Saturday 17 March 2018

Dear Mary: I feel so pathetic - I'm 22 and have never been on a date

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Mary O’Conor

I know that my problem is not the worst in the world but it's been getting to me for a long time now and I really need some advice.

I'm 22 and have never been in a relationship, I've never even been on a proper date. I'm terribly shy when it comes to things like romance and dating and find it terrifying to put myself out there.

The times I have tried to get close to someone, it always ended with me in tears, and now my self-esteem is at an all-time low. I've never been very confident to begin with, and ever since I hit puberty my self-image has been completely messed up. Friends and family are always telling me how great I am but I just don't see it. I don't believe I have anything to offer anyone. All my friends are either in relationships or can get into them so easily. Whenever I try to tell them how I feel they just say "oh you're still young" and "the right guy's out there". I find this so patronising. They don't understand how I feel.

I know how to go out and meet people as friends but I can't talk to guys I like because I feel like I'm annoying them or that they'll laugh at me (which has happened before). The whole thing just makes me feel so pathetic and left behind and I'm ashamed of myself over it.

Mary replies

It is indeed a pity that you are so hard on yourself and don't believe it when friends and family praise you. They are telling the truth as they see it, so try saying thank you next time somebody compliments you and see how that feels. Shyness is difficult to overcome at the beginning but please believe me that with some practice it gets so much easier. Don't feel bad about having been in tears because of a guy even if it wasn't a proper relationship. Everybody gets knocks of one sort or another, especially at the beginning when dealing with the opposite sex, but these knocks actually make us stronger, more empathetic towards other people's problems and in a way help us to mature.

You know how to go out and meet people as friends, but feel that you cannot talk to guys that you like. So how about just looking on guys as friends rather than as people that you would like to know better. In other words stop jumping too far ahead in the narrative of your life and instead remain in the now. It may be quite some time before you meet somebody who feels special, but that is no reason why you should not have fun along the way. Perhaps you are worrying too much about what they think of you rather than actually enjoying chatting to them.

If you want to go further you should investigate Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. CBT therapists maintain it is our own thoughts that cause our feelings and behaviours and so even when the situation does not change we can make ourselves feel better by changing the self-defeating ways that we think. There are also some good self-help books available on this subject.

Please don't feel ashamed of yourself - you've done nothing wrong and you are just trying to be a more fulfilled person.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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