The 8 Stages of Becoming a Human Being

Becoming a Human Being

Life is hard. It just is. But waking up is more fun than dreaming.


Being a person is difficult. It is a triumph of engineering that we can become as mature and put together as we appear most days. True, most of us are a combination of flesh and bone, cloth, hair gel, make up and deodorant. After millions of years on the planet, we are getting some things right.

We are born a person but it can take years to wake up, and some of us never get there. We have to work through different things before we wake up and become a contributing part of society. Scientists call this the stages of becoming a human being. I share these in an effort to support you to develop, but mostly so that you can assess your friends, your coworkers and your children to see how close they are to becoming a human.

No judgment allowed, just the smug satisfaction that you know things that other people don’t.

The 8 Stages of Becoming a Human Being

1.Shock – Being born is a shock. Most of us come into the world crying and then we leave the world drooling. For some of us, me included, the shock does not wear off. The only thing that gets us back to sanity is that our morning breath is a little like smelling salts.

It is fun to have other people take care of us and for most of us, we want to drag this stage as far as we can and for as long as possible.

2.Disbelief – Once we realize we have been born, there is the stage of wide-eyed-disbelief. We can’t believe how good we have it. Our parents cook for us, clean up after us, love and cuddle us, buy stuff for us and think nice things about us. This is a wonderful stage that some people never want to leave behind. It is fun to have other people take care of us and for most of us, we want to drag this stage as far as we can and for as long as possible. Many adults still expect to be taken care of by our parents, our workplaces, our government and our insurance companies.

3.Denial – The disbelief stage is warm and comfy. When reality hits us that life is difficult, smelly and a lot of work that can bring a load of denial straight down onto our smiling faces. It is painful to realize that no one will take care of you. Some of us decide to have children at this stage, hoping that at least we will have a little-buddy to love us and bring back the memories of the Shock phase.

4.Questioning – Questioning usually hits us when the fog of denial lifts. Pretending that life is here to take care of us, or that all of our needs will be quickly taken care of is one of the hardest things to give up. Some people regress and become more child like, because let’s face it, life can slap you in the face. But there are also days when life leaves you alone and that can be confusing. It takes courage to stare life in the face and ask the big questions:

Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? Can I really win the lottery? Where did I put my keys again? How the hell do you work this channel changer?

A well lived life is a life of questions, but few answers. Asking questions can make life more fun and interesting. This is one of the first stages where we realize we are waking up.

Big words like responsibility, honesty, vulnerability and emotions can scare us back to some of the more heavily padded stages. After all, diapers are a form of addiction.

5.Projection – This is a nasty stage. No way of sugar coating it. We realize that life is hard, that life can feel meaningless, that work is not fun every day and that relationships take a lot of effort. Some of us want to bail at this phase. We can try to shock ourselves back a few stages, but that never works. So projecting our pain and our upset feelings onto other generations, authority figures and celebrities becomes our preoccupation. We realize that it is way more fun to invest our time in gossip, story telling and a little judging. Our minds make up stories about how life is out to get us, how other people have it so much easier than we do or how confused and stupid everyone else must be.

6.Minimization –  If we make it this far, this stage can feel like a rebirth. We face life head on and survive. Then we realize that we can pretend our way through things. This feels a little like denial. True, it takes a lot of energy to pretend all of the time, but that helps us burn our calories for the day and helps the brain to stay young because it is working overtime.

glasses7.AcceptanceWow. Making it to the acceptance phase is a true miracle. One day, we wake up and then we look around, think for a bit and then we really wake up. We see life with it’s pain, sweat, hard work, flabby belly-ness, bad breath and wrinkles. We finally get to the place where we could care less about trying to cover up all of our smells or our weirdness. We are a person and other people just have to live with it. This stage is a little bad-ass and it can be a lot of fun. But it’s not for the kids, because some people don’t like acceptance. Projection is way easier and a lot less accountable. Big words like responsibility, honesty, vulnerability and emotions can scare us back to some of the more heavily padded stages. After all, diapers are a form of addiction. 

8.Problem Solving – I have to be honest. Very few of us make it here. I sure haven’t. I’m pretty bad at solving problems. No, this is not the male fix-the-problem mentality. That would be gender bias. Evolving as a person is not just about fixing stuff. Otherwise plumbers would be the fourth part of the trinity. Problem solving builds on acceptance and honesty. It’s where we accept life for it’s good and it’s bad and despite that we try each day to make the planet a little better.

We become realistic, but we actually give a flying crap about other people, about the work that we do and the way that we live:

  • We try to be 1% better each day. Just a little better.
  • We try to eat healthy.
  • We listen, really listen, to what other people are saying.
  • We don’t litter any more.
  • We don’t just live for our vacations or the next Netflix binge. Yea, this stage is damned scary.

I hope you find yourself in the stages and that you are happy with where you are at. Becoming a human is about waking up, and that can be a scary thing.

Remember that you are not alone. Join our tribe. We are all over the idea of waking up and trying to become just a little better and making the world just a little better. And then we get to have a nap again. Life is good.

Keep it Real


Photos by Joshua Rothhaas and smswaby

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