Are Your Friends’ Good Intentions Holding You Back?

There’s an area of your life you want to change, but you can’t achieve it on your own. Who do you turn to for help? Perhaps, your family. More than likely, your friends.

Friendship is one of the most important support networks we have to rely on.

Whenever possible, we aim to surround ourselves with folk whose advice, opinions, and practical assistance we value. When the going gets tough, it’s reassuring to know that you have at least a few individuals on your side, ready with encouraging words or an objective point of view on a difficult situation.

But friends can actually stop you from moving forward with aspects of your life- without them knowing they’re doing it.

You might think that there’s no way those people you’d call your ‘friends’ would ever want to hinder your goals and ambitions. Surely that’s what your enemies are for. Usually, it’s not even deliberate… sometimes those with our best interests at heart can still stop us from growing.

The Limiting Effect of Familiarity

Over the course of any relationship, we grow accustomed to the other individual’s personality. We can confidently predict what someone will say or how they’ll react in a particular situation. Their habits become so familiar to us that we begin to expect them to behave in certain ways.

There is, however, a risk that our perception of our friend’s character becomes fixed. When this happens, we don’t allow them the potential to develop in new directions that challenge our set view of who they are.

When we restrict someone to only be what we’re used to them being, our actions towards them can subtly become negative. There might be the gentle put down remark instead of a compliment. Or the slightly misguided advice offered to point you on a different path than the one you want to go. It doesn’t mean these tactics to put you off are planned. Rather, they can be subconscious attempts to maintain the status quo within a relationship – one with which the other person is comfortable.

There are several possible reasons why a friend might be holding you back.

Fear of losing your friendship

The worry is that as you change, the dynamics of your relationship will alter too. Your friend may believe that the qualities which make you compatible with each other will disappear. Their insecurity means they think you’ll start liking them less.

Their own desire to change

Once you take steps towards achieving your goals, the other person has to ask themselves how satisfied they are with their own life. They may envy your ability to get on with the task, while they struggle to get started – if you can do it, why can’t they?

To stop you from making mistakes

Before you take action designed to improve your life, your friend may warn you of things that could go wrong if you go ahead. It’s good to have the benefit of this second opinion which can highlight consequences you hadn’t thought about. Listen to your friend’s point of view and carefully consider their opinion.

In the end, however, although they may regard your decision as a mistake, it’s your mistake to make. All they can do is to be there for you through the ups and downs which may come along as a result.

To protect your feelings

It is possible to be honest with someone and yet not tell them the whole truth.

When I was trying to lose weight, my friends would say I looked fine the way I was despite me knowing deep down that this was not the case. I wanted to be healthier and appear fitter. After I lost 98 pounds, I realized that they’d only said this so I wouldn’t feel worse at being overweight. Unless I’d been as determined to shed the weight as I was, my friends’ well-meant reassurances could have caused me to be complacent. I might not have bothered to put in the hard work of dramatically changing my eating habits and exercising more.

Kind words can keep friends from going forward as much as cruel ones.

Get the Backing of Your Friends

It is extremely useful to involve your friends in the early days as you plan the changes in your life. By explaining clearly what you want to do and why, there’s no doubt about your intentions. Any reservations your friends have can be addressed right from the outset.

As time goes on, you can judge the level of support you are getting from each of your friends. Be aware of how much – and in what way – they are encouraging you.

Ultimately, if you feel that a friend is proving to be a force against change – even after you tackle them about it – you have to decide whether that person is worth having in your life. Without mutual trust and support, there isn’t much point in maintaining such a negative bond. It’s a harsh reality of relationships, but sometimes friends have to be allowed to drift away.

It’s only natural that we want our friends to be our cheerleaders, pushing for us to do well. While it’s fantastic to have other people helping us along the way, any improvements in our lives are dependent on your own motivation, determination, and willpower.

Other people may seek to prevent you succeeding. But, just as no one can reach your goals and ambitions on your behalf, neither should you let anyone else stop you from getting there either.

Have you ever felt that any of your friends were sabotaging your efforts to live the life you want? How did you deal with the situation?

Please share your own tips and advice in the comments section.

About the author: Scott McIntyre writes about how you can live a colorful life – right now – at Vivid Ways. You can also add color-in your life by following Scott on Twitter.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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