Are You Holding Onto Relationships That Are Holding You Back?

UPDATED: May 23, 2024
PUBLISHED: February 21, 2020
Are You Holding Onto Relationships That Are Holding You Back?

Think of someone you love spending time with. Someone whose infectious enthusiasm for life has a way of reframing your challenges and boosting your confidence to rise above them. Someone you can count on to embolden your thinking—to back yourself more and doubt yourself less.

Now just imagine if everyone you hung out with was like that. And if everyone is, this article is not for you.

But chances are, there’s people you spend time with who aren’t lifting you up. Chances are, there are some in your orbit who might actually be pulling you down, albeit unintentionally, and keeping you from taking the very actions that would open up a whole lot of exciting new possibilities in your career or business or life.

We are all social creatures. As such, we’re at our best when we feel part of a “tribe”: connected to the people around us. But not just to any people.

Related: How to Build the Tribe Your Success Depends On

The problem is, that as we go through life, we can inadvertently accumulate relationships that aren’t bringing out our best and may actually be fueling our doubts, narrowing our perspective, lowering our sights and keeping us playing small.

So if you’re the biggest thinker you know or you cannot honestly say that you look forward to the conversations you have with the people you spend time with, then maybe it’s time you decided to be more intentional in the relationships you’re investing in.

Here’s four strategies to get you started.

1. Start with yourself: Your vibe attracts your tribe.

A magnetized piece of iron can lift 12 times its own weight; yet if it is demagnetized, it can’t even lift a feather. Like attracts like. Accordingly, people who radiate passion for life attract opportunities, lucky breaks and other positive people into their lives. The same is true in reverse. How you show up in the world determines who shows up in yours. 

This isn’t about trying to prove yourself, or putting on a face and being someone you’re not. It’s just about embracing your worth and focusing on who it is you most want to be in the world. After all, despite the pressure you may feel to impress people, it’s by owning who you are that you will attract the kind of self-assured and big-hearted people who can help you become more of the person you aspire to be. Not all people, but the right people for you!

In You’ve Got This! The Life-Changing Power of Trusting Yourself, I wrote that the wonderful irony of simply being yourself is that the less you care about what other people think of you, the more they actually do.

2. Be proactive: Don’t wait for ‘chance encounters’; create them.

Sometimes serendipity happens and an incredible person lands in your orbit. However, as my mother always said, “God helps those who help themselves.” So go hang out in the kind of places the people you want to meet hang out in. Attend a conference. Join a community. Register for a course, or organize your own event and invite people you’d like to know better.

After moving to a new country a few years back, I met a fabulous woman named Tamera. We hit it off straight away, but between our respective work and family commitments (we had seven kids between us), we didn’t meet up near as often as we wanted. So we decided to start our own “Best Self” Book Club and invite along five other women each—women who were “up to stuff” and shared a similar outlook on life. Within months, our personal and professional networks had expanded exponentially (despite the fact we often resorted to book summaries!).

3. Get offline: No technology can replace genuine human connection.

Studies show that although we are more interconnected than any other time in human history, millions of people feel more alone and socially disconnected than ever before. Surprisingly, it’s those under 35—the most prolific social networkers—who feel loneliest of all. Which just goes to show that we have to move beyond trading “likes” of curated selfies, which, while providing the illusion of friendship, fall a long way short of meeting our deeper human hunger for authentic connection.

Can unplugging from our devices and plugging into the people around us be wholly uncomfortable? You bet. Human connection requires embracing the vulnerability that our screens allow us to avoid.  Yet by lowering our online masks and getting real, with real people, in real time, we can forge the most meaningful and rewarding relationships of all. So put down your smartphone and start up a conversation with someone in front you. You have no idea what doors it might open up.

As you go through life, it’s inevitable that you’ll outgrow some relationships. That doesn’t mean you don’t care about the people you’ve shared a season of life with. Perhaps many. It just means that continuing to spend more than the minimal time with them no longer serves you… or them (though they may not see it that way). This isn’t disloyal or unkind. It simply reflects your own personal evolution and the reality that some people simply aren’t growing in the same direction or at the same pace as you. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s just life.

Your energy is precious. Your time is precious. You are precious. So if the people you’re spending your precious hours with aren’t helping you grow into the kind of person you most want to be, stop making excuses and start investing more time with those who will.  

Related: 13 Red Flags of Toxic Relationships

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Best-selling author and mother of four, Margie Warrell is on a mission to embolden people to live and lead more bravely. Margie’s gained hard-won wisdom on building courage since her childhood in rural Australia. Her insights have also been shaped by her work with trailblazing leaders from Richard Branson to Bill Marriott and organizations from NASA to Google. Founder of Global Courage, host of the Live Brave podcast and advisory board member of Forbes Business School, Margie’s just released her fifth book You’ve Got This! The Life-Changing Power of Trusting Yourself. She’d love to support you at