Do you recognise yourself in the following statements about being attractive?
“I can only get into a relationship with another person if I am attractive.”
“I’m ugly, so no one else will ever want a relationship with me.”
“My age says something about how attractive I am.”
If this is the case for you, the definition of being attractive is probably different for you. We often immediately think of physical aspects when we judge ourselves on attractiveness. But do others judge us just based on physical features or are there other factors at play that make a person attractive?
When are you attractive?
What is attractiveness? What does it mean and what makes someone attractive? The characteristics that make a person attractive can be culturally determined – and therefore changeable. It is also personal: not everyone likes the exact same thing. But there are also fixed “innate” characteristics. For example, symmetrical faces are labelled as more attractive.
If physical attractiveness (think of culture-bound – sometimes unrealistic – beauty standards such as a slim body with ‘curves’, a wrinkle-free face, full lips, big eyes, etc.) is the only way to establish a connection or relationship with someone. Then how come objectively beautiful men or women are also single? Maybe it takes more than physical attractiveness for a loving connection between one another? Are we perhaps making a fallacy if we value appearance too much and only count on people’s appearance?
Appearance is not everything
It is not unusual that we as humans like to be found attractive. An ‘attractive person’ captures our attention longer. Appearance is the first type of information we get about someone. If someone has a symmetrical appearance and meets culture-bound standards, we often automatically find that person attractive. However in the long run, we find more aspects important than appearance. We tend to like others who are liked, follow the social norm, are socially appreciated, or are somewhat like ourselves. Furthermore, we begin to find another person more attractive as we get to know them better. Provided that the other person exhibits socially positively judged behaviour. In other words: we are attracted to what is familiar to us.
This brings me to the Similarity/Attraction Theory: a combination of factors makes you attractive to someone else:
- Likability: being pleasant, sympathetic, and spontaneous in contact.
- Similarity: having similarities with the other. For instance, we often choose our partners based on similar characteristics such as age, personality, education level, intelligence, religion.
- Physical attraction: especially at the beginning of a dating phase, we value physical attraction more. This attraction can be different for everyone.
Other factors also play a role
When I investigate with clients – who find themselves unattractive – what they find unattractive about themselves exactly, we mainly arrive at physical characteristics. If we then further investigate what attractiveness exactly means, we arrive at more character traits than physical traits such as: well-groomed, image, humour, friendliness, spontaneous, adventurous, open, physically fit, ambitious, hygienic, social, proactive, honest, sociable, or cheerful.
Do you find yourself unattractive and do you zoom in too much on your appearance? Then it might be interesting to do the following exercise:
- Determine how unattractive you consider yourself from a score between 0 – 100%.
- List as many unattractive features as possible.
- Fill in the attractive features that are opposite of these on the right side of the list.
- Draw a line between the left and right properties and score yourself on this line.
- Determine, based on the information you now have, how unattractive you consider yourself.
Attractiveness consists of so much more than just physical features. Even if you don’t exactly fit into the ‘beauty standards’ of the status quo, you will see that based on other traits, you might be much more attractive than you initially thought. Try the assignment and find out how attractive you think you are based on your own research. Through this you’ll discover that attraction is different for everyone and consists of so many different things!