I’m not the same person I was at this time last year. I’m truly happy about that because I’m in a much better place mentally and soulfully (is that really a word? Not sure but I’m using it anyway because I can!). But I just realized that not everyone feels the same about the new me. I don’t know if any of you guys have experienced this yet, but when you’re working on personal growth or going through a major life transformation it really changes you – to the point where some friends and family may feel like they don’t know you anymore or just don’t get the new you. They might even be scared by or jealous of the person you’ve become. I actually experienced this last week and I was totally taken by surprise – by my best friend in the world…
I met up with Dasha for what I thought was just going to be just another fun lunch with my best friend but turned into a real open, honest, vulnerable, heart to heart conversation. Little did I know, it was much needed. I found out she had really been struggling with this “new me” that had emerged in the last couple of months of my personal growth journey. She felt like I wasn’t the same Ali she knew and loved. She was questioning whether or not we still had things in common, whether or not we could even still be friends. She said it was really hard to read my blog because the person writing the blog didn’t seem like me.
I was totally caught off guard. I had no idea she was feeling this way! Looking back, I guess I had never really stopped to think about how my own personal growth journey would affect the people in my life. In reality, your changes affect everyone around you, it’s like a ripple effect. I should’ve known! We are all connected, especially the people closest to you, no one lives in a vacuum. But I was just so focused on my own personal growth that I hadn’t stopped to think about how my changes would affect my relationships.
While I was off in my own world working on my personal growth/spiritual self, I had sort of been leaving my past life behind, which included my friends and family. While I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, I did mean to exclude people, at least for a good portion of this internal reflection time. Why? Because I needed time alone, a lot of it, to sort out my feelings and to get better in touch with my true self, aka my soul.
I actually wrote a post about why everyone needs to spend more time alone and how it helps us align with our true selves. I was purposefully isolating myself so that I wouldn’t be influenced by the people, messages or media around me in order to focus solely on myself, getting connected with my soul and pursuing my personal growth actively and passionately. I just assumed that once I was ready to share this new self with the world, my friends and family would be there waiting with open arms.
But Dasha made me realize that to other people this change seemed abrupt and kind of out of no where. To my friends it was as if I disappeared for a few months and then when I re-emerged I was radically different with no warning. Talk about invasion of the body snatchers ;). I’m sure to them it felt inauthentic, maybe even a bit creepy! Here I was, all happy and proud of myself for really working hard on my own personal growth, not realizing that I was actually alienating friends and family in the process.
They all knew I was dealing with health issues but I didn’t really tell them about the personal growth and spiritual transformation journey I was embarking on. Honestly, it’s because I didn’t really even know that I was either. I just knew something had to change but I didn’t realize how different I would become in the process.
While it’s only natural for you to outgrow friends, especially during times of radical personal growth and change, it doesn’t always have to happen that way. One of the scariest parts about self discovery, personal growth journeys and soul-searching and why a lot of people just avoid these is that we’re scared of becoming estranged from all that we know. We won’t be the same person anymore. We may lose friends, even family, in the process when they don’t support the new you. You might learn things about yourself that cause you to completely change who you are, your career, lifestyle, habits etc. That can be terrifying.
The good news is you’ll make better, truer friends, you’ll be in a better place overall and you will be happier and more fulfilled. More good news: you don’t have to lose the friends you don’t truly want to lose. There are some friends who you know it’s time to move on from when they just don’t share your outlook on life and aren’t willing to support the new you, but there are also usually ones who are worth your time and effort to evolve the friendship. Dasha was one of those friends I just couldn’t bear to lose.
So here are a few tips I have for making this process with your friends and family go a little easier and what to do when they just don’t get the new you, based on my own personal experience.
Take the time to explain what’s going on to your loved ones
This is something I didn’t do in the beginning that I really should’ve. My family and my closest friends knew I was hurting but to be honest most of them don’t know how bad it really got because I didn’t open up about it. I mostly kept it to myself and put up a strong front for everyone except my moms and my boyfriend Matt. Regardless of whether or not you’re dealing with a difficult illness or just taking a serious look at your life and deciding you want something different out of it, you should take the time to explain to friends and family how you’re feeling. Explain why you’re committed to self-improvement and personal growth.
Yes, you’re going to feel vulnerable and you might fear the conversation. I did, that’s why I didn’t do it. But in the end this only made my good friends feel alienated and pushed out of my life and that’s certainly not what I wanted. It can even be as simple as meeting for coffee and saying something like” I’m going to be doing a lot of self-reflection and working on my personal growth over the next couple of months so things may change. But just know that you are a big part of my life, I love you and I want to keep you as involved as possible, it may just take a few months for me to sort through things first. Your patience and support would mean the world to me.”
