Outgrowing friendships.

“But then I wondered if sometimes our friendships are a bit like clothes and when they start feeling uncomfortable it’s not because we’ve done anything wrong. It just means that we’ve outgrown them.” ―Zoe Sugg

You could spend years with mutual friends and still not know each of them behind closed doors. Special occasions could bring about everyone a special cocktail of memories and lingering vibes, then eventually everyone else goes about on their own ways. For one, friendships are one of the most (if not) complicated things for me, because no matter what I’ve done, I ask if I could’ve done better. I could hear a friend past midnight and would later still have room for doubts if I am showing them enough love and care. 

Sincerity, brutal honesty, frankness are utter hell for a doubtful yet understanding heart. Those qualities of mine would have been better suited for thick-skinned friends. My frankness would have a blast surfing the waves with conversations among like-minded individuals. Except not every one in our social groups can swallow a red pill. Especially when your red pill is laced with love but it ends up giving them the complete opposite effect, that they just don’t want to be hit with facts. They just want to be upset because nothing we say, can change how they think. Real tough.

Have a moment to yourself. I want you to think of all the friends you have met and known. Some you’ve known longer than the rest, some you’re still getting to know. There are also the ones you don’t talk often to but when you do, it’s the best moment of your life, and they bring out the best in you even in your darkest moments. Mentally or on a paper, list out your friends. Now highlight the names that share that mutual commitment to the friendship — those who reciprocate respect and support the things that matter to you.

Something like, “Hm, Alan gets my dark humour. Blake is the precious cinnamon roll who tries her best to make me smile. Cameron says he shares the same sentiments as me…” It goes on. Don’t ponder on who do you like better because you do care for them regardless. The names without the highlights — who are they? Why do their names come to mind?

The reasons are plenty.

Either you have known each other in high school and you feel bad for leaving them behind, or this person saw you through a difficult time and you “owe” it to him to stick around… even when he’s still the same since 14. Now this is concerning because everyone else grows.  You’ve changed as a person. Why has he stayed the same person since the first time you have known each other? Why is he not growing as a person?

First of all, you are not writing ABC’s anymore. You’re not wearing the same clothes from 10th grade, so why are you holding on to the friendship? Maybe, you are both feeling the same way. Maybe, the other side isn’t aware. Eventually, someone has to draw the line and walk away. You don’t “owe” anything to that person who was there for you as long as you have thanked them sincerely. Believe me, they will appreciate your honesty.

Let’s say you have an old, wasted cell phone that keeps freezing every now and then, even though you have more than enough money to actually buy a new cell phone. But you’ve had this cell phone for years; it’s been with you through thick and thin and it’s still with you for nostalgic reasons. Also, do you actually need a new cell phone? You’d think after so many oh-my-cellphone-is-randomly-crashing-again episodes, you would be wiser to get yourself a new one. It’s rather similar to friendships. 

Why in the world are you still browsing at hoodies, gawking at celebrities and having lattes with this person who is dragging you down? There is absolutely no reason for you to invest in that friendship. You have done your part trying to bring the best out of them. They are not taking it. Stop giving them that time and energy; give those to someone who would reciprocate. You are not responsible for these kind of people. It is not fair for you to hold onto them for fear of hurting their feelings. 

Deep inside, you know yourself better. You know when you have outgrown the friendship. Because the reality is people change, they grow as life goes on. You are growing, your core values and beliefs are changing. When you change, certain friendships can’t withstand that change. If a friend changes (and I meant for the worse) and you’ve tried, and you can’t handle how much they have changed, you can always move on. If it doesn’t work anymore, it doesn’t work. To pretend isn’t grown up.

I don’t think for a moment that anyone actually predicts that when a friendship fall out would happen precisely. I earnestly believe that once people all spend some time apart, there’s a possibility to rekindle something in the future. You never know how these things work out in life. Question is, How do you walk away? It’s a painful process. It hurts because the friendship served its purpose in its time, but now there’s no longer a need for it. It hurts even more because despite all the class lectures, group meetings, social gatherings, and late-night conversations on a beach; you were all integrated in each other’s lives from quite a young age. So how does one deal with outgrowing friendships?

Perhaps the most logical and constructive way to work through this is honesty. Have a mature conversation about it but don’t expect the other party to have the same opinion like you. There are possibilities that if the friendship has become dysfunctional or weak, the conversation may not end well or get cut off midway. Mentally prepare yourself for what might come such as some manipulation, gaslighting, social media slandering, and other drama (or if none of that happens, that’s great). As painful as that would be, it would be your definitive evidence of why the friendship should have ended. It just overstayed its welcome.

A face-to-face talk is undoubtedly the best way to go about this. Express your feelings clearly and truthfully, but if you feel strongly about texting instead (especially when circumstances do not allow you to meet), then do that. No matter how you go about with your words, avoid blaming and try your best to come from a place of love and compassion. Another plausible way is to let the friendship whither on its own. Stop pushing yourself to make the relationship grow if it doesn’t want to. Eventually it will wilt once you stop watering it. Your friend may or may not contact you asking what’s going on, and when that happens, tell the truth. Don’t ghost.

And I know it’s tough to talk with a person who is not confrontational at all, especially when it comes to matters that they have caused out of neglect or not thinking rationally. Remember, just because an individual is poor with confrontations, that does not excuse not talking to the respective person about it to deal with the conflicts. In the first place, it wouldn’t have to be confrontational if people could be direct about their feelings and take things with a grain of salt. Nothing has to be ugly unless one makes it out to be.

Whichever way you choose, I want you to not look back on it. In any case, I would like to pat your back for standing in integrity in such a situation where you know you’ve ended things in the best way possible. There is no reason for you to be tolerating or trying to nurture a friendship that doesn’t empower you, inspire you, and make you a better person. I think it’s time you meet another because you’ve gone too long without a smile. An unfulfilling friendship that has been going on aimlessly is essentially life clutter you need to sort out. The names that I’ve asked you to think about, who matters now?