Dear Charlene: “I’ve Outgrown My Friends”
Every month, comic and writer Charlene deGuzman answers your questions about love, loss, and loneliness.
Hi everyone! I’m Charlene deGuzman!
I’ve teamed up with FLOOD to offer you all advice, support, and hope! Every month I’ll be answering any of your heart’s questions on life, love, happiness, and any of the deepest places in between.
Let me introduce myself. I was depressed at age eleven. I never thought I could ever feel happy or lovable. I spent my whole life trying to escape the pain. My life was a mess until I got fed up and did something about it. And now, as a recovered sex and love addict, I am the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been.
I’m here to listen and help. Ask me anything at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your identity will remain anonymous.
I have been best friends with the same two girls since high school. The three of us have always been inseparable. Now we are out of college and we’re practically family. But lately, I’ve been feeling lost. I hate admitting this, but hanging out with them isn’t really that fun for me anymore. We’re no longer into the same things. I just don’t feel like I fit in, and I’ve been trying really hard to fit in for a couple of years now. I tried to pull back, stop hanging out as much, not text so much, and they noticed immediately. They make me feel guilty if I try to decline an invite, or they ask me what’s wrong. It feels impossible to get out of this. I have been loyal all these years and I can’t even imagine telling them how I feel. I’m afraid they will hate me or be mad at me or talk shit about me. I’m stuck. What do I do?
I am so sorry you’ve been going through this! This situation sounds very challenging. You have been friends with these women for a long time, so it makes sense that it would be difficult—not to mention confusing. I’m sure you love and care about them very much and don’t want to hurt their feelings. I’m also sure that they must love and care about you very much, too, so of course they are concerned when you pull back. Unfortunately, they can’t read your mind, and they won’t be able to understand what you have been going through until you tell them. I know that sounds terrifying, but just like I’m sure you want the best for them, I’m sure they want the best for you, too, even if it hurts or disappoints them. If they really have been your best friends, they will support you. At the least, you should be able to talk to them about it.
So what would be the best for you? Can you go deep into your heart and answer that question honestly? If you’re afraid of acting “selfish,” please know that you—only you—are responsible for yourself, no one else. So it’s your responsibility—only yours—to do what’s best for you. Life is short. You get to choose how to spend your time and energy. You only have so much to spend. Shouldn’t it be spent feeling good?
The people we surround ourselves with are very important to our well-being. When we spend time with another person, it’s as if we “plug in” to them. When plugged in, a person can either charge you up and leave you feeling fulfilled, or drain you and leave you feeling diminished.
This is a great way to check in with yourself and the people you are currently choosing. Just like with romantic partners, it is up to us to choose all of our relationships responsibly—relationships that feel good and nurture growth. And just like with romantic partners, it’s easy to get stuck in relationships that no longer serve us. Sometimes loyalty, familiarity, enmeshment, or fear of the unknown keep us stuck. It is a disservice not only to ourselves, but to the other people involved, too.
All of our relationships are reflections of ourselves. As you constantly grow and evolve, someone you may have vibed with in the past you may no longer vibe with now. This is a completely normal part of the human experience, and you have done nothing wrong.
All of our relationships are reflections of ourselves.
It’s okay if you don’t “fit in.” It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to change. You will change constantly for the rest of your life. You are a unique individual, your own person, so there’s no reason to waste any more time trying to “fit in.” You deserve to find your new tribe, your people—and they’re out there. You will know who they are, because it will feel good, it will feel right, and it won’t take a single ounce of effort to hang out with them, because you will be so comfortable just being your authentic self.
The best thing you can do is to be honest with yourself. And then, when you’re ready, be honest with your friends. Start a gentle conversation with the intention to speak from your heart, and come from love. Tell them how hard it’s been. Remind them how much you love and care about them. And then express what you need.
Do you need to step away for a while? Do you need a little space to figure it out? Do you want them in your life, but need a new set of boundaries?
Remember—what is best for you will ultimately be the best thing for your loved ones, whether they are aware of it or not. If they really loved and cared about you, they would want you to be happy, and want you to thrive. If you really loved and cared about them, you’d want them to have friends who were truly stoked to be there.
Expressing honest feelings to your loved ones can be scary. Change can be scary. But both can be very rewarding. As you continue to let go of the people and things that no longer serve you, you will create space for the people and things that do. You are creating that space for your friends as well. Moving forward, you will naturally attract friends into your life that make you happy, fulfilled, and excited. And your old friends will, too.
And that is the happy, fulfilling, exciting life that you all deserve. FL