How Can I Tell How Attractive I Really Am?

How Can I Tell How Attractive I Really Am?

Hi Evan,

I have been reading your blog for over a year now and I have also bought your book Why He Disappeared. I enjoy a lot of the advice and generally agree with most of it.

You generally maintain the reason why people are single is they over-assess themselves and rate themselves higher than what they originally are. Like a 6 thinking she is an 8. So my question today is basically this: how do you correctly analyze yourself? I always feel like asking people I am around (good friends, coworkers etc.) but I am scared it might ruin things/make things uncomfortable and basically they might tell me what I want to hear.

So is there an objective way to quantify yourself so that you are clear in where you stand? —Sharon

Thanks for the self-aware question about not being entirely self-aware.

I’ve always used a metaphor to describe people and their attractiveness ratings.

Think of it like a clothing store.

You’re introducing a new brand of milk. It’s no different than anyone else’s 2% milk, but it’s your unique packaging. You’re targeting wealthy people who want the best of the best in everything. To that end, you price your milk at $10/gallon.

Nobody buys it.

Does anyone that you want to date want to date you back?

There’s nothing wrong with the milk. It’s just not finding its target market.

You lower the price to $9. $8. $7. $6. $5…

Your mind is blown because you thought that your milk was different and special and it turns out that no matter how strongly you felt about your unique brand, other people — your buyers – only valued it at a lesser rate.

It’s basic supply and demand and it’s about the only way to see what your value is.

Sure, you can put your face up on HotOrNot or buy one of those Ugly iPhone apps to gauge your “scientific” attractiveness rating. But that’s not particularly telling.

More telling is this: does anyone that you want to date want to date you back?

If not, you’re overestimating yourself, no matter what “number” you think you are.

Listen, we overestimate ourselves because it’s necessary. No one would want to wake up in the morning, thinking that she’s ugly, stupid, mean, and has bad taste in clothing, music, and décor. But if you look around, there are a lot of stupid, ugly, mean people with bad taste, aren’t there?

So a measure of self-delusion is not only normal, but somewhat healthy for survival.

People respond to confident people and whether the confidence is deserved or not doesn’t really matter, as long as each delusional pot finds a delusional lid.

The only time that this overconfidence bias becomes a problem is when there’s a severe disconnect between reality and fantasy.

The 62-year-old guy who writes to you online when you’re 31? If he starts to take things personally, he’s gonna go through some hard times. He may be a great catch, but if he’s holding out for exclusively women who DON’T want him, he’ll likely be alone for a really, really, really long time.

I don’t judge him. He wants what he wants. But I do feel bad for him.

Everyone becomes choosier online because we’re comparing you to other, younger, taller, richer, smarter people in a way that we don’t in real life.

He’s overestimated himself and forgotten that the 31-year-old could have any man — 30, 35, 40, 45, 50… there’s virtually NO reason she would choose to go out with him.

Flip that over and apply this logic to yourself, Sharon.

If every guy you write to online is a 9 and none of those guys write back, they probably don’t see you as a “9” as well.

Keep going down the list — writing to the 8s, 7s, 6s, and 5s. The ones who start writing back are the ones at your level.

For most people, this reality check is quite a slap in the face.

And that’s exactly why I do it with all my private clients.

I have no tolerance for people who don’t embrace reality and if a fit 50-year-old woman is only going to write to hot 45-year-old guys who claim to want 35-year-old women, she’s most definitely wasting her time.

To put a final point on it, online dating isn’t the best arbiter for your attractiveness number. Everyone becomes choosier online because we’re comparing you to other, younger, taller, richer, smarter people in a way that we don’t in real life.

In real life, your physical attractiveness number is completely affected by your personality.

Overweight women, women with large noses, women who are older — name your physical bugaboo — all become sexier when attached to a bright, vibrant, positive, engaging personality. Which is why the photo test is, at best, limited.

Still, if you’re only holding out for men who have no interest in you, you’re probably overestimating yourself and should take it down a peg. Same exact advice applies to all men, so please, no angry comments, okay? ☺

Join our conversation (324 Comments).
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  1. 21

    Thanks for the perspective, Karl R #18. I may be too afraid of getting burned again and have been looking for reasons and making excuses to avoid it. It’s nice to know there are people out there who are willing to overlook a few physical flaws in exchange for laughter, kindness, and genuine loyalty. Your fiancee is a lucky girl!

