I’ll admit, I didn’t feel pretty until I got to uni, and I still have a complicated relationship with my body. Being a ballet dancer meant that I'd always been thin - perhaps too much so - to meet the demands of both the sport and my teacher. Then a combination of other sports meant that I was training up to six days a week. Stopping all of that during the pandemic and uni left me not knowing where I stand with my weight, and how could I feel comfortable with someone loving my body if I couldn't even love it myself?
While there are some days where I’ve made an effort to dress and walk out of the flat with a smile, perhaps only hours later I’ll catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror before a shower and it’s like a cold bucket of water. This lack of confidence in myself has made me feel like that’s the reason why I find it so hard talking to someone I’m attracted to, or even considering the idea that I could be that person to somebody else.
That brings up another issue. I don’t know how to feel about the uni “hook-up culture” because I’ve simply not lost my virginity. One’s virginity is so often branded as something that must be ticked off the list, or something that is an achievement. My self-image and fear have held me back from it because I just couldn’t fathom how I could be wanted in that way, and with it not being openly talked about at home when I grew up, I had no idea how to approach the idea of sex. While everyone in uni is generally laidback about using this time to explore what they enjoy (which is really good!!), it also creates the pressure that now is the time to figure everything out.
To continue off that, I just hadn’t found someone I have wanted to let myself be vulnerable with. Half of the advances I’ve had were people on the street and the phantom, unwanted feeling of their hands on me - it's funny, I can't even recall if they physically touched me - is another thing that just plays like a broken record. It may be cliche, but I want to make sure trust and comfort are key parts of the equation. Sure, attraction can be instant - I am a sucker for ‘love at first sight’ tropes, sue me - but real relationships take time and that’s alright. There is nothing wrong with self-love if you aren’t ready, but opening up to people is usually more than worth it in the end.
In short, I think I’ve just come to realise that the pressure and fear I currently hold about my image and virginity are all self-imposed. Of course, societal and environmental factors most definitely come into play but they only matter if you give them weight. There will be days when I don't want anyone to touch me, but I can also try and recreate that spring in my step that comes from a favourite accessory or an extra bit of eyeliner. And that need to lose my virginity? The right person will make me want it at the right time, I shouldn’t have to rush myself through it just to scratch it off my hypothetical list. Ultimately, you own your body, and whether you want to experiment out there, find yourself for a little bit longer or do neither and vibe through life, you do you, boo.