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I am proud to be 18 and never kissed

Sanah is a honors college student at the University of Texas at San Antonio who is double majoring in Sociology and Communications. She is the founder of a non-profit organization called The Love Your Natural Self Foundation, which works...

Being a virgin at 18 is not a shameful thing

From middle school on, there is a pressure on girls to kiss, make out, and even have sex long before they are ready. I am 18 and have never been kissed. For years I have dealt with that pressure, but have recently found a peace I never thought I'd know.

My "fear of missing out" started at age 12. By not dating or kissing or having experiences with the opposite sex, I worried I was missing out an essential part of the middle school experience. I felt as if there was something wrong with me, something in my life that I was not doing right.

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I immediately began to think about all of the things I could change about myself. For several years, I struggled with my self-image, and the pressure to be in a relationship was a huge part of it.

By high school, I slowly learned to love myself. I started realizing that there was nothing I needed to change about myself, except the amount of self-love in my life. I started practicing self-care, forming healthier habits, and for the first time, truly looking after my own self-interests.

I was finally able to think clearly about myself and what I wanted in my life. At that moment, I wanted to focus on maintaining my self-love and having a great time in high school. In my personal journey, it wasn't a good time to start dating.

Looking around and seeing all of the relationships around me no longer bothered me as much, because I knew I was on my own path. I'll never forget the moment during my senior year of high school, however, that made me immediately doubt my journey.

A group of students began talking about their "first kiss experience." At first, this conversation did not make me uncomfortable. Although I was choosing not to date, I had several friends in extremely happy relationships, and I loved hearing their stories. As my turn approached, I mentioned with no shame: "I actually haven't had my first kiss yet."

My confidence slowly started to disappear as I saw the reactions of my peers. Some people looked at me with eyes of pity, while others stared in disbelief. The moment became extremely uncomfortable for me as someone moved the conversation forward with, "I'm so sorry, but It's okay, it'll happen someday!"

For the next few weeks, I couldn't help but replay that moment in my head. I again began to feel like there was something wrong with me. I started questioning where I was in my emotional journey.

With time, however, I realized that I am exactly where I need to be. I am at a place in my life that I'm extremely proud of, and no one should be able to make me doubt that.

One thing I've learned through this journey is that it's important to look at your path as an individual, instead of comparing your path to others. It’s important to realize that each person has a different path when it comes to relationships. There is so much to life, and it’s important to remember the adventure is only beginning.

Often in conversations, the fact that I've never been kissed will come up. Some react with disbelief, while others react with pity, while others can relate to my story. The one thing that I've learned is that others reactions should never shape how I feel about myself.

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I think it's important to be open and speak out about my journey, because by talking to others who have a similar experience as me, I have learned that they too feel this pressure. They feel the same shame that I felt, and often question their self-worth. They also feel that there is an extreme stigma in society around romantic relationships and how it should happen.

Today, I want to speak out and say that there is no way that it should happen. Don't get me wrong: There have been moments when I truly wanted a relationship. In those moments, I let life take its course, and introduce new relationships when I felt ready.

At the end of the day, everyone deserves to live life at their own pace, in a way that makes them feel completely comfortable. Relationship or no relationship, it's important to realize your worth, practice self-care, and live in a way that makes you proud to be who you are.

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