  2. 22

    Karl R: “Breasts don’t grow (or shrink) when exposed to direct sunlight.”

    Thank you for the biggest laugh I have had in a number of days. 😀

    More to the point of this thread: Why even ask this question “How can I tell how attractive I really am?” Every person will be attractive to some types and unattractive to others, and it doesn’t always relate to appearance. Why attempt to put this on a quantitative scale: just for vanity’s sake?

    Apart from which: back in the days I was dating, both incredibly handsome men and ugly men asked me out. Apparently they both thought I was the appropriate attractiveness level for them. I really don’t think there is any objective scale. There is such a wide range of tastes, and to attempt to limit yourself by numbers, you may cut out a lot of people who may be right for you.

    The best you can do for yourself is to BE yourself, happily and proudly and confidently. Instead of only relying on online sites, also take the time to meet people regularly in person.

  3. 23

    First off, online is a poor representation of people,because everyones different in real life. I get hit on regularly but with online dating, I get an average of 3 emails every 2 months….go figures. Whereas I may seem like a 4 online, Im actually a higher (subjective) number in real life. Or so it seems as I get hit on by a number of attractive, well-off men.

    Also, confidence is over-rated. I like a term Ive read on a different site and the idea is to be ‘comfortable.’ Ive been on dates with men overflowing with egoistic confidence that turned me off and with men who were COMFORTABLE with who they are (vs. confidence) that was such a turn on. They were shy, easygoing, but had a comfortable charm about them that made them attractive. Confidence is simply over-rated.

  4. 24
    Katherine Wakefield

    To get your personality across in a photo online is incredibly hard to do. If you meet face to face you are making an unconscious assessment of your potential date from personality to physical attraction. You don’t have this in online dating.
    I don’t always judge the photo, i look at the email where the personality can shine through. But again sometimes this dosen’t translate. Some people don’t communicate well by email. I’ve had dates who haven’t been adept at emailing but on the phone its been like talking to a different person! I’ve been on dates where they have been adept at emailing but when meeting in person it just wasn’t there.
    Trust your instincts they won’t let you down. If you are looking for the perfect 10 you will never find them. If you look for flaws you will find them. If you look for faults you will find them. Look for the positives and you may just find the date that you have been waiting for!

  5. 25

    This is a timely post. I’ve dated men up and down the looks spectrum, and generally speaking, the men who contact me online are maybe 5s, with a couple higher and lower sprinkled throughout. Personality and intelligence are HUGE for me and this is what’s missing in online dating. It doesn’t do me any favors (as someone who can take time to get to know) and it doesn’t do the men any favors, either.

    Sometimes when I see someone online I think of some of the guys I work with who, when I first met them I didn’t think twice about them. But then, after getting to know them, I find them quite attractive and have grown to like them. That way, I’m reminded that just because someone doesn’t have a good photo, they could still be a great catch. However, there are just some looks I cannot stand, so that often stands in the way of giving someone a chance. Namely, facial hair. I think it’s disgusting!

    My ex was in the 8-9 range and I don’t wish him on my greatest enemy. Yet, he is always in a relationship. Most of the really good-looking men I’ve dated are quite flawed, actually. And most of the really good-looking women I know also have some serious issues.

  6. 26

    Melle #23

    “Comfortable” is fine, but it’s often hard to feel comfortable if you lack confidence. Confidence doesn’t have to mean arrogance. Truly confident people feel good about themselves without egotism.

  7. 27

    in evan’s “pitty the pretty” posting that he did a while ago, he talks about pretty women not being able to attract decent guys because the decent guys generally don’t bother going there, and so the pretty women often get the creepy guys who don’t care if they get rejected and will shamelessly have a go. where does this fit into pretty women being able to judge their realistic attractiveness to men? thanks for any comments in advance.

  8. 28

    If you take a look at the book ‘why women want love & men want sex’ by Allan & Barbara Pease, they have a very good section to work out your ‘mating rating’. A fantastic read & good base for dating in general.

