Feeling like your progress in life is delayed? These are the upsides to being a ‘late bloomer’

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Samuel L Jackson became an A-lister in his 40s, Laverne Cox became famous when she was 41, and the late Gee Sixty Five became a viral music sensation at age 65.
Samuel L Jackson became an A-lister in his 40s, Laverne Cox became famous when she was 41, and the late Gee Sixty Five became a viral music sensation at age 65.
Jeff Kravitz/Getty/Jeffrey Mayer/Supplied

You were the last to start dating or developing adolescent attributes in your group of pre-teen friends. When it came to sex, drinking or clubbing, you were a varsity senior before you started experimenting.

Then came the graduation, having kids and marriage stage. Again, these "developments" either seemed to pass you by or find you long, long after your peers had ticked them off their lists.

The feelings that come with believing you're a late bloomer are mainly experienced by those raised in strict households or conservative environments. “You’ll find that a lot of people who feel they are late bloomers were raised in very strict faith-based households, with strict rules in place about what they can or cannot do," says therapist Paula Quinsee.

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"They are not exposed to the same life experiences as their peers. That’s why I say it’s not fair for people to say you’re a late bloomer and feel that they’re so late to everything, as it was because of their circumstances.”

Paula explains where the idea stems from for many people. “The idea of being a late bloomer only comes up when people are exposed to something they haven’t been exposed before, the sudden awareness is what makes them feel like they are lacking," she says.

"So if you’re a girl in high school for example, you could start feeling like you’re a late bloomer because your peers are developing things like boobs faster than you are and you start to notice it. Or when you’re older and you see your peers getting married and having babies, you might feel like you’re behind.”

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The feeling of being a late bloomer can also be caused by feeling like you’re behind in your career progress compared to your peers, she adds. This can be exacerbated by seeing people on social media achieving things such as buying homes and expensive cars at a young age.

“As South Africans we are quite an image-conscious society. We care a lot about the type of cars people have, where they live and what job title they possess, compared to overseas where if a person works at a Target it’s seen as a perfectly normal and okay thing to do because it helps them make a living," Paula observes.  

Perspective is important in evaluating your progress, the therapist advises.

“We get stuck in a comparison trap when we see people our age more successful, when in reality we don’t know the journey they have had to take and what challenges they may have overcome to get there."

"It’s important to look at our own hustle and celebrate what we ourselves have achieved. But we tend to be dismissive and think we just got lucky, instead of recognising that it was our efforts that paid off. When you’ve earned your achievements it’s okay to cut yourself some slack.”

There are upsides to being a so-called late bloomer too, adds Paula. “It means you’ve had more time to figure out and decide who you are and what you want for yourself in a partner and relationship. 

“You’ve probably also taken the time to tick some things off your bucket list before settling down with a partner and kids.

"And more younger couples are having kids at a later stage. People want to be financially stable first before starting a family.

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