A Circle of (Imaginary) Friends

At some point, even the most successful people on the planet suffers setbacks and self-doubt. As someone who’s moderately successful but still learning, I often have to fight my way through the secret convictions that 1. someday people will discover that I can’t write worth a damn and 2. my mother is right and my hair or whatever I’m wearing at any given moment looks awful.

Hopefully if we confess our doubts and flaws to our family and friends, we will instantly be reassured that we are good and smart and that our dream of starting a heavy metal band of retired electricians isn’t stupid. Sometimes, though, our loved ones don’t understand our ambitions, or because they’re not mind readers, they don’t say the exact words we want to hear. And some people don’t have others around them willing to offer support and encouragement at all.

At that point, it’s time to pick out a charmed circle of imaginary friends to be our advocates. No, I have not gone off to Looneyland. Harnessing mental imagery works — look up the benefits of biofeedback if you don’t believe me. Barbara Sher refers to this process as ‘finding cheerleaders’ in her book Wishcraft: people we admire giving positive feedback about our endeavors. And the cool thing is, we can pick anybody we want!

The imaginary friends can alive, dead, male, female, celebrities, historical figures or fictional ones…it doesn’t matter, as long as you pick them for other reasons besides being cool or famous. For example, here’s my circle of imaginary friends:

-My late grandmother:  As an aspiring concert pianist who set her ambitions aside for love and marriage, she understood that every choice has a price, and that those things not attempted are not gained. She’d say, “If it means that much to you, you should try to put that retiree band together.”

Bette Davis: In my mind, she represents the flip side of Grandma. She was a tough, scrappy, ambitious artist and she didn’t whine when she had to make sacrifices to get what she wanted. I imagine her saying “If you want a geriatric metal band, you’d better make damn sure everybody knows what they’re getting into.”

– Maksim Chmerkovskiy: The Slavic slave-driver is a hot-tempered and outspoken, but this is why he’d be the voice telling me to stop feeling sorry for myself and get back to work. My guess is he’d sound like this: “So you’re old. That means you’d better get your butts off the floor and start playing, because you’re only going to get older.”

Michelle Kwan: The years she spent climbing to the top of the figure skating world did not impair her grace on or off of the ice. “Always make the next performance better than the time before.”

George Clooney: Okay, I did pick George partly for his looks. But he combines intelligence and a work ethic with a sense of humor, so I’m not completely shallow.  He’d be the one thinking of possibilities: “You could go on the road and tour retirement communities.”

The idea here is that even positive feedback from Imaginary Friends is still POSITIVE. It’s a way to trick yourself into seeing your own good qualities and encouraging yourself to work on your dreams. And you thought I was crazy.

Who, real, fictional, alive or dead, do you admire so much you’d like to have them in your circle of imaginary friends? What would you like them to say to you?


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