Are Your ‘Friends’ Holding You Back?

A few years ago, I was learning to be more spontaneous in social interactions and practicing saying whatever popped into my mind without thinking twice. I ended up saying a lot of witty and creative stuff, combined with even more goofy and retarded stuff.

I remember that during that period, there was one condescending comment I would get once in while from some of my friends and other people who knew me. Or at least they thought they knew me.

“This Isn’t You”

That comment was like a subtle sting: “This isn’t you”, those people would say.

I was puzzled by the remark. What did they expect? I was getting out of my comfort zone and trying new ways of behaving socially in order to sharpen my people skills. Of course I was acting somewhat out of character!

I later started to notice that some of my communication coaching clients were getting the exact same comment from some of their friends during their conscious growth process. Often it was phrased in the exact same words, like some sort of popular slogan.

Why People Reject the Changes in Others

Let’s take a look at the psychology behind this occurrence. What you’ll learn may surprise you.

I think that most of the time, the people who make this kind of a remark, especially your friends, are not ill intentioned. It’s just that they are not used to people consciously changing and it’s something that goes beyond their comprehension.

You see, the average Joe or Jane out there barely changes anymore in terms of personality after the age of 18. If they do change, it’s not a voluntary change; it’s the involuntary results of an external change in their life: new job, promotion, marriage, breakup, business failure, etc.

They are used with adult people having a fixed and predictable personality. So when a person in their social circle voluntarily behaves in a new and unpredicted way, this can actually be anxiety producing for them. They don’t understand what’s going on because they don’t understand conscious growth, so they reject it.

There is another common explanation, and this one has less to do with ignorance. It has more to do with self-interest or envy.

It’s important to realize that for some individuals, your change is not in their interest. The friend who brags all the time doesn’t want you to start teasing them for being such an attention-seeker. The colleague who is less competent than you doesn’t want you to become more self-assured and advance your career, while their career is stalling.

The fact is that most people, as kind and noble as they like to seem, are actually quite egocentric. This is not necessarily bad for them, but it can be for you. On top of that add all the envious people out there, and it all makes sense.

Smart Comebacks for Dumb Comments

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to not take comments like the one I’m talking about too seriously. From my perspective, the best thing you can do is to just let them slide.

Occasionally, you may want to have a short comeback to that kind of a comment, but make sure you don’t get into a debate. Here are some smartass comebacks to the remark “this isn’t you”, for your inspiration:

  • Me is a very slippery concept right now.”
  • “That’s because I have multiple personality disorder.”
  • “Really? Well, who the hell is it then?”
  • “You’ve noticed” (my favorite, a James Bond line).

Whatever you do, don’t let such remarks from friends or other people in your life make you feel bad and give up on your self-improvement. If you know why you’re behaving differently and you believe it’s the right thing for you, that’s good enough.

In the long run, if the people you call your friends are constantly opposing your growth through their attitudes, whether it’s due to ignorance, self-interest or envy, it’s time to consider applying your people skills in changing your social circle.

If personal development is important for you, then you want the kind of persons in your life that value it as well, not the kind that don’t even know the concept.

Image courtesy of Brian Auer


  1. People like to place other people in a box. Whenever someone attempts to stretch the boundaries of the box comments and criticism can occur.

    I prefer to stretch my comfort zone as often as I can. Life begins outside your comfort zone.

    • Hey Justin,

      Well put. When you’re in a certain box in somebody’s head and you’re starting to jump out of it, they often don’t like that. They want you to stay in your own box. Reminds me of parts of the corporate world…

  2. I’ve had friends in the future that I used to hang out with because it was cozy, and convenient, but reflecting on it, I realized they have held me back. They haven’t challenged me to become better people, or to unleash my potential. Rather, they’re dudes that are happy with the status quo of working a dead-end job (or being unemployed AND not an entrepreneur), and just coasting thru life w/o any concrete goals or ambitions. Well screw them! Right?

    • Hi Henway,

      Right. Been there. These days, if I think about it, one of the best things about my friends is that they’re growing all the time and they’re stimulating me to do the same.

  3. Eduard,

    People are constantly trying to conform others to fit in a nicely packaged box. The problem with that is that when it occurs, they are inevitably cheating themselves, in a sense, out of knowing a person for their unique individualistic qualities and what that person would bring to the table. Great post, I thoroughly enjoyed the read. 🙂

    • Hey there Deeone,

      That box metaphor really caught my eye. It’s uncomfortable for me just to imagine a person in a box, like a piece of luggage.

  4. I really enjoy reading most of your posts. As a marketing professional, I’m alway analyzing how people respond and react so I find much of your content helpful. However, you really surprised me with the usage of the word “retarded” in the first paragraph.

    Keep the posts coming!

  5. Thank you for this article 🙂 this totally calmed me down. I was going under crazy stress when my friend embarrassed me in front of a person i was really getting to know well. This article totally eased the stress, thank you 🙂

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