How to Escape the Toxic Friends Holding You Back

Do you ever wish your friends and family were more supportive of your goals? I’ve received emails from many people who feel their social group is holding them back. Right when they want to improve their life in some way, their friends abandon them, reacting with hostility.

I experienced this when I decided to switch to a vegetarian diet. I had spent several months researching the diet and was interested in the potential health and energy benefits. But unfortunately, this decision was also accompanied with hostility. I must have received a dozen negative responses to every word of encouragement.

Some people discouraged me from going to live in France. Other people discouraged me from starting an online business. Depending on the goal, how unusual it is, and the impact it has on other people, any new goal can stir up negative reactions.

On the other hand, I’ve had genuinely supportive relationships. Friends that encouraged me when I was trying to get in shape. Friends that were enthusiastic about my business goals. Friends that encouraged me to improve myself. Anyone who has experienced genuine, supportive relationships can probably attest how big an impact it can have on your motivation.

You Can’t Change Other People

The one lesson I’ve learned when dealing with toxic relationships is this: you can’t change other people. You can’t turn an unsupportive friend into your cheerleader.

Sometimes people will turn around. Some may be initially negative, out of fear that the goal will change you or the relationship. That person might later be supportive of you and your goals. Other people simply can’t see why you’re bothering with a goal until you’ve started to be successful in it.

However, whether your toxic friends become neutral or supportive eventually isn’t under your control. You can’t change other people, you can only change yourself.

Toxic Family Members

I think the unfortunate downside of this comes to your family. If you have parents, spouses, children, relatives or extremely close friends that discourage you, this can be difficult to manage. I’ve been lucky that my family hasn’t been hostile towards my goals. However, many people have written to me that they don’t have such luck.

My only suggestion in this situation is to build a stronger base of supportive friends. It may not completely replace an unsupportive family, but at least you won’t have to face your goals alone. You may not be able to pick your relatives, but you can select better friends.

Attracting Supportive Friends and Relationships

I’ll admit right now I’m not the best networker. I’m friendly and outgoing, but I can also be introverted which means my drive to seek out other people isn’t as high. However, I’ve found that if you make a conscious effort you can attract more supportive friends and relationships.

Let People Know Your Goals

No one can support you unless you reach out. This was a big mistake I made early on in my goal setting. After some initial discouragement, I kept most of my goals private. Unfortunately, the side-effect of this is that it also prevents you from finding friends who will be truly supportive.

I don’t think you should shove your ambitions down anyone’s throats. I write about a lot of big ideas and my goals because that’s the purpose of this website. But in casual conversation, it’s more enjoyable to just have fun and relax. Let people know about your goals, but that shouldn’t prevent you from being fun to be around.

Find People Who Share Your Goal

The most supportive people are the ones who have the same goal. The people most supportive of my business goals aren’t my friends or family. They are the other bloggers who are technically my competition. Those bloggers know what it’s like to strive to become full-time writers and entrepreneurs, so they are the most supportive of my goals.

If you’re looking to get in shape, look for people enjoy exercising and are interested in reaching fitness goals. If you’re trying to improve your social skills, seek out people who are also trying to improve their social skills. Find people who are trying to learn another language or become a freelancer.

If someone told me their goal was to become a doctor, I could only offer mild support. I may be excited for the person, but I can’t really relate to that goal. I don’t want to become a doctor, so at some level, any enthusiasm I have for that goal will be forced. However, if you told me you wanted to be an entrepreneur, I could tap into all the enthusiasm I already have for my entrepreneurship goals.

Luckily the internet has made it much easier to find these people. Online forums are a great way to find people who share your interests. Some online relationships can be more satisfying that in-person relationships for this reason. Local clubs and membership groups can be another way to network with like-minded people.

Accept Neutral Friends

I don’t list, “supports my goals,” as a requirement from my friends. I can still enjoy a drink and conversation with people who have completely different goals and motivations in life. If you push away everyone that isn’t your greatest supporter, you cut yourself off from new experiences.

Accept that some of your friends won’t support your goals. That’s okay. Don’t make the relationship about your ambitions. Some friends may support some goals and be neutral about others. That’s okay too. Especially if you have an eclectic mix of interests, finding perfectly compatible friends is difficult. It makes more sense to create different relationships with people who share different ambitions.

Go It Alone

If you’re surrounded by toxic people, go it alone. I did this before when I was making major changes in my life, virtually all of my friends drifted away. I don’t think this is the ideal option, but for many people it’s the right choice. Fire the toxic friends from your life so you have room to find people who will support you. With over 6 billion people in the world, there are plenty.