How to Feel More Confident About Your Looks

September 23, 2013 0 Comments

In my most recent post I described why healthy self-esteem can be very powerful in attracting men. It signals that you feel confident of your value to others, and acts as a form of social proof. Appearance is important too – men are very visual, and their first impression will largely reflect their perception of your physical attributes. Therefore, your best strategy to feel more confident about your looks is to:

  1. Maximize your physical appeal.
  2. Convey self-confidence in the way you present yourself to the world.

Obviously, the two are related – it’s not possible to come across as confident and attractive if you feel self-conscious and unattractive. Therefore, looking your best is the first order of business, and it will make the rest of the process easier. 

Most women succumb to unrealistic cultural expectations around beauty, and feel inadequate as a result:

Even the most beautiful young women I know struggle with feelings of being “not pretty enough.” It’s necessary to transcend that defeatist, dead-end attitude so that you don’t telegraph that negative energy when you interact with men. Remember, it’s not your job to attract all men.Your goal is ONE life partner you’re crazy about, not to be the hottest woman with the most options. We can’t all be that woman on the billboard – in fact, not even the model can be her! 

1. Be a niche player.

But, mistress, know yourself. Down on your knees

And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man’s love,

For I must tell you friendly in your ear

Sell when you can; you are not for all markets.

Cry the man mercy, love him, take his offer.

 

Rosalind, As You Like It, Shakespeare

None of us is for all markets. I’m short with an hourglass figure – I probably would have felt like a 10 in 1915. No doubt I’ve been attracted to men with a strong preference for mile long legs from time to time. They didn’t go for me. I would never have known why, but it doesn’t matter, because the men who liked me couldn’t get enough of what I had to offer.

2. Play to your strengths. 

What kinds of compliments do you receive? Know your best assets and feature them. Draw the eye to them. It could be your eyes, your smile, or even your toned arms. If you were lucky enough to get those mile long legs, show them off – the leg men will thank you. As long as you do so tastefully, you’ll attract the right kind of men.

The most common mistake I see young women make is that they cultivate a look that says DTF, then they’re offended when douchebags try to have sex with them. If you want to be someone’s girlfriend, you’ll have much better results if you dress like you already are. 

We all have certain outfits we feel best in – what is your go-to outfit when you want to impress? What is it about that look that makes you feel secure? You can’t come across as confident if you’re uncomfortable. Whether it’s tottering around on 5 inch stilettos when you usually wear flats or wearing a bandage skirt when you’re self-conscious about your bottom, wearing something you don’t feel fabulous in will cause you to radiate awkwardness and anxiety. 

3. Minimize your weaknesses. 

Don’t exaggerate your faults – that is self-indulgent, inaccurate thinking. It sounds like a paradox – how could exaggerating our faults be self-indulgent? Because it encourages us to play the victim, to point the finger elsewhere – it lets us off the hook, which is a whole lot less work than real improvement. We imagine insurmountable obstacles to our own success because we’re afraid of failing. What if we work out and eat well and take time with our appearance every morning, and we still don’t get any attention from guys? If that happens, I promise to help you figure something out, but in the meantime, you miss 100% of the shots you never take.

Embrace the risk of failure. Failure is your friend because it is your best teacher. Fail the first time, then fail better the second time.

You will be surprised how failures can turn into wins. One young woman I know was running late while getting ready for a party being held outdoors. Her roommates threatened to go without her, so she rushed out the door with them. On the way there, she realized she hadn’t worn mascara. She was mortified – her blonde eyelashes would not even be visible! That night the cutest guy at the party not only approached her but asked her on a real date! Her lack of artifice had utterly charmed him, and it was love at first sight. Who knows if he would have even felt attracted to her if she’d had time for a full smokey eye?

The best we can do is to acknowledge where we’re facing an uphill climb – and then start climbing.

4. Take control by changing what you can.

When I grew up my top teeth were naturally pretty straight, but my bottom teeth were really crooked. Really crooked. I felt pretty self-conscious about it. I was always aware of it when meeting new people.

