True to myself vs. selfish

I’ve been mulling over this big question about friendship a lot lately: How does an emotionally mature person balance being true to oneself with being kind to other people? When does “being true to oneself” veer into selfishness? These lines feel very blurry to me, and I don’t trust myself to make good decisions in this area yet.

I spent most of my life playing a pro-level people-pleasing game (or, as the amazing Kara Loewentheil would put it, people-deceiving! SO TRUE.). In my 2+ years in Scholars, I’ve done a lot of amazing work that’s leading me to become a more authentic, fulfilled version of myself. During this work, I realized that I’ve spent many years saying “yes” to things that I don’t want to do in order to make other people happy or to avoid conflict. My overarching goal was always to avoid disappointing other people, and I’m so over it now.

Now that I’m stepping into recognizing and honoring my own preferences, I’m finding myself saying “no” to a lot of things that the old me would have said “yes” to. Many of my friends have been cheering this on and I freakin’ LOVE them for that. But some of my friends (who are still wonderful people and good friends in general) are expressing disappointment over how I’m changing because, to them, it looks like I’m pulling away. I can totally see their point of view, and a part of me still feels very guilty for no longer operating according to their manual of me (because I actively HELPED to write that old manual!). I feel guilty and I second-guess myself because they are such good people and we have so much history together. I don’t necessarily want to lose them as friends, but I just don’t want the same level or type of relationship that we had before. I don’t know how to break it to them that maybe we’re meant to be just more like acquaintances who get together occasionally instead of frequently. But, frankly, that is what I want.

Part of me feels like I’ve outgrown these friends, but that thought feels gross and selfish and makes me feel like I’m an asshole who’s maybe over-correcting in the other direction. Will I ever learn how to trust myself in this area, or will it always feel this angst-y?

I’ve thought a lot about these specific people, and I don’t think they want to hear the truth about what’s going on with my inner work and the conclusions that I’m reaching about my own preferences. I suspect that the truth would be painful to them and wouldn’t make sense to them, and I don’t want to hurt them. That feels cruel. I also don’t want to just ghost them or break up with them. I just want to scale back and redefine the relationships. (Why does typing that feel so ugly and selfish?) I know that there’s no good solution to this issue, but I feel like I’m missing some key insight that would lead to more peace and acceptance (in myself).

Do you have insights on this question that might offer a perspective I hadn’t considered? Would you be willing to share a bit how you’ve navigated your own changing and evolving relationships with friends? Thanks so much, Brooke!