  9. 29

    Online dating profiles are such a terrible gauge of attraction anyways. I found that men who spent so much time putting up great photos and writing witty responses to everything were better in the marketing. Men who had a few nice, casual photos of them being real and wrote straightforward, genuine, and pretty mundane responses to the dating questions were in fact, better in real life (for the most part).

    As far as real life is concerned, though, I’d start putting myself out there as much as possible and always trying to look your best. So, if you are a 6 in (a) flip flops and a sweatshirt, and an 8 in (b) nice boots and a sweaterdress and some mascara, go for outfit b, even if it’s just to the grocery store. (I’ve tried this, it works). Smile a lot and joke with people. Go to Memorial Day or 4th of July bbq’s, networking events, etc. If men aren’t finding you attractive in person at your most attractive, then whatever! His loss!

    You are either someone’s type or you aren’t, but you should give them every reason to find you attractive and go from there.

  10. 30

    Evan, as usual you are correct in your thinking. Thanks for all your wonderful insightful comments. Yes, we all do listen and take heed!

    Thanks Karl (#18) for your delicious insight! I am still laughing. You are correct on all points.

    Still Looking!!!

  11. 31

    Since PHYSICAL attractiveness is critical, it really should come up more on this blog.
    Let me make this clear “beauty is NOT in the sight of the beholder” – for men. All studies show that most men show a consensus on what they consider physically attractive.
    Other than comparatively few outliers, the majority of men are in agreement whether you are a 4 or a 7.

    With one exception, and I don’t think Evan takes this into account. A woman who is a 4 to men her age, may well be a 7 to a man who is much older. That is because attraction for most men is based on signs of fertility

    It is all part of this ‘value’ system. Men are lower value when they are older. They have higher value if they have status. For women who do not cut it on looks, their options are restricted to ugly losers and older men.

    Breast size IS a factor for most men, but it is more important to have a healthy overall shape, and a cute face.

    But I’m not attracted to losers or old guys you say. Well no, can’t blame you there.
    A number of you choose to remain perpetually single instead, while holding on to the delusion that Prince Charming will arrive eventually and overlook the fact that you are 20 years past your physical best. Good luck with that.

    Which leaves the last option. BECOME MORE ATTRACTIVE.

  12. 32

    Zaq, two things:

    1. There is one other exception beyond age: that is if you are of a race that is not the predominant race in your society. Then, there is a huge amount of disagreement among men about whether you are a 4 or a 7. This is true regardless of whether your face shows bilateral symmetry or you have large eyes, full lips, etc. – all the other objective markers of beauty.

    2. Your wrote: “For women who do not cut it on looks, their options are restricted to ugly losers and older men.” Take a look at the married couples around you. Very often, you’ll see women who are not that objectively attractive married to handsome, age-appropriate men who are not losers. Likewise, you’ll see objectively beautiful women married to ugly or older men. In real life, people are not “restricted” by looks, in either direction.

  13. 33

    But how, when attractiveness is so dependent on largely immutable factors – facial symmetry and youth among the most prominent of them? Many women of the subgroup that this site targets are already as thin as they can conceivably be, often as a compensatory measure. Are you contending that the money and pain involved if they were to go about purchasing a younger, “cuter” face would be worth it?

  14. 34
    Paul Mawdsley

    Zaq, I can’t help but sense that your view of the world is missing an enormous amount of information. You speak as though measurements and statistics are all that is to be considered in shaping your sense of the world. I’m new to this blog but your perspective reminds me of certain physicists and psychologists I’ve dealt with elsewhere. In these others I have come to see that they have very little respect for ways of making sense of the world from a more intuitive and feeling place that starts with experience rather than measurements and statistics. Invariably, they have little respect for intuitive learning, model building and theorizing using experience, introspection and empathy. They tend strongly toward behaviorist psychology and the neo-Copenhagen interpretation of QM. They prefer Skinner over Jung and Bohr over Einstein. And they speak from a place of authority that is so “objective” that it cannot be “reasonably” be questioned. I wonder if you are coming from a similar place.

