DEAR ABBY: I'm a gay 44-year-old man with self-esteem problems. I have never seen myself as worthy of affection, and I don't consider myself attractive. I have never been in a relationship, and no one outside of my family has ever said "I love you" to me.
I have recently tried to come out of my shell. As a result, the network of people I associate with has tripled -- and I think that has compounded my problem. Aside from parties where everyone is invited, I never hear from any of these people. I have only a couple of good friends, people I can talk to.
I have leaned on my friends to try to help me with my problem. But I'm afraid if I keep unloading on them it'll wear them down, and I don't want to burden them.
I wish I didn't feel so worthless. I know part of my problem is the fact that I am unemployed and worried about money. But this is who I have been my whole life. How do I break the cycle and start feeling good about myself? I'm tired of being lonely all the time. -- LONELY IN CHICAGO
DEAR LONELY: One way to stop feeling lonely is to give yourself less time to feel that way. Because you are unemployed and have the time, volunteer some of it. Find a nonprofit that helps homeless gay youth or senior citizens -- or, because the political scene is heating up, the party of your choice.
And while you're at it, contact a gay and lesbian center and ask what kind of counseling services it offers, because your problems predate your unemployment. There is help available in your city. Once you understand why you feel "unworthy of affection" you'll be able to improve your self-esteem. There are better days ahead.