If you’re not a narcissist sociopath, you probably feel that you could benefit from a bit more self-confidence in dealing with the opposite sex. Self-confidence is arguably more powerful and attractive than any other single trait, including good looks, earning power, or a great personality. Why? Because self-confidence is shorthand for all of those things. It communicates to the world that you have what it takes to be successful. Intelligence, kindness, ambition, social skill, strength, creativity, and all other winning traits culminate in your expression of confidence among your peers.
What’s in the Secret Sauce?
Your self-assurance announces your expectations of continued success in life, based on the results you’ve already achieved. Writing in the dating space for several years, one of my pet peeves are the suggestions to “Be more attractive” or “Act more confident.” You can’t “fake it till you make it” because fake confidence looks and sounds nothing like the real thing. It even smells different – the anxiety produces body odors very detectable to others.
(One useful exception is Amy Cuddy, whose work has shown that assuming confident body postures can increase real confidence.)
Let’s face it, some people have natural advantages that make life look easy. They come out of the womb brimming with self-assurance. Most of us, though, have sometimes considered how we might get a bump in self-confidence to feel more attractive (or at least less pathetic).
The classic example follows rejection, usually in the form of a breakup. We are determined to be seen as “super hot” by the person who hurt us, so we buy a new outfit, go all out with our makeup and set out for the evening with some liquid courage in tow. Our best friends assure us that “He’ll realize what he’s missing.” We show up to find him holding hands with someone new and avoiding us entirely. (That happened to me.)
It’s also common for both men and women to find new resolve after a relationship ends and hit the gym. Weight loss is a common goal. We cheer ourselves on, determined to achieve Coco Chanel’s “fabulous and classy” standard, heralding a new era of femme fatality. Yet these projects are rarely successful, typically deteriorating into vodka and Chaka Khan.
It’s not about the physical.
One study looked at how much weight one needs to lose for others to notice a difference, and then how much more one needs to lose to be perceived as more attractive. The results were rather discouraging. Both women and men need to lose around 9 lbs. before we even notice a difference. In order to be perceived as more attractive, women need to drop 14 lbs. and men 18 lbs. That’s for people in the normal range, not those with a lot to lose. Even if we are successful our self-image takes time to catch up to our new reality.
Sudden big changes to our personal appearance are just another version of “fake it till you make it,” and they rarely last because they are motivated by short-term goals. Of course, getting healthy is always a good idea, and definitely carries a benefit in the dating market. After all, beauty standards evolved because they reflect good health – shiny hair, bright eyes, full lips and clear skin are all signs of fertility and health.
A much better way of building real self-confidence in the short-term is to think about increasing your abilities in those areas besides looks that are very important to the opposite sex. What will make you feel more confident, and therefore behave more confidently, are achievements that broadcast to the world that you are intelligent, ambitious, kind, creative or strong. That you are curious, funny, fiercely loyal, generous and ethical. That you are some combination of these traits, which makes you interesting.
What makes people interesting?
Imagine walking up to an acquaintance at a party and asking them how they’re doing. They respond “Same old, same old.” Don’t you immediately want to get away? My eyes immediately start searching for a way out. It’s boring, negative, deflating. To be interesting, something’s gotta be new.
It’s not interesting to say what lots of other people are saying, or to do what everyone else is doing. Different is interesting. (Up to a point – if you’re too different people won’t be able to share in your enthusiasm and will just think you’re a weirdo.)
Two traits that make people different and interesting to talk with are curiosity coupled with a desire to share. Those are the ingredients for an enjoyable social connection. People who are always learning interest me the most – I look forward to seeing what they’re up to these days. It helps if they’re also good listeners. I find those people are the ones who most often connect ideas to create new ways of seeing or thinking about things.
Things you can do to become more interesting
Jessica Hagy has a great article at Business Insider on how to be more interesting that highlights some excellent advice with some great graphics. These are some of my favorites, but I encourage you to go read the whole article:
Explore ideas, places, and opinions. The inside of the echo chamber is where all the boring people hang out.
To embarrassment. To ridicule. To risk. To strange events and conditions. To wild ideas. To things that make you cringe. To strange vistas and new sounds. Trust me. It’ll be fun.
Keep asking why
Parents hate it when kids do it.
And on and on. But try it. You’ll be surprised at how quickly a simple Why? can turn into a fascinating Because.
Share what you discover
And be generous when you do. Not everybody went exploring with you.
Let them live vicariously through your adventures.
Do not wait until tomorrow. Say, do, or make it now. Go where you need to be. Do not wait to be invited places. Host your own parties.
Do not sit by the phone. Pick it up. Spread the word. Press the buttons. Buy the tickets and enjoy the show.
Earnestly enjoy yourself
Irony gets in the way of experience. Drop the pretense, and you’ll have room to carry the day.
Sing along to cheesy pop music. Enjoy things that are out of style. Make silly faces. Stop stifling your giggles.
Give yourself permission to enjoy yourself.
Becoming more interesting is not difficult. All of us can do it. It involves choosing to be active rather than passive, to make things happen in our lives. If we can make our lives more interesting to ourselves, the self-confidence will follow. And so will the interest of the opposite sex.