My imaginary friend: I’m 29!

I created my imaginary friend when I was bullied growing up — but he’s still around.

Don’t let him prevent you from reaching out for friendship, says our elder.

Dear EWC

Growing up I was bullied so I had no friends and no social life. I created my imaginary friend to fill that need for friendship and understanding. I am now 29 years old and still have him around. It seems like I am not successful with friendships and relationships at all. I go to my imaginary friend for comfort. I have been alone for most of my life. I am dealing with loneliness and sometimes it sucks. But at times I feel addicted to my own loneliness. I am so used to being alone, I feel like things have changed and things will continue to change.

PicklesMarie replies

At 29, you could live up to another ~70 years like this. Is that what you want? Would you be happier with a few friends and some social life?

Your imaginary friend may prevent you from reaching out to other friendships. Usually, an imaginary friend won’t argue or disagree with you! You may have become dull (even to yourself), set in your ways (never trying anything new) and difficult for others to comprehend (speaking in uncommon ways).

Since bullying is something you fear and you are vulnerable because you haven’t had experience getting along with others, take some pains right now, before you reach out to others, to arm yourself. If you meet a potential bully you need to be able to move away and keep yourself safe. Right now you keep yourself safe by not allowing anyone in your fortress to save a friend who is imaginary. You can do better than that!

Look online for ways to spot, avoid, and combat bullies. Take some notes that you can refer to later if necessary.
You are probably, like me, pretty much an introvert. You may find you can only manage socialization in small doses and need time alone afterward to regroup. It helps to know how people who are more extroverted than you manage it. I found an old book written by an extrovert to shed some light on how it’s done. Read How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I took away some tips that helped me from the book. Instead of feeling you have to do all the talking, ask questions of others about their interests. They’ll think you’re a brilliant conversationalist… if you just ask and listen!
Then ferry yourself out to mingle with people. Since you’ve been so cut off, try situations where you aren’t expected to even talk like a movie or travel presentation or even going to a museum or art gallery. Try to smile at others as your very first outgoing step.

Once you can stand being out among others and engage in smiling, try something more challenging. I’d suggest going to a gentle yoga class (yoga practitioners tend to be kind and encouraging) or some sort of art class or poetry reading or, maybe, listening to music. You’re more involved and should try both smiling and making a friendly comment to someone nearby. As you conquer some of your fears, you’ll know what you’re ready for next.

Be kind and gentle with yourself. For nearly 29 years you’ve been cut off. As you get out more, spend less time with your imaginary friend. Try to disallow him from coming out with you. It is important that you learn to rely solely on yourself… not any ‘spiritual’ help from him. Gain confidence in your own abilities and get used to being on your own with other people. You might meet with your imaginary friend before bed when you evaluate your efforts for the day.

Letter #: 403148
Category: Self-Improvement

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