Dear Mary: I'm 35 and a victim of bullying and have never had the confidence to try dating
I'm a 35-year-old man and I've been single all my life. I pretty much had all my confidence destroyed through being bullied and humiliated in secondary school.
It got to a point where I self-harmed out of pure anger at myself.
Even after the bullying stopped I still carried on self-harming and telling myself how worthless I was.
Needless to say, I never once felt that I was good enough for anyone, so I never even tried to ask a girl out.
In my early twenties I saw my father pass away.
It was a very sudden death and once again I went back to self-harming and became even more anxious and angry at myself.
It was almost 10 years before I brought myself to therapy and through lots of help (and what must be an abundance of patience on my therapist's part) I was able to talk about my dad's death and stop self-harming.
Now, I don't find myself racked with anxiety and I don't get angry at myself as much, although I do still feel like I'm much weaker than anyone else.
Sorry for the long letter, it's just that at 35 with no experience and a paper-thin level of confidence/self esteem, I just can't help but feel it's too late for me.
A We hear and read a lot about children being bullied, and your letter points out just how far-reaching the effects of bullying can be.
You suffered a lot in your childhood, and your father's sudden death plunged you back into a time when you were feeling very alone and hopeless.
But the good thing is that you have addressed all these painful times through therapy and are now ready to move on with your life and enjoy some of the fun things, like dating.
Because dating can be great fun and not something that is to be approached with dread.
So to begin with you should try to look forward - the past is firmly behind you - and even though you are lacking in confidence, so are lots of other people.
Every time I respond to a letter from somebody who is alone and wondering how to meet people, I get lots of letters and mails from people who are in a similar situation and who are also anxious to start dating.
It is an issue which is on many people's minds, so you are certainly not on your own.
Just as people take up new hobbies or go to college later in life, it is never too late to start, and it is certainly not too late for you to begin experimenting with the opposite sex.
So just as taking up a new sport may feel awkward at first, particularly when you see much younger people playing the game effortlessly, it may feel strange at first asking a girl to meet you for a drink or a coffee.
Naturally, you will have to be somewhere in order to meet these girls in the first place, but hopefully you have a few friends with whom you can go out for a drink or to some other social occasion.
Don't forget that these girls will have their own insecurities, so try putting yourself in their shoes instead of worrying about yourself too much.
You have suffered so you will be very empathic towards other people which is a huge bonus when getting to know new people.
You know yourself pretty well having been in therapy and that is also a good thing.
So even though you feel you have very little confidence, you probably will come across as having more than you think when you are in company. I do hope that you have some success and start dating.
Who knows you might even get to like it!
You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.