How to Deal With Friends Who Hold You Back

The friendships you develop in life will help you navigate it.

Apart from our apparent primal need to seek comradery and social connection, friendships also contribute to our personal growth. The friends you develop in the professional realm will allow you to take advantage of opportunities you may not have had access to alone.

Friends help us when we experience difficult life events, and can serve to connect us with others whom we go on to call close. Your friends in life form the social bracket you fall into.

Being pressured by the ones you surround yourself with can come with negatives. You’ll have a difficult time should you try to break free from any aspect which your friends hold a valued identity in. Efforts to improve your own identity and way of being can be met with resistance. Our friends are subject to the same ways of thinking, emoting, and acting that all humans are also subject to.

This article will propose tips for breaking free from negative social pressures you may be placed under by your friends.

Attempting to “break free” in this case involves needing to reject propositions from your friends which you’ve previously accepted.

An example can be refraining from attending unproductive hang-out sessions in order to hit the gym, or discontinuing falling to the pressure to smoke when others around you light one up. The pressures our friends place us under can also hold us back from more important things; like catering to family and working on getting a business off the ground.


Be Careful Making Them Feel Inferior

Before you attempt to break free from some of the pressures your friends place you under, take some time to think about whether they will feel inferior should you distance yourself from them. Say for instance, you were to start a business and would be significantly less available from their standpoint. Would they feel like you are selfish in your desire to improve? Our absence from our regular social circle can be perceived as a message of superiority being communicated.

Be sure to present reasons for breaking free from social pressures without an aura of superiority. Do not believe that you are better than your friends for doing what you’re doing, rather, treat it as something which simply must be done. Making sure your friends don’t feel inferior in the face of presenting your reasons for breaking free depends largely on the language that you use.

Describe your reasons for being absent as experiments, make the things you’re tasked with attending to seem undesirable, and make them seem like a chore rather than being driven by your interests. It is important to not make your new interests and responsibilities seem as more desirable than spending time with friends. Send the message that if you could control it, you’d wish to continue spending time with these friends of yours. However, the circumstances which you find yourself under simply don’t allow it.


For example, say:

“Hey John, I don’t think I can make it to the bar tomorrow night. I was actually looking forward to it and would come if it wasn’t for this assignment taking up every minute of my time.”

  • The assignment in the example above seems like something undesirable, and hanging out with John seems like something you’d rather do more. Your friend would perceive your rejection a little differently if you were to say something like this:

“Hey John, I have to do an assignment which is important for my admission into grad school, so I can’t go to the bar with you tonight.”

  • In this instance, the assignment is made out to seem more desirable than the time you were planning to spend with John. John, in this case, is more likelier to develop feelings of envy and inferiority. Keep the way you present rejections to social obligations in mind. Always make them seem more desirable to you than anything else you have set your mind on doing.


Yearning to Honestly Help Your Friends Improve

Should your friends still develop feelings of envy for the things which replace your spending time with them with, be willing to assume the role of an educator. Be charitable with your methods and tactics in improving yourself.

If your friends inquire, don’t ignore their inquiries into what you are doing instead of spending time with them.

You may need quiet time to focus on reading, writing, working out, or a myriad of other tasks of self-improvement. You’ll learn along the way toward improvement, and it would only benefit you to be charitable with your knowledge.

Being completely open and willing to improve those around you will lessen their negative perception of you spending less time with them. You will be someone they begin to depend on for beneficial information and will be more accepting of you being missing for long periods. In such cases, they will experience something in return for you going off and doing what you deem to be beneficial.

Should your friends begin to ask what you’re up to, contextualize your answer with a focus on improving them, rather than presenting a case for why you’re improving yourself.

Look out for their interests in the conversation at hand. They are more likely to care about what they can learn from you rather than simply what you’ve been doing. Even if you begin to say what you’ve been up to, they’ll have follow-up questions which pertain to their interests. Cut to the chase and mention what they can gain from partaking in the same behavior.

Successfully educating your friends about your journey toward self-improvement is a win-win situation. Your friends will feel like your act of being less available rewards them with valuable information, and you’ll surround yourself with similar-minded people. They will be more likely to understand the new patterns of behavior which you adopt, resulting in you experiencing less push-back for following your interests.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.