At one point I was dating a dental student and it was going well – he was Australian and very charming. One day he leaned over, kissed the tip of my nose  and said with a smirk, “You really need to get those teeth fixed.” I was mortified. I suppose this was his idea of a neg, but instead of wanting to qualify myself to him, I ended it. And then I got braces on my bottom teeth.

That was money well spent, and worth the awkwardness of wearing braces as an adult. Just removing that source of anxiety changed the way I interacted with people! Unlike the woman in the video, I couldn’t photoshop my way to perfection, but I could change one thing that made me uncomfortable about myself. Most people never noticed that I’d had my teeth straightened, but that marginal improvement had a big payoff because what mattered what was in my head. 

I’ve known women who have benefited in a very real way from breast reduction surgery, breast augmentation (not referring to porn DDs here, but a change from nada to B cup), and rhinoplasty. 

Get a realistic assessment from an expert. Get a fitness evaluation at the gym. Treat yourself to a makeup lesson. Ask a professional hair stylist what kind of cut would suit your face.

Take action. Actively taking on a new challenge beats passivity every time.

5. Fitness is key.

Being optimally fit is the biggest payoff of all in boosting self-confidence. Exercise works in so many ways – it’s geometrically more powerful than any other thing you can do.

  1. Exercise makes you feel proud of yourself and virtuous for working out. That alone will put a spring in your step.
  2. As you keep at it, you get stronger – you can lunge deeper, spin with more resistance on the wheel, and power through sprints with energy. 
  3. It is the best way to pivot away from negative thoughts about oneself, just by virtue of its immediate physiological effects.
  4. Actually taking concrete steps to improve your health and appearance means you will get better looking. No one ever looked worse after working out regularly. 

Remember, it’s not about achieving perfection or someone else’s standard of beauty. It’s about feeling strong and knowing that your body telegraphs the way you feel about yourself as someone of value.

6. Get your head straight.

Avoid the all or nothing fallacy. It’s not a question of being gorgeous or giving up. Go for the slight change – in fact, go first for the easiest changes that will have the most impact.

If  you already look pretty close to your best, let go of crazy cultural pressures and unrealistic expectations. You are pretty enough to live the life you want right now.

Laugh at yourself.

Your life is full of comedic moments, so you might as well enjoy them, even when they are at your expense. During my final semester of business school, I was doing a lot of interviewing. I was invited to a second round with a firm that had its pick of graduates, so I was quite nervous but also excited. That day I was wearing pumps with ribbon bows on the toe, and as I made my way to the interview, one of the bows became unfastened on one side. As I walked the bow flopped off and back onto the shoe with each step.

When I reached the interview, I entered walking as gingerly as I could, with sort of a limp, so as not to display this ridiculous wardrobe malfunction. The senior partner interviewing me cocked one eyebrow and looked down at my feet just as the bow flopped sideways.  He pretended not to have noticed, but as he interviewed me, he kept looking down to check my shoe status.

I could sense that the interview was doomed, so I began to twitch my foot to dislodge the bow every so often, just to watch his response. By the end of the interview, I was grinning and he was disdainful. He actually took the time to call me personally and reject my application, rather than send the customary ding letter.

Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment sharing this story, and have been paid back with hilarious botched interview stories from others. There was the guy whose tailor shortened his new pants to just below the knee – not discovered until the morning of the interview in another city. And a classmate who spilled an orange soda on the Oriental rug in a Wall St. partner’s office, only to have the guy jump up and start screaming, “Blot, don’t wipe!”

7. Fake it till you make it.

Practice acting a bit more confident than you feel. Make eye contact. Tease someone playfully. Touch a forearm. You’ll get positive reinforcement for all of these things, which will lead to your doing them more. As noted previously, however, you have to eventually make it. You must become that confident person, or any improvements will be strictly short-term. 

I know that all of this sounds daunting, but look at it this way. We take on big, new projects all the time. We do it at work, we do it to plan a party for a friend, to travel, to find a new job. 

Make yourself your best new project. You’ll know you’ve reached your goal when you can walk into a room feeling confident about the way you’re put together. 

In my next post, I’ll talk about ways of shoring up self-esteem that go beyond the physical – becoming a more interesting person that people want to know.

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