Breaking Down Internet Aphorisms No.01: Growth & Change

A better version of ourselves

Breaking Down Internet Aphorisms No.01: Growth & Change
via @le_cime

WE’VE ALL SEEN them before: internet aphorisms⏤those pithy observations containing a general truth⏤floating about on Instagram and tumblr. They encapsulate commonly shared sentiments, observations, or offer pieces of advice, and we sometimes repost them or save them because we relate to them, and sometimes they make us think about things in a different light. In this new TIG series, we’re breaking down our favourite web sayings, the ones that we’ve saved and thought about often. The first on our list is, “We outgrow people when we outgrow a version of ourselves.”

From a psychological perspective, this adage suggests that personal growth and development can lead to changes in our relationships with others. As we mature and evolve, our values, interests, goals⏤and even overall identity⏤may shift. As a result, we may find that some of our previous relationships no longer align with our current selves.

Personal growth often necessitates ending relationships that no longer fit, something I’ve experienced several times in recent years. With each shift and personal progression, it has proven difficult to detach from once-compatible friends who struggle to let go of the person they once knew. When I was seventeen, I was acquainted with a university student who went by Ophelia. Later, I learned from my sister that her birth name was Jackie. “Oh,” I simply remarked at the time, unfazed by her chosen new identity. Reassuringly, no one else in our social circle made an issue of it either. For me, however, subsequent personal transitions have not unfolded as effortlessly. Past friendships have ruptured because former friends struggled to let go of the past and my previous self. The complex reasons people cling to outdated versions of us notwithstanding, the greatest challenges often come from old friends who lost touch and reconnected, expecting us to be exactly the same as they left us. As excruciating as the dissolution of these renewed bonds may be, it is sometimes required to grow and evolve. However difficult in the moment, releasing relationships that limit our identity development is often the healthiest path forward. However unpleasant at first, letting go of relationships that constrain our identity development is often the healthiest path forward.

This aphorism acknowledges that personal growth is an ongoing process, and as we learn, change, and develop, our needs and desires may transform as well. (See here for my discussion on updating your priors.) As we strive to become the best version of ourselves, we may outgrow certain aspects of our personality, beliefs, or behaviours that were once compatible with the people around us. This divergence can create a sense of disconnection or incompatibility with those who haven’t experienced similar personal growth or who remain attached to an earlier version of themselves.

Outgrowing the people we used to know (and perhaps loved, either romantically or as friends) doesn’t necessarily mean that we become better or superior to them. It simply means that our individual paths and journeys have diverged, leading us in different directions. It’s a natural part of personal development and self-discovery. And as we outgrow and move away from these past relationships, we need to recognise that it doesn’t diminish the value or significance of the connections we once had. It is, at the core, a reflection of the dynamic nature of human relationships and the evolving nature of our personal identities.

This aphorism also highlights the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who support our growth and who resonate with our current values and aspirations. As we evolve, it becomes essential to seek relationships that nurture and encourage our ongoing development rather than stifle or impede it. Of course, this doesn’t mean completely cutting off people from our past, but rather, allowing space for new connections that align with our present selves. Which brings me to a quote by Roy Bennett, who once said, “Surround yourself with positive people who believe in your dreams, encourage your ideas, support your ambitions, and bring out the best in you.”