They Don’t Want You To Leave

I read something the other day that made me pause and re-read the same passage several times. It was about personal change, personal growth, and how your closest associates, friends, relatives, and colleagues can often be impediments and obstacles instead of sources of support and motivation.

Whether you realize it or not, you have gathered around yourself a cast of people who are very much on the same level as you are, financially, professionally, and otherwise. This makes perfect sense; birds of a feather flock together. All things being equal, we all prefer to be around people like ourselves.

You don’t generally find rich people living in slums.

You don’t generally find fitness models hanging out with fat people.

You don’t generally find plumbers and bankers grabbing a drink together at the end of the day.

Hell, even tall people hang out with other tall people.

This seems to be the natural order of things, and generally we’re all settled into our situations. We’ve got our jobs, our buddies, our spouses, our bank accounts, our clothes, and every other part of our lives set and comfortable.

But what happens when you want to change? What if you want to improve yourself? At face value, that idea seems simple; just get a little better! Get a job that’s a little bit better. Start dressing a bit better. Start taking lessons of some kind. Start living healthier. No problem, right? Nothing standing in your way; just begin!

When you begin on your path of improvement, though, you’ll notice something strange. Some of your friends, colleagues, associates, and even your own family members will begin to react negatively.

“What are you all dressed up for, big shot?”

“Two drinks and you’re leaving? Nice skirt, Dorothy!”

“Come on, man, we need one more person.”

“Geez, I thought you were more fun than this.”

“What the hell’s gotten into you? Who are you and what have you done with [your name]?”

What’s Wrong With That?

Harmless though it may seem, this sort of criticism is far more insidious and damaging than it appears. If someone yells at you or angrily disapproves, that’s really pretty harmless; it just makes you dig your heels in and commit to your new cause more fervently. This sort of up-front criticism does not pretend to be anything other than what it is, and is easily countered.

But this “good-natured ribbing,” on the other hand, is really jealousy masquerading as ball busting, judgement masquerading as light-hearted banter, combativeness masquerading as playful repartee, and condemnation masquerading as innocent fun. And the reason it’s so insidious is that when you tell these pricks to fuck off in response to “just some innocent joking around,” you seem like the asshole!

Behold the refrain of the stagnant, the impotent, the feckless, the passive, and the listless: “Come on, man, I’m just playing around. Breaking your balls a little bit, you know? Geez, someone’s got their panties in a bunch today.”


Here you are trying to grow, trying to get your life together, and these motherfuckers have a problem with that? It’s natural, it happens every time, and it’s not okay. You need to be mentally prepared for the reality that when you have finally accomplished the definite goal you’ve set for yourself—when you are finally the person you’ve aimed to be—many people who’ve been in your life for a while will no longer be there.

If you were to inject them with truth serum (I use whiskey), they would say that they want you to succeed with whatever you’re doing. They are rooting for you to lose the weight, or take your job more seriously, or learn to invest more of your money.

They want you to win, but they don’t want you to leave. Because if you left, then they would have to adapt to your absence; they would have to do stuff; they would have to figure out how to get along without you. And if there’s one thing a comfortable, passive person hates, it’s doing stuff.

If you’re not doing Fat Guy Stuff® anymore, with whom are they going to eat shit-tons of pizza after an awesome night of drinking?

If you’re going to bed early these days so you can get up earlier to take an online course or work out, they have one fewer person with whom to party.

If you’re on a budget because you’ve set a savings goal, that’s one fewer girl for their Girls’ Weekend.

Girls' Weekend Cat

Yes, you’re their friend and they want you to do well. They want you to win. But they don’t want you to leave.

So what do you do? Never fear; I’m here to help! Here are a couple of snappy rejoinders for use when a “friend” is giving you a hard time or trying to cajole you into something that’s not in line with the person you have decided to become:

  1. “Fuck off.”
  2. “I see where you’re coming from, but after thinking about it a little I’ve decided to just continue doing literally whatever I want all the time.”
  3. “Why would I [insert activity] when I’m [insert intended improvement or personal goal]? That doesn’t even make any sense.”

Using these and some other templates you can generate yourself, you can have a few responses locked and loaded when their inevitable resistance is applied. The key is to clearly communicate that you don’t care, even a little, about their plan for your life and your time. Not only do you not care, but you find it silly and childish that they would even think of telling you about it out loud. After all, you don’t ever waste their time with suggestions on how they could better live their lives.

Eventually, after they’ve tested you and discovered that you really are serious about the change that you’ve begun, most of your friends will turn around and begin supporting you. They’re not bad people, after all. There will be those, however, whom you will leave behind. You’re changing levels, changing planes, and they cannot come with you. Not because people resist change, but because people resist being changed.

My Point Here

If you’re coasting, it means you’re going downhill. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. There is no such thing as maintenance. You are either improving or degrading, and if you’re not living on the edge then you’re taking up too much space.

If you want to keep everything just like it is, just keep doing what you’re doing. And even then you’ll be pissing into the wind because nothing will ever stay just like it is; change is constant, and you can never go back. Instead of living in the past, romanticize and develop a nostalgia for the future.

If you want to change for the better, expect to lose some things for good.