It is okay to outgrow your friend(s) who ain't growing and not feel guilty about it

Updated: Jun 17

A few days back, I was chatting with my friend with whom I have a good understanding and connection. We were discussing how life has changed drastically and that we had been barely able to stay connected with some of our old or even long-distance friends. While conversing, we both admitted how our younger selves were so quick to call people friends.

But now, when we think back and dig deeper into our previous relational dynamics, we hardly find any meaningful essence of true friendship there other than long-forgotten memories and a forsaken connection. And that's the very moment I asked myself this question: did I outgrow my friends? And is it okay to outgrow your friends without feeling any guilt?

Have you ever asked yourself why you outgrow your friends?

One of the main reasons our relationships with friends outgrow real quick compared to our relationships with family is because the former does not live in the same sphere of life as ours. Our spouses or siblings can grow together with us but our friends share a different scenario.

Let's make it simple for you to understand; our family is the one we owe by virtue of luck. We did not choose them. However, friends are the ones we make connections with by our own choice. We make friends because we find them to be the ones we need or because we are looking to share a mutual bond with someone.

But then comes the point where we start to GROW and TRANSFORM…..

Going through this transitional phase of life, we expect people, especially our friends to be with us on our journey. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, we want them to witness, understand or even go through that transition along with us - and that's where the problem occurs; when we impose upon them what they are not even ready to acknowledge.

Why our friends couldn't grow with us?

In the journey to self-awakening, our inner self starts to change, and that is when we begin to lose connection with the people and the surroundings we were previously attached to. Remember how some of us spend our early teens doing things, going to places, or making friends that now look strange to us. It is because we develop new values, outlooks, likings, and perceptions and have outgrown things unfamiliar to our new self.

We somehow enforce people around us to change so our new selves can resonate in harmony with our outer world. Because of the fear of being left alone, we want everyone to enter this new phase of life with us. But unfortunately, when people fail to align themselves with our awakened self, many among us cease their own growth. At times, people even shy away from the idea of self-growth on their own due to the fear of losing their beloved connections.

At first, I was also reluctant to admit that I am outgrowing certain people, yet losing interest or connections with some people is enough to make me understand how outgrowing is the only word that makes sense in this said situation. We have all felt incompatible with the people we once were addicted to, haven’t we? And, of course, no one wants to feel exiled from the surroundings that they have lived within their whole life. It is part of human nature to often judge our life choices by how people will react to and feel about them, instead of listening to our inner voice.

We somehow tend to outgrow friends mentally and emotionally without even realizing it. In fact, even after sensing this need to outgrow people, we hesitantly choose to stay silent or keep moving with them, either because of our attachments, insecurities, or other reasons.

Why is it so hard yet okay to outgrow friends?

I know it's hard to overcome that habit, familiarity, comfort, or sense of belonging, even if it restrains your growth, but that is how evolution works. You are evolving. You have become a different person - a better person. You cannot continue living the same traditional pattern with this new and improved character you have developed.

An unfortunate truth about growth is that not everyone has the courage to go through with it, and even if they do so, they would like for it to be a smooth transition, not a rollercoaster ride with overwhelming emotions. We think it cruel to ditch people we once called our friends. But trust me, what we think is cruelty or dishonesty towards friends is actually a form of self-love or a means of prioritizing ourselves over other meaningless attachments.

How can I know which friend to outgrow?

It's okay to outgrow a friend who only agrees with a specific aspect of your personality but feels insecure about you changing and progressing for the better. It's okay to outgrow people who drain your energy, manipulate you to feel bad about yourself, and are toxic to your progression. Even if you think you had previously shared a bond because of the trait or commonality that now seems toxic or unhealthy to your growth, you can still outgrow them.

As we age, we become inclined towards new life dimensions, opportunities, perspectives, and beliefs. However, every change you go through may not necessarily contribute towards your growth. But, as a thumb rule, if that change brings you peace, self-satisfaction, happiness, or stability, it is a sign of self-growth.

Some friends we outgrow were not even friends!

Sometimes, our friendship flourishes because we are the only ones making efforts for it. We go in with our full potential, even compromising our own growth in the process, just to make things work out. But that's not how it should be, dear. Remember, such friends are only using your energy and time to feel good about themselves. And once you start outgrowing them, they will make you feel guilty about prioritizing your own growth.

You are not selfish if you are being realistically straightforward about what stops your growth and leaving those things behind. If they are genuinely your friend, they will realize your need for growth and encourage you towards it, even if it comes at the cost of them getting outgrown.