Related Post: What Happens When You Spend Time Alone
2. Grow with them
Don’t assume you have to go on a personal growth journey alone. Often when we tell close friends about our plans to becoming the best versions of ourselves, they want to go along for the journey. I didn’t give my friends or family a chance to do this. Most likely because I was still dealing with my health issues and just didn’t like being around people at this point in time, but if you have the capacity to open up your journey to others – do it! Commit to sharing your journey with them and you’ll all get more value from it and probably enjoy the process a lot more. Often when we go through personal growth we grow apart from friends. Don’t let this happen if you don’t want it to. Choose to grow with them and make a point of sharing your experiences and lessons learned with them. Share the books, blog posts, stories you find helpful, share your feelings and experiences along the way. Who knows, your friendship could blossom even more.
3. Be vulnerable and honest
We’re all scared to share our deepest and truest feelings for fear of being judged or shot down. But our best friends and family members, at least the ones that truly love us, will appreciate our openness and willingness to be vulnerable with them. At least, that’s how my conversation went with Dasha. We were both honest about our situations and feelings and both laid everything out on the line. In just an hour we grew even closer just be being honest and open with each other. She finally understands what I went through, how I became the person I am now and the meaning behind this blog. She was so happy to finally merge the two versions of Ali she was struggling with before. So be open and transparent about your journey and keep your friends in the loop along the way, at least as much as you can while getting enough of your alone time.
4. Keep an open mind and listen
It takes two to make a friendship, so make sure you’re also listening and willing to take what your friend says to heart. Their feelings matter too, even if they’re not exactly what you want to hear. Listen with an open mind and heart, hear their side of things. When Dasha was telling me how hard it was for her to read my blog and connect to it and how she was worried we didn’t have anything in common anymore, I could’ve shut down and pushed her away but that’s not what a good friend does.
A good friend listens, takes in what their friend has to say because their feelings are real. We must appreciate when friends are being vulnerable with their feelings and make sure they feel heard. You may get negative feedback or criticism. This most likely has to do with their own insecurities or fears. Try to remember that they are scared to lose you and approach any seemingly negative comments with love. You might feel attacked but remember that they are scared to lose you and react with compassion, not anger or resentment. Make it clear that you want to grow with them not apart from them but you need their support. By keeping an open mind and listening, Dasha and I were able to talk through her confusion and fears and end up even closer than we were before.
5. Do something together that the new you is into
Share your new self with your friend by doing something together that you value. Maybe it’s doing yoga together, reading the same personal growth book, listening to the same self development podcasts, enjoying some friend time while adult coloring, whatever! Just do something together that shows your friend you want to continue growing with them, not apart from them. Make them feel included in this new life of yours so they feel welcome.
6. Don’t force it
Your friend might not like the person you’ve become. Maybe they’re jealous, maybe they just aren’t supportive or accepting. If this is the case, it may be time to move on, unfortunately. This often happens when people change dramatically; you may outgrow relationships and need to find new ones that help you thrive as opposed to hold you back. It’s a natural part of change but it can be really traumatic and sad. Just know that if this happens, it’s meant to be and you will find better, more supportive friends for the new you. Make the effort to include your friend but if they’re just not having it or being constantly negative, it’s time to move on.
7. Lastly, be sure to stay true to yourself and the new you
When we finally open up to friends about our personal growth changes it can be a bit threatening to our new identity. We may feel pressure or just naturally start to fall back into old habits, patterns and behaviors simply by being around the same people. Don’t let this happen! You changed for a reason, remember why you changed in the first place and what you’re working towards. Keep reviewing your goals and vision when you feel yourself falling back into any old patterns you are trying to stay away from.
Don’t let friends or family pressure you into doing anything you don’t want to do anymore. If you have friends who like to start drama and that’s something you’re trying to avoid, try to walk away from the situation or make it clear you don’t want to participate in it. If this is the straw that breaks the camels back (of the friendship, that is) so be it. The new you most likely wants to be surrounded by positivity, joy and drama-free people, right? Make sure it stays that way!
We have to remember that personal growth journeys don’t just affect us. They can affect the dynamics of relationships with romantic partners, friends, family, and co-workers. We are not isolated creatures. All of our behaviors and actions affect others, most especially the people we are closest to. Make an effort to keep the good friends around by being open, honest and vulnerable with them about your personal growth journey and allowing them to participate where they can. Equally as important – make an effort to say goodbye to the friends who don’t support you on your journey towards personal growth and improvement.
Best of luck on all your journeys!