How Being Bullied In School Still Affects My Dating Life

For most of my school years, I was far from one of the popular kids. I was picked on in ways that really damaged my self-esteem. It wasn’t physical bullying but the emotional kind which still affects my dating life today in these ways:

  1. I feel like I’m a weirdo. I was known as a “nerd” or “dork” and when I was a teenager, my huge-ass glasses didn’t help (geek wasn’t chic then). Now if someone calls me “weird,” I instantly feel like I’m that dorky kid all over again that none of the guys wanted because they were choosing all the cooler, prettier girls to date instead of me.
  2. I’m overly self-conscious. Being told I was weird and ugly as a teenager really messed with me. I started to believe it after a while, so it’s really no wonder that I still feel unattractive today. Those words have stayed with me and it’s really hard to imagine them not existing or not being true. Even when guys tell me I’m pretty, I don’t believe it on a deep level.
  3. I fear I’ll blow my cover. Being called nasty names and treated like I wasn’t pretty enough has made me try super hard to look good. I put in a lot of effort in my appearance but sometimes I worry my cover will be blown. I fear that somehow the guy I’m with will see what I’m really like (the disgusting nerd I felt like in school) and ditch me. It’s so stressful to put so much pressure on myself but I don’t know how to stop.
  4. I have low self-confidence and anxietyIn case you haven’t noticed by reading this so far, I’ve got extremely low self-confidence. No matter what compliments I receive from other people and no matter how well-dressed I am, deep down I still feel like that kid who just wasn’t attractive and got treated like she was a social pariah at times. It makes me suffer from social anxiety because I’m terrified I’ll be rejected.
  5. Guys weren’t attracted to me then so I doubt their attraction now. I didn’t date at all through school because guys were seemingly repelled by me. Now when guys show interest in me, I’m still shocked about it. I tend to look around and say, “Who, me? Really?” I fear that Ashton Kutcher will jump out at me on a date and say, “You’re being punked!”
  6. I feel I’m never good enough. Being treated as less-than-attractive and unworthy as a teenager has stayed with me. I never really feel I’m a prize, which can be disastrous in relationships. It’s caused me to try too hard to be the amazing girlfriend and make all the effort with guys who were lazy AF in the past. I’ve also been a fixer, trying to heal messed-up guys who didn’t want to be loved. When those projects failed, it felt like they just reconfirmed that I was useless and undeserving of love. Ugh.
  7. I bully myself. The sad thing about being bullied is that it can make one turn that attack onto themselves. I know because I do this. Being called nasty things in high school has made me bully myself as an adult. I’m quick to call myself an “idiot” and “ugly” on bad days, which really doesn’t do me any favors. When I’ve been rejected or hurt by guys in the past, I’ve turned that hurt onto myself, thinking there has to be something wrong with me for them to treat me badly. It’s ridiculous.
  8. I feel like a lot of guys are out of my league. In high school, I was made to feel I wasn’t anything special, which made me run for the hills when popular, attractive guys looked my way. When a friend told me years ago that the guy I was dating at the time wasn’t good enough for me, I thought she was crazy. I’ve always been so insecure thanks to being bullied that I thought guys I dated were better than me. The result? I settled. A lot.
  9. I still get anxious around popular guys. I avoid guys who are very popular and ridiculously attractive. For starters, I just don’t get the hype about them and they tend to be narcissists or have other personality issues. But I also feel like they’re just going to hurt me, the way those kinds of guys would pick on me and diss me in high school. It’s horrible waiting for the other shoe to drop all the time.
  10. Often I don’t feel worthy of love. I constantly feel like I’m going to be judged, so I have to keep reminding myself I’m worthy of love and I’m not in high school anymore, that I know who I am and words can’t hurt me. It’s easier on some days but not all the time. It’s really a work in progress.
  11. Some good things have resulted from being bullied. Surprisingly, there have been some great things to come out of being bullied in school. The minute I catch a whiff of bullying or controlling tendencies in men, I delete them from my life because I know what it feels like to be the victim of bullying. Even though I’m still trying to be nicer to myself, I definitely won’t stand for that kind of treatment again from anyone — and especially not from a romantic partner. At least I know I’m better than that.
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.