Outgrowing friends is a part of your growth!

It's okay if you are stepping into your growth phase, but your friends are reluctant to. If your growing self radiates energy that no longer matches that of your friends, it's okay to let go of these friendships. It's okay to outgrow relationships that are resisting your growth. There is nothing negative about evolution. You can progress into the next stage of your life without any guilt. You are only responsible for your own growth, not theirs.

I know it's a hard pill to swallow, but people are not fond of you being changed, as they are only comfortable with your past version. They prioritize their own comfort over your growth and you also need to do the same. Some people do not want to grow, no matter how hard you try. They are comfortable being in a stagnant stage forever as they are scared of change. But does that stop you from growing? Certainly not!

Remember, when a flower does not bloom, we work on its surroundings to make it blossom rather than blaming the flower. Sometimes, we too, need to outgrow certain situations or attachments that fail to honor our growth. To keep attachments with such things will not only set back our growth but can also harm our present selves. Don't think of yourself as evil if you outgrow things you once thought you could never outgrow. When we focus on being the best version of ourselves, we tend to outgrow friends. Especially those friends who downplay our journey of self-realization.

But wait… do you know how to outgrow friends?

Now you know why it's okay to outgrow relationships! It's time for you to move on to the real hard task; to evaluate friendships that you have outgrown but that you are still holding onto unknowingly. Here lies the question: what is the best way to outgrow a friend without making them feel abandoned? Because, most often, cutting people off is the least preferred option anyone wants to consider.

Each relationship has its own dynamics, which differentiate from person to person. One litmus rule is that once you feel the need to outgrow a relationship but don't want it to end formally, you can choose to make a transition and redefine that relationship. To redefine a relationship means shifting a person to a different category on the relationship spectrum. For example, a close yet too controlling friend can become a class fellow, or a friend with an aggressive nature could become a long-distance colleague.

In some cases, we have no other choice left than to end that relationship because they are too toxic or unhealthy to sustain. Those who over-criticize you, manipulate your humbleness, or show displeasure towards your growth will never let you take anything productive out of this transition. Therefore, such energy suckers deserve to be called off without any second thought.

And last but not least come the friends who cannot be called toxic yet are not supportive of your growth either. Though friends with such vague approaches can not be explicitly cut off, they offer nothing good to your evolution. Still, they can remain your good friends, but it is up to you to decide how much time and energy you can invest in the said person.

Don't be guilty of outgrowing people!

Everything happens for a reason in your growth cycle, and outgrowing your friends is a part of it. You have to learn how to be unapologetic about growth. Remember, those who truly love you will make every possible effort to be in your life. They will never let you feel alone at any stage of your life. If there is someone, something, or someplace, not growing together with you, it is okay to cut the cord and let the two of you grow apart.

It is a tough call, but you need to decide whether to live stagnated, as you continue to put up with the same unhealthy relationship or to start embracing the exciting changes that are needed to build a better and stronger self.

Nonetheless, you are the captain of your ship, so be wise to decide whom to get along with. If a friendship causes you more harm than good, you have a valid reason to finish it off. If they remain neutral to your improved values, try to maintain a balanced relationship with them without prioritizing them over your true admirers and supporters.

The moment you decide to grow and unlearn irrational living patterns, the people you hang around with make the most difference in this regard. So, whenever you feel like your circle of friends is not helping you grow or, the worst, limiting your growth, it is high time to move on, dear. Again, it is important to understand neither of you are to blame for losing that compatibility because one cannot enforce their growth onto the other.

Losing friendships will never be easy for anyone, but it certainly gives you an opportunity to explore new people that come your way during the transitional phase. You can spend this precious time making connections and surrounding yourself with people you share mutual goals and interests with.

Please realize that growth is always uncomfortable. Irrespective of how long you try to withhold that change or keep working on the long-overdue relationships, your growth is inevitable. We tend to lose some relationships, habits, or friends, but remember, no relationship is worth more than your growth. Never give others the power to decide your potential of living life the way you want to. You have the freedom to let go of things that no longer serve your purpose in life. You do you. You deserve to live the life you always desired.


The author is an in-house writer at Perspective. This is what she wants you to know about her:

"I am Aatqa Ali, a food technologist by profession (I mean that's what my degree says) and a hopelessly optimistic writer at heart. Writing is the only thing that keeps me sane, and I love to write about what goes unheard and unspoken by the masses."

Instagram handle: @ali.aatiqa

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