Real-life friends and imaginary friends

Life can be a lonely journey if we don’t have at least a few good friends to accompany us along the way. I’ve been lucky enough to make some good friends during each of the major phases of my life – people who tolerate my inconsistency, disorganisation and long periods of silence. I am grateful to have met them, and I’d be lost without them. But I’m grateful for my imaginary friends too. My real friends and my imaginary friends complement each other. Here’s why I need imaginary friends in my life:

They’re always available

I can check in with my imaginary friends any time I like. When I need to talk to them, I don’t have to wait for them to get in from work, or finish putting their kids to bed. I don’t have to worry about whether they’ll mind me calling in the middle of the night. My imaginary friends are just a thought away, 24/7.

They’re always focussed on me

My imaginary friends listen to my problems and help me find solutions, they cheer me up when I’m feeling down, they sympathise when I feel the world is treating me unfairly. And I never have to return the favour. They don’t bring their problems into our friendship. I don’t have to be there for them. A real-world friend wouldn’t stick around long if I treated them like that, and although reciprocity is part of what makes real-world friendships so meaningful, there are times when I’m too exhausted or overwhelmed to jump into someone else’s crisis. I’m grateful that my imaginary friends never expect me to.

There are no secrets, and nothing is off-limits

My imaginary friends know everything about me, every thought that passes through my head, even the ones I’m not so proud of. And they don’t judge. And that means there is nothing I can’t say to them and no part of myself that I have to hide. We can talk about things that might be too intense or too intimate to discuss with anyone outside my head.

They help me work through stuff

We tend to be better at advising other people how to tackle their problems than we are at solving our own problems. Not being so caught up in the situation probably helps us to see things more clearly. But, most people don’t like being told what to do, which can make us resist advice that comes from others. Imaginary friends are a good compromise. When my characters offer suggestions on how I might solve my problems, I often find their wisdom surpasses what I might have come up with on my own, but because I know that the solutions did, in fact, originate inside my own head, I don’t resist the advice.


None of the above takes anything away from the value of my real-life friends. Fun though daydreaming is, it just can’t compete with the joy of connecting in a fun, energising and positive way with another human being. Real-life friends don’t have to like me, they choose to. And therefore they reaffirm that I have something to offer as a friend. They make me feel good about myself on a much deeper level than the temporary boost I get from my characters. Knowing that I am a positive presence in someone else’s life is rewarding and inspirational. Being able to give them a boost when they’re having a bad day means that I can make a difference. And when they bring a completely different perspective to a conversation, I learn and grow so much more quickly than I can in my conversations with my characters.

My characters are the ones I turn to when things are tough and I need rescuing, but my real-life friends are the ones who encourage me to fly. I am profoundly grateful to have both.

1 thought on “Real-life friends and imaginary friends”

  1. A shout out to me, without a single real-life friend hahaha!
    Seriously though, I haven’t had a friend in 15 years.
    Long live my MaDD world.

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