07/29/2015 12:58 EDT | Updated 07/29/2016 05:59 EDT

4 Signs You Have Outgrown Your Circle of Friends

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Group of young cheerful people having fun drinking beer outdoors.

There's a dirty little secret about change. Nobody is talking about it, and perhaps that's because it's not all sunshine and rainbows -- it's actually a little sucky. But the more I talk to people making massive changes, the more I notice this pattern coming up repeatedly.

Here's the deal: when you change your life, some people aren't meant to stick around. When you think about it, it makes sense. If we are the sum of our five closest friends and you're striving to do more and be more, it stands to reason that your set of five close friends will change over time.

And yep, you guessed it, I'm writing about this because it happened to me recently.

I had been feeling like an outsider in a group of friends I had known for years. A group of good, honest people who I didn't want to let go of. There had been signs. I ignored all of them. So the universe intervened (or fate, life, God, a higher power -- whatever you want to call it) and presented a situation I simply could not ignore. And that's when I finally walked away.

It wasn't an easy situation. And I could have made it a whole lot easier on myself had I listened to the red flags a lot earlier.

Here are those four signs in bold type, my friend.

You don't enjoy mutual activities anymore

This was a big one for me. I gave up drugs and alcohol four years ago, but early on in my sobriety I would still do the same things with the same people. I would be in a bar with my friends, but this time I was holding a glass of water rather than a vodka mixer. It was the same old environment and I wasn't comfortable in it anymore. I convinced myself nothing had to change when I got sober. I was wrong. I was lying to myself and those around me, pretending I was having a good time when all I wanted was to sit in a group of like-minded people, drink tea and wax lyrical on life and the cosmos. Hanging out in the bar wasn't my jam anymore.

You find yourself holding back in conversations

When you notice you are not fully expressing yourself in a conversation with your friends, something has gone awry. My old circle of friends would be kind and ask about my new venture as a life coach, but I would dumb it down for fear of my friends "not getting it." I held back and didn't want to enthuse about my exciting new direction because I knew my friends weren't able to reciprocate. Put simply -- if you feel you can't be yourself around your old group of friends, it's because you're no longer who you used to be.

You say "no" to invitations to hang out

I used to love going to house parties and partying the day away with my buddies, chatting about whatever came to mind. But I would receive invites to these same events in the present day and I would decline. I would back-peddle at the speed of light, talking about "having plans" and politely thanking them for the invitation. It wasn't my friends' fault -- they were doing what they have always done. It was up to me to take charge and explain why the way I spend my spare time has changed. I didn't do that out of fear of hurting their feelings and over the years it gnawed away at me. I felt guilty. These are good people. I have an enormous amount of affection and love for them, but I've changed. I'm not the same Cheryl they met six years ago.

Something feels "off"

This one is a little less concrete and a little more woo-woo. It's about our intuition, that gut feeling we have when something isn't right. And you feel that weird, uncomfortable feeling when you're with this old group of friends. You can't put your finger on it but something's up. It's in those awkward silences, the shared jokes you no longer laugh at, and it's engrained in each strained conversation. Deep down, you know it's time to walk away.

Even though this is a challenging situation to experience, here's the good news. You don't have to go through it alone. There are people out there who can help you. Working with a coach, mentor or counsellor will help you navigate this inevitable part of change.

Reach out, and allow yourself to be supported through this transition.

I'll close with a theory.

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. If it's for a reason, there is a lesson you are meant to learn from this person. If it's for a season, it will be for a period of time in your life and that time will eventually expire. And if it's for a lifetime -- well, those friends are keepers!


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