emotional midget if you can’t show any empathy, sympathy and understanding towards other people and their bad life situations.
  • If you’re a hater, especially in incognito mode on the internet, without strong arguments and explaining your different point of view, but just spitting on other people with hateful comments, only because you have a different opinion or because you feel offended, you’re definitely an emotional midget. Based on all the negative comments on the internet, you can see the enormous amount of people who are emotionally immature.
  • You’re only able to have sex, with no real loving relationships and commitments, and you’re using other people for sex. If you’re emotionally unavailable, only have friends with benefits and so on, you’re definitely an emotional midget. Emotionally mature people know how to have multidimensional relationships.
  • Always feeling or playing victim and blaming other people when things go wrong is a clear sign that you can’t handle your own emotions and challenges in life. Emotional midget.
  • If you’re too dependent on others (like mama’s boy) or, on the other hand, if you don’t know how to depend on others at all (you feel guilty if someone does something nice for you), you definitely have big emotional issues.
  • You feel threatened or jelly when something good happens to your friends and acquaintances, and you feel good when something bad happens to them.
  • You show no interest in other people, no curiosity and willingness to connect. You move through life as a self-sufficient emotional midget.
  • If you never listen to other people’s advice and even implement some of them into your life (when they make sense), you’re probably a full-of-yourself midget.
  • Broken promises, being unreliable and, as already mentioned, lying to people or even being a hypocrite make you a “big” emotional midget.
  • If you think you’re never wrong and that you can’t learn anything from other people, there’s a little emotional midget in you, isn’t there?
  • Do you get mad if your spouse takes a piece of food off your plate? Come on.

There are many other behaviors that clearly show if someone is an emotional midget, but we’ve looked at the 40+ most common ones. I guess it takes one to notice one or whatever. I think that the most important thing is that if you’re an emotional midget, usually because you weren’t raised in a loving and stable environment, then make sure you don’t do the same to your kids.

Here you can download the free checklist that can help you to identify repeating toxic emotional behavior and motivate you to do something about then. Nobody acts perfectly and nobody is a completely rational person, but you can definitely always improve yourself towards becoming a more emotionally stable and mature person.

All in all, the good news is that that you can do many things to grow up, stop being an emotional midget and start living a happy and stable life. It’s never totally the same as when you’re raised in an emotionally stable environment (you are a midget nevertheless :), but at the end of day, you can get pretty close to that and your life is definitely richer for an important experience. This can later help you to better manage life and have even more loving relationships with others, because you can understand them better. In one of the next blog posts, we’ll look at what you can do about being an emotional midget.

About the author

Consulting and management coaching

Blaž Kos has managed venture capital investments over the past 12 years and participated in the development of the start-up ecosystem in the region. Today, he advises companies on growth strategies, process optimization, the introduction of lean agile methods and the digitalization of business. In addition to the Slovenian blog, he also writes an English blog, which was selected among the 50 best bloggers in the world in the category of personal and business growth.
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