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.
This growth or shift has happened to me several times in recent years, and each time, it’s always been difficult to extricate myself from relationships that no longer fit with the person I had become. When I was seventeen, I knew a girl at university named Ophelia. I found out later from my sister that her birth name was Jackie, but that she wanted to be known as Ophelia. Oh, was all I said. It really wasn’t a big deal to me, or anyone else for that matter, which was nice for her. I, on the other hand, have personally experienced past relationships where (now former) friends had a very difficult time letting go of my previous self and accepting the person I’d become. There are probably many complex reasons why the people we used to know don’t want to let us go (or grow). I’ve had the most challenging time with old friendships, people who knew me a long time ago, lost touch and found me again, and refused to see me as I am now, and not the person they once knew. It’s not always easy to break up with past relationships, but in order for us to continue to grow as humans, sometimes it’s the best course of action available, however unpleasant or painful at first.
This internet 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 internet 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. 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.”