Should You Feel Guilty When You Outgrow Friends?


Do you have friends who always stay the same? And do you also have friends who always grow and develop themselves? Both can be good friends, but the former will seem like a stranger to you one day.

Friendship is a tough nut to crack. It’s too emotional. Especially when it comes to long-lasting friendships.

For me, there are two main challenges:

  1. What’s a real friend?
  2. Is it okay to outgrow friends?

The first one, I’ve learned, is straightforward: A real friend is someone who cares about you. That’s all.

Aristotle put it well:

“My best friend is the man who in wishing me well wishes it for my sake.”

I think a lot of people have too high expectations of friendships.

  • “You always have to have each other’s back.”
  • “You always have to be there when you call.”

Friends are not slaves. Too often friendships are based on favors. I do this X for you; you do Y for me.

I don’t prefer to put that type of pressure on a friendship. Because what do you do when a friend disappoints you? You might think she is a bad friend. Some people start to talk bad about their friends. And that’s not friendship to me.

Most friendships fail because of high expectations. Its simple: Let go of the expectations, improve your friendship.

I prefer to build a friendship around understanding each other, sharing ideas, and most important; caring about the other person.

That’s straightforward. But the second challenge is less clear cut.

What about the people who used to be your friends?

Sometimes friendships start to fade and they turn into an obligation.

You no longer have things in common. The reason is not important: maybe you changed, maybe they changed.

But I don’t think that friendships should be forced.

It just happens that you outgrow each other. It’s not a big deal. But that doesn’t mean you should stop seeing each other or that you should declare to the world that the friendship is over.

You just see each other less. Why turn it into a big deal? I don’t get why people always stick to traditions, even if they don’t work anymore.

“It just doesn’t feel the same anymore. We don’t have the stuff to talk about.”

If you don’t have anything to say, just talk less.

This is true for personal and professional relationships. If you have a mentor, there comes a day that you outgrow her. It’s all a part of life.

Maybe you have a friend who wants to stay single forever and go to clubs every weekend. But you have kids. Or vice versa.

Again, it’s not a big deal. If you respect each other, you respect each other’s choices. You can still be cool. Again, just see each other less.

But some people never change. They get comfortable, and they stop learning.

Just because people don’t like to move forward, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t too.

And that’s the only thing we should be aware of with friendships. Sometimes friends hold you back when you set out to achieve something. They like the old you, and when you decide to change, they don’t like it.

Steven Pressfield put it best in his book Turning Pro:

“Those who are still feeling from their own fears will now try to sabotage us. They will tell us we’ve changed and try to undermine our efforts at further change.”

Don’t feel guilty. Just move on. Loyalty is a good thing — but not at all costs. In these cases, it’s perfectly fine to completely outgrow friends.

And as you move on, you meet new people who have faced the same challenges. You become friends with them. They are just like you, they moved on.

It’s also pointless to live in the past. Yes, you had good times in the past — cherish those times, but never forget that time only moves forward. And you might not be the same person as yesterday.

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
― Lewis Carroll

So why feel guilty? Seasons change. People change. And so do friendships.

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