I am 21 and have never had a sexual experience, not even a kiss

Tell Me About It: ‘When I put a picture on social media nobody makes nice comments’

PROBLEM: I am 21 years of age and while I don’t have a fear of relationships, I just can’t get into one. As I was growing up boys never tried to chat me up, they always moved very quickly to talk to my friends or ask them out.

I feel that I am not very attractive and while my sister and mum say that this is a self-esteem issue, I am fairly certain that it is true. Whenever I put a picture on my social media site nobody ever makes nice comments, when any of my other friends put up photos, no matter how hideous the situation, other girls will usually tell them that they look gorgeous. That never happens with my photos, people usually comment on the cow or the building in the background.

Don’t get me wrong, since I started college I have been quite popular and people are often drawn into my company and my friends often call me their funny pal. I do enjoy that!

I am not shy talking to boys and often try out some chat-up lines, but alas the boys that I would like to respond never do, and only ever see me as a friend.

I have never had a sexual experience, not even a kiss. When I talk to female friends about relationships I find that I make up fake experiences as I don’t want to be seen to be a weirdo.

My sister (the one who told me I had a self-esteem issue) recently told me that she thought that I was aiming too high by chasing after the really smart, good-looking lads.

Now, I don’t think that I come across as desperate, but I don’t want to start dating fellows that I am not attracted to. I don’t know what to do.

ADVICE: What you are saying is far more common than what most of us would expect. Many people in their 20s have not had any romantic or sexual experiences and the fear of being discovered as naïve is often a huge block. It is good that you are interested in attractive and smart guys and you should not change this as it is far more likely that you will take a risk in connecting romantically with these guys as natural desire will push it along.

You say that you are seen as the “funny” one in the group. This is a fantastic natural quality and people consistently rate humour as one of their top desirable qualities in a partner.

What might be blocking you from connecting romantically is your focus on what you are doing wrong, or the story you are telling yourself that you are not attractive, or that you are late to the party of coupling off.

These thoughts and self-comments focus your attention on yourself and this means that you cannot see that other people are also struggling with their own insecurities and you end up thinking that you are isolated and alone.

Negative and angry

Dating and connecting is driven by an interest in others and by allowing desire to let you take risks with rejection.

Firstly, use your interest in people to keep your focus on others and not yourself. Currently you are looking for a reason to justify why people are not interested in you romantically and this is making you negative and angry.

Secondly, you are relying on other people to help you value and appreciate yourself and this is a dangerous thing to do as you are feeling good when other people are admiring of you and bad when you feel ignored – this is no way to live your life. The true source of your confidence should be your sense of self and this is worth pursuing.

Remember confidence is a highly attractive quality. When we are happy and confident, we attract people without effort, so focus on this instead of why your pictures are not gaining more traction.

People report that being busy doing something they are interested in is a step towards well-being; having a social life with friends you like is a huge plus but the starting point has to be changing the story you tell yourself, about yourself.

We can be aware of our thoughts (they tend to be mostly negative) and by not giving them attention but instead focusing our minds on what we are doing in the moment, we can achieve a gradual diminution of these self-critical thoughts and gain a sense of freedom.

To put this more succinctly, follow the advice you would give to someone in a similar situation – your own wisdom would tell them to have fun, enjoy life and trust that with openness and optimism, they will connect with someone great when the time is right.