    Interpretation of statistical data depends completely on the amount of information your schemata allows you to integrate. It depends completely on the intuitive lenses you have built through which you interpret what you have measured. For example, if mass appeal is the goal of a dating profile because you believe this is the way to find love, then tailoring your profile to what the majority of the opposite sex is looking for makes sense. This leads to creating a profile, an image of how we want to be perceived, from an outside standard of attractiveness. When I wrote my dating profile I realized this was not my goal. I wanted to meet women that were a good fit for the real person I am. I put together pictures that showed different sides of my real character and a profile that was very authentically me, which I knew would eliminate 95% of women reading it. I created a profile from an inside standard of my value and my attractiveness. I really didn’t care what those who couldn’t see who I was thought of me. I knew that the right person would recognize my attractiveness. She did.

    My whole approach was based on intuitive learning, model building and theorizing using experience, introspection and empathy. It sent me in a completely different direction to the “objective” approach. And it worked. There is so much more to interpreting life and the universe than measurements and statistics.

  15. 35
    Karl R

    Zaq said: (#31)
    “All studies show that most men show a consensus on what they consider physically attractive. Other than comparatively few outliers, the majority of men are in agreement whether you are a 4 or a 7.”

    Please show us your source.

    In trying to find studies that might support what you said, I found multiple articles which referred to one study … and none of them gave enough details to support any of the statements you made above (including the abstract of the study in question).

    Men agree more than women on whom they find beautiful. Men’s agreement tended to focus on three traits: thin, seductive and confidence.

    It seems your claims are greatly exaggerated.

    The only study I found which actually quantified some of its results comes from an OkCupid blog post:

    If you scroll down to the section titled “Real People”, you’ll see that there is an actual breakdown for two members of the site. One shows a high degree of “consensus” about her looks, the other one shows a high degree of diversity in opinion.

    If you look carefully, you’ll notice that even with the woman where there’s a high degree of “consensus”, less than 50% of men gave her the same rating. That’s not even a majority.

  16. 36


    “Most women underestimate their attractiveness where as men seem to overestimate it .”

    Over generalization/blanket statement, that’s what gets us into trouble when dating :). I know I make them too.

    I am a man and I don’t overestimate my attractiveness. I think I am reasonably attractive. Besides it’s not me who determines my attractiveness, it’s the person would dates me. If I am attractive to them then great we’re good! And Vice Versa.

  17. 37

    just a question: why you write that a 31y.o. woman could choose instead a 30, 40 or 50 y.o. guy?
    Is a guy that’s younger then her (say 28) out of her league?
    These days I see many women getting married to younger men, and my mother herself, after decades of disastrous relationship, found happiness nearly 20 years ago with her boyfriend who is 7 years her junior. They are still together, and they have a 17 y.o. girl.
    Why don’t you even mention a younger men?
    I am 32 and – as much as I have nothing against finding a guy that’s my age (sorry 40/50 something: not my thing), I always end up attracting 28…
    They say it’s because I look ridiculously younger (24/25), but bottom line is: why not mention it?
    These days it happens a lot !

  18. 38

    Two more complicating factors:
    – The demographic profile of where you live affects your rating. I live in a city in which has proportionally far more eligible women than men, therefore artificially inflating my attractiveness.
    – Women have to differentiate between men who are looking for just sex and men who are genuinely interested. Men who are on the prowl will often drop their standards considerably in order to get laid. This might explain why some of the posters here have had both ugly and attractive men approach them.

  19. 39


    I think last week there was an article on MSN that was fairly compelling that concluded that most women underrate their attractiveness. The way I wrote the statement does look like a blanket generalization I agree. Most of my women friends I have ever known underrate their attractiveness and make unreasonable comparisons of themselves to models/actresses etc.

  20. 40

    Zaq #31

    While it is true that there is a great deal of consensus on what constitutes attractiveness for both men and women (i.e., symmetrical faces and bodies are considered most attractive), there is still enough variability in individual concepts of beauty that we do not all seek exactly the same people. It’s already been mentioned that personality and chemistry between two individuals also influences whom we find attractive. That’s why a certain woman looks cute to you, but not so much to your best friend. When you comment that some women “overlook the fact that you are 20 years past your physical best,” remember that everyone ages differently as well.

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