Dear Annie: I have been technically single all my life. I did have a casual long-term relationship with a man that lasted for 12 years. We were never exclusive. We would have never worked exclusively, and we both knew that.
That relationship ended badly. An unplanned pregnancy resulted in a painful miscarriage that required surgery. Not only was it physically painful but the emotional toll of losing my unborn baby was immeasurable. My "partner" completely abandoned me during that time and never acknowledged my pain or grief afterward.
It took about three years for me to not walk around with a cloud of misery hanging over me constantly. I developed a fear of dating any man and giving him the potential to hurt me like this again.
I decided I would throw myself into my career and work hard at rising through the ranks, becoming as successful as possible, and trying to achieve some self-esteem and happiness that way.
Unfortunately, my plan has not played out. Although I do work hard and strive for perfection, this has rubbed some people within my company the wrong way. I've been held back from promotions many times, and after 20 years with the same employer, it seems I am doomed to stay where I am and never move forward.
This has tapped into the feeling of low self-esteem that started after my miscarriage, and I feel like I am forever in a dark place again. I recognize that I am angry all the time and feel an overwhelming amount of sadness. Even though I recognize this, I am having a hard time breaking free and exploring other career opportunities, and the thought of leaving my company literally breaks my heart.
I don't know how to get over my fear of leaving my comfort zone, even though I know deep down it is what would be best for me. I feel like I am self-sabotaging, and I've hit a wall that I don't know how to break through. I also feel like I am unconsciously sending a message that it is OK to treat me badly.
Any advice on how to build my confidence back and truly leap toward what I believe I deserve? -- Self-Stuck
Dear Self-Stuck: Instead of viewing your past as something that has beaten you down, look at it as proof of your strength. You were able to bounce back from a breakup, a miscarriage and a medical emergency all by yourself.
Now that you're back on your feet, you have some choices to make: Do you want the fear of loss to stop you from ever finding love? Do you want to stay trapped in a stagnant career where your hard work is not appreciated?
Your letter alone tells me the answer is no. Change is scary, but if you are not satisfied with the current state of your life, then it is absolutely necessary.
You don't have to go through it alone, nor should you. Reach out to friends and family members; get involved in a local organization; and seek a good therapist to help you work through the past so you can build a brighter future.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.