January 7, 2022

Are we Less Attractive than we Think we Are?


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Yesterday, a woman friend shared a photo of herself, saying she thought she looked “terrible” in it.

Yet, it was a gorgeous shot. Maybe she had a slightly funny expression, but I still thought it was a picture she would feel good about.

In my experience, several women—even those who seem extremely beautiful—have an inner list of things they think need improving about their appearance so they would be more attractive.

I’d guess this is at least partly because they’ve been bombarded all their lives with idealised images of female beauty and products they’re being persuaded to buy to achieve that.

What many don’t seem to know is that for most men over 30, a woman’s personality is more important than her looks. Her attractiveness to him is more about how he feels when he’s with her and whether he actually likes her. In fact, if she’s incredibly beautiful, he may feel threatened by her, or worry that he’s punching above his weight, metaphorically speaking.

Men are also targeted by manipulative marketing, but I don’t think we’re as worried about our appearance. I realise I might be out-of-date here, but I’ve read that women apparently tend to underestimate their attractiveness by a couple of points, whereas men often think they’re better looking than they are.

It’s obvious that many male celebrities are quite average looking, with their capabilities and character rated as being more important—a difference which you can see in any city centre in the form of scruffy-looking men accompanied by their immaculately groomed partners.

I’ve sometimes looked at what seemed like a terrible photo of myself when a friend says I look “great”—and I know them well enough to realize that they’re not just being polite!

I’ve wondered if this mismatch between how I think I look and the less appealing, photographic evidence is because I have an inflated opinion of my own attractiveness. So, an image which contradicts that must just be a “bad picture.” Or does it just mean I’m not really all that interested in what I look like?

In any case, few photos capture our true essence; it’s why taking good portraits is so much harder than it looks. The truth is that none of us has a clear idea of how we appear to other people because everyone has their own set of filters, preferences, and ideals that shape what they see.

So, unless we’re lucky enough to conform to some ideal of attractiveness, if we’ve met someone who thinks we look good, it’s best to be happy about it and not question their judgement. They won’t really notice what we look like anyway after a while—which is why it’s unwise to start a relationship based just on physical attraction—and will be mainly experiencing how they feel in our company.

I like the definition of maturity as when the person we think we are—physically and emotionally—matches up pretty well with how other people view us. It means we’ve got ourselves pretty much in perspective.

We know we’re “unique but not special,” and of no more or less value than anyone else. It’s a nicely relaxed state of mind, and I try to hold on to it, especially when I’m confronted by those two inner demons who keep telling me either how absolutely gorgeous or how totally ugly I am. I try to ignore them and stay in the real world of self-acceptance, standing on solid inner ground with nothing to prove to other people, and nothing to fear from their opinion of me.

It’s a nice place to be!


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