I received a very sweet email this week asking for advice from someone who has anxiety as a virgin in his 20s. Being a virgin after university can feel abnormal. It’s completely understandable to feel anxious around women and intimacy. But it’s not as bad as you think.

First and most importantly, I want to state that being a virgin in your twenties does not make you weird. It does not make you abnormal. Most of all, it does not mean you’re less than a non-virgin of the same age.

Being a virgin in your twenties is totally normal infographic

In fact, I conducted a survey of my site to find out how many virgins are out there and the results show that there is nothing unusual at all about being a virgin in your twenties. And the best part is that nearly ever guy will lose his virginity by his thirties.

We live in a world where everything is hyper-sexualised. TV, movies, even adverts are telling us that everyone is better looking than we are, and having a lot more sex that we are. It’s also telling us that that’s what we need to be happy. It simply isn’t true. It’s easy to compare yourself to the image that you’re being sold, but you shouldn’t.

So right now. Before we go into any tips or advice on how to deal with the anxiety, just tell yourself that you’re normal. That being a virgin is fine. Not ideal for you perhaps, but certainly not some horrible mark that makes you lesser than anyone else.

Starting from zero

One of the hardest parts about being inexperienced in your twenties is that you feel like you’re starting from zero when everyone else has had years of practice. Not just sex, but simple things like starting a conversation with a girl. Or asking for her number. Or getting to the kissing part.

If you meet a girl, and you like her, what do you do? Are you upfront about your inexperience, or do you fake it till you make it? Either one is an option actually. It all depends on what you’re most comfortable with.

I personally think honesty is the best policy. But I can also understand why admitting to a girl you’ve never done this before can be embarrassing. It’s best however to find a partner who you think will be understanding and accepting of your inexperience. A good person would never look down on you or make fun of you for it.

The best thing to do when you’ve got zero experience is to just go for it. You might make mistakes. But they’re mistakes you need to make to get better. No one starts out as an expert in kissing. Even if you read a billion tips on how to be a fantastic kisser, until you’ve tried it, you won’t really know how it works. Like driving a car, reading about changing gears is very different to actually changing gears.

Fear of intimacy

When you get to a certain stage, you start turning away potential romantic possibilities. You might not realise it. Anxiety is a strange creature, and for some, it’s easier to turn down an event than going through with it and being humiliated. If you have insecurities about being a virgin, you might also have fears of intimacy which is pushing you away from people.

It’s ok to be insecure. It’s completely normal. People hide their insecurities, such as putting on a confident act, or sometimes they run away from it so they never have to deal with it. It’s understandable because no one likes the idea of rejection. However you’ll need to put yourself out there and let someone in eventually.

There are ways of reducing the risk of rejection. For the most part, it’s about finding the right person. Someone who is kind and compassionate. Someone who is open minded and understanding. There are plenty of people out there who are like that. So get to know a few girls.

Girls as in plural. It’s good to simply getting chatting. Don’t see them as potential lovers, instead treat them like you would a friend. If there’s a bit of flirting, that’s great. You can find out more about them and take things from there. If you feel you’re not ready for that then, no worries. Go at your own pace.

There’s no deadline

Go at your own pace. Seriously. You might feel that you’re already late to the party, but the truth is it’s not a party. It’s more like a meal, no point in eating until you’re hungry. Even if you think you’re hungry, you’ll know deep down if you’re ready.

I really do emphasis the need to be ready. Sex is a big deal. I mean, it’s not, but it also is. People big it up a lot, and that can add extra pressure. It can be special. I’m a romantic, and I believe the first time should be special. No matter what, you always remember your first time. In the future you can have tons of bad sex, or one offs. But for your first time, you need to be comfortable and ready.

Don’t feel you need to rush into things. If anything, that’s going to put even more pressure on you. Get to know someone. Become attracted to them. Take things slow because you’re learning and it’s an experience. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, we all do. Finally, if you think you messed it up, well there’s always next time. And the time after that.