Just So You Know, It’s Okay To Outgrow Friends

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Joshua Sazon / Unsplash

I didn’t know it was happening at first. In fact, it wasn’t till I got to the point of Googling ‘How to tell if you’ve been outgrown’ and finding very little in terms of relevant hits that I felt like this was something that needed to be written. I couldn’t really tell what was going on, and truly, it wasn’t until I found myself thinking the very words ‘Maybe I was just outgrown’ that, for once, it all made sense.

Getting outgrown started off insidiously. The episodes that reflected growing distances seemed like coincidental misfortunes at first, each with a perfectly innocent explanation: they simply forgot to respond. Something came up and they had no time. They got sick. They didn’t get sick, but just didn’t feel like it…it did nag at me a little how these had never been issues in the past, yet I didn’t dwell on it, because despite that, these ‘episodes’ were interspersed with random incidents where they convinced me that they were still ‘there.’ It’s not like these ‘reasons’ were entirely unreasonable, either, so initially I was inclined to think it was ‘just a phase’…but after a few months the overall trend became undeniable.

Despite my transition from ‘I might be overreacting’ to ‘Okay, we’ve definitely got a problem here,’ I still felt alright, because I thought I’d caught onto the issue while it was still in its infancy. In this (misguided, as hindsight tells me) relief at ‘having caught the problem early,’ I found quite the vigor to ‘fix it,’ and went all out with trying to maintain a connection. If they’d forget to call, I’d remind them; if they’d disappear on me, I’d talk myself into being proactive and reach out to them; if they’d go silent, I’d come up with some silly reason to talk to them…you get the idea. I did all I could to maintain an open line of communication, and at times it did become awkward and uncomfortable, but I kept trying nonetheless because I was convinced that this was something worth ‘fighting for.’

It got me nowhere. Mind you, at the time, I wasn’t focused on trying to get to the cause of the problem – rather, I was just trying to salvage the relationship. It’s possible that if I’d have stopped to work out why this was suddenly happening, I would have had my answer and my chase wouldn’t have gone on for so long, but at the time I was consumed by the more imminent panic of things falling apart and an urgency to ‘fix it.’

The high of feeling like I was taking things into my own hands instead of letting them passively slip away gave way to frustration, predominantly, and the only person I was mad at was myself because I thought I’d ‘woken up’ too late. I was convinced that it had gotten this far only because I had been too self-centered to notice earlier.

Even then, I didn’t give up hope. It didn’t have to be too late – and I’d woken up now, hadn’t I? Or maybe I was on the right track, but I just needed to give it time…so I berated myself for being both narcissistic and impatient and kept trying to hold on.

There were moments when it would hit me that actually, I wasn’t repairing things as much as I was chasing someone who didn’t want to be chased and that I should just stop, but those moments didn’t last too long, because the voice in my head would tell me that that was being defeatist. I’d tell myself that I was only reacting that way because my ego wasn’t used to being ‘rejected’, and that giving up so easily meant I was too arrogant and proud, so maybe I was just getting what I deserved…which was reason enough for me not to give up.

I ran about in this self-made-hamster-wheel-from-hell for a very long time: I’d decide that I couldn’t be that egotistical, get right back to the start with trying to ‘fix’ it and ‘be a better person’ (which was confusing, because I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing wrong – had I not made enough of an effort earlier? Or was I now being suffocating? Should I try to reach out? Or am I being too much?), only to make no progress and feel like giving up. Which, you know, wasn’t an option.

I don’t even know how that wheel dislodged and slammed into a wall that put a stop to all the spinning – but it happened when the word ‘outgrown’ cropped up – and fit.

All of a sudden, anger and frustration were no longer my primary emotions. I felt confused instead – how had it actually happened? When? And, most importantly, why?

If I’d felt crappy before, it was nothing in comparison to believing the answer to ‘why?’ was that I’d just not been good enough to keep around.

I guess it’s a good time to mention how I haven’t always had the best self-esteem (and I’m still working on it), and all of this came at a point when I was at one of my deepest troughs, so this ‘confirmation of my absolute worthlessness’ was overwhelmingly devastating. Adding salt to the wounds was this thought I had about how I’d always known I wanted to change this-and-that about me, and that it’s only because I’d ‘slacked’ that I’d been left behind.

It’s true what they say about time being a great healer though, and after my initial jolt at hitting rock-bottom, my head started to clear. What was done, was done. It didn’t matter what I’d done right or wrong, or whether I should have been this person or that – first, I just had to accept that it was over.

This is where a lot of that Googling I mentioned earlier happened, and even though I didn’t find much of what I’d hoped for, I did get plenty of ‘it’s okay to outgrow your friends.’ I won’t lie, it was reassuring to think that there are people being outgrown all the time. I wasn’t a unique case – I was simply one of those ‘friends.’

Once I swallowed my pride and accepted that I’m not really indispensable, things actually got really easy. It was as though the acceptance was the bottleneck – thereafter, I was in free flow moving on.

I found that I had two main angles to look at this from. One, that just as their journey was taking them away from me, I was on my own journey too, that just as ‘equally’ led away from them. Phrasing it this way reminded me to focus on my own journey rather than demean myself for not being good enough for theirs. Two, the fact that it bothered me that much meant that it was high time to start working on myself, using this experience as ‘incentive’.

I couldn’t be sure that those self-perceived shortcomings of mine were to blame, but I figured, it wouldn’t hurt to work on them so that in the future they wouldn’t be possible culprits. Even here, my focus moved to change and I began a new journey that didn’t leave me with energy to sit around mourning what was gone.

As I write this, it’s been a few months since I got to that headspace, and so far, it’s all going well. A lot has changed – and I’m happy to report that I’m closer to being the person I hope to become than I was back then. What’s more, now I know without a doubt that I had, indeed, been outgrown.

And more than that? That’s not such a bad thing, after all. TC mark

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