When we were kids, we outgrew our clothing, sometimes at an alarming rate. (I vividly remember one summer when my older daughter needed a new pair of sneakers every three weeks.) Later, as we changed from childhood to our teenage years, we outgrew our interests. Some of us have outgrown jobs and found new jobs. I’ve certainly outgrown certain habits—and my life is better for it.
In general, outgrowing (except for my clothing!) feels great. I like that feeling of emergence, where I feel like a butterfly escaping its chrysalis.
But, sometimes, outgrowing feels uncomfortable to me. Especially if I feel as if it’s time for me to admit I outgrew a friend.
We all have our preferred patterns, and I know some of my patterns do not fit other people. As we change how we live, our friends have the choice to stay where they are or join us. Or, at minimum, allow for our changes.
Some people prefer their older patterns. And that often feels uncomfortable to me.
When my friends stay “stuck” (how I perceive their choices), I realize I’ve lost something of value.
And I don’t mean a transactional approach to the original friendship. I mean that we both found value in the relationship—but I no longer do.
I’m pretty sure that I’m mourning the loss of that value when I feel that kind of uncomfortable. Worse, when I finally I outgrew that person, I realize this situation has been brewing for a long time.
It doesn’t matter if we both grew apart or one of us did—we both need to learn to see what’s changed.
See When Your Relationships Change or Need to Change
Friends are nothing like the processes we use at work. So, no, I’m not going to recommend you assess your friends as you do your work.
But I do recommend you see the reality of how you feel when you see or talk with these friends.
You are probably better than I am at identifying your feelings. I’ve been practicing, but I still don’t always understand what I feel. Here are some feelings I’ve identified when outgrowing friends:
- Physical discomfort: do I have a headache, stomach ache, or some other physical manifestation of my emotional discomfort?
- Frustration: Why isn’t this friend willing to consider alternatives? Why are they still thinking and acting that way?
- Boredom: I want to do anything else than be here, with this person.
My feelings help me see my reality. Then, I can choose what to do.
Consider Your Choices when You Outgrow Friends
Here are three options I see:
- Limit the time you spend with this friend, especially if this person is part of a group that you enjoy spending time with. However, I recommend you reflect after each time you spend with these people. I often realize I enjoy this time together less and less.
- Avoid difficult discussions. I don’t think this is even possible for me. No, I tend to bring up the issue we disagree the most on, as soon as I see this person.
- Stop seeing this friend altogether.
In the past, I’ve started with limiting time. I now stop seeing this friend in real time. I used to email or text them—now, I just stop.
I don’t mean “just” as in this is easy to do. No, I don’t find the stopping friendship easy. However, I realize this: life is too short to spend on placating other people. I want my best life now and in the future.
I can always restart the friendship. And if I can’t restart? Well, how much of a friend was that person in the first place?
I don’t enjoy the idea of stopping friendships. But we each have a responsibility to create our best lives. And sometimes, that means recognizing when we outgrow our friends.
That’s the question this week: When did you last outgrow a friend—which allowed you to create your better life?