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Best Friend's Long Shadow Proves Difficult to Escape

DEAR ABBY: I'm 22. Ever since I was 8, I've had the best friend I could ever have asked for. "Kylie" stood up for me when I was bullied as a child and hung out with me when I had no other friends.

The problem is, Kylie is extremely pretty and has always been charismatic, too. It's not her fault, but people have always been attracted to her, both as a bright personality and as a romantic interest.

All through high school, I fell into the role of sidekick. When I became romantically interested in someone, nine times out of 10 he liked her. When we were together, people would pop in and speak only to her. It made me feel somewhere between shy and invisible.

We are adults now, and Kylie is married with four kids. We're still very close. The thing is, breaking out of her shadow has become impossible. I went to a different college, and my job has nothing to do with her, but old habits still hold me back from making friends, and romantic interests still magically disappear when I introduce them to my best friend. What do I do? -- SECOND BEST IN MONTANA

DEAR SECOND BEST: You're right. Old habits -- not to mention attitudes -- do die hard. Because this pattern has been going on for so long, it may take the help of a licensed mental health professional to help you gain the tools to change it. It's crucial that you realize what fine qualities you have to offer.

Looks are an asset, but they are only skin deep. If a man you are interested in is distracted to the point of disappearing by someone else's good looks, recognize that he's interested only in the veneer of a relationship, not the hardwood. Until you get this straight in your head, it might be wise to distance yourself from Kylie.

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