How Can I Tell How Attractive I Really Am?

How Can I Tell How Attractive I Really Am?
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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? ☺

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Comments:

  1. 41
    Helen

    Karl R 35: One interesting facet of that page is that it shows that women with the most striking appearances (very prominent facial features, expressions, tattoos, etc.) elicit the greatest diversity of ratings from men, and likewise receive the most contacts. However, those with the most “average” features, which scientific articles have shown are considered most “attractive,” get more consensus in the ratings and fewer contacts. How odd.

    The game theory hypothesis is intriguing, but apparently hasn’t been tested.

    I wonder if these results also hold true when people meet face-to-face as opposed to online, or whether the reverse happens, because the game theory hypothesis would no longer hold (the men have less immediate competition).

  2. 42
    Nicole

    @Helen, #32, thanks for pointing that out.

    As a minority, I kind of get tired of people who insist that everyone finds the same things attractive, and you regularly put down beautiful women of my race as being inferior even when they possess the “classic markers of beauty.” It’s interesting how people’s goggles are, b/c the ways that people will insist/deny that all women of a certain race are unattractive is mind-boggling. They’ll see things that aren’t even there in regards to facial features and proportions.

    Too many people think that we all love pale skin and blond hair and somehow think it is crazy to think that the women and men who don’t normally have those features frequently DON’T find them to be the most attractive.

    You’ll hear plenty of minority women who get a lot of attention when in groups where their own race is the majority or at least very visible, and they get ZERO attention when taken out of that setting.

    So I appreciate hearing someone who I think isn’t a minority acknowledging that it’s not just b/c the rest of us are just objectively uglier. (And I saw a comment on another thread that was putting down Halle Berry in favor of Angelina Jolie as if it was an immutable fact that AJ was better looking. The guys of my minority group would probably disagree if polled, and would list a lot of women that other men haven’t heard of and wouldn’t like. We don’t really care, but I like to point out that there is more than one beauty standard out there).

  3. 43
    Kathleen

    Nicole
    Im from New Zealand so from another culture
    Ive noticed plenty of African American women/women of color here in the U.S. who are attractive, striking, and stunning I also really admire and appreciate the confidence that many of them carry themselves with because I was never that confident when younger.
    Some of the African American women I personally know have started dating white guys and they are very happy that they have now broadened their dating pool because these guys adore them.

  4. 44
    Helen

    Nicole 42: thanks. Actually, two things:

    1) I was the one who considered Halle Berry more beautiful than AJ in that other thread (but that was because AJ was mentioned by the OP, not because I considered her immutably better-looking).

    2) I’m also a minority, but not African-American. I’ll guess, though, that our experiences are very similar. Where our looks are concerned, we can divide people into three groups. There are certain people who consider us ugly based solely on our race; other people who consider us objectively pretty or beautiful based on facial symmetry, large eyes, nice figure, etc.; and yet others who can’t tell us apart from each other for the life of them. The last group is the funniest. In two conferences, I’ve been compared to a woman of the same race who is younger and lovelier, and also to another woman of the same race who is three decades older! The guys who “confused” us in these cases literally could not tell us apart. The only commonality among our looks: our race.

  5. 45
    Karl R

    Helen asked: (#41)
    “I wonder if these results also hold true when people meet face-to-face as opposed to online, or whether the reverse happens, because the game theory hypothesis would no longer hold (the men have less immediate competition).”

    I would bet these results are more true in a face-to-face environment. Furthermore, I would bet that’s the environment where these “game theory” behaviors are established. The behaviors become so firmly entrenched that they carry over to an online environment where the competition is less apparent.

  6. 46
    Stacey

    This is a strange debate. Yes, Victoria Secret and Sports Illustrated have done all of us a huge disservice by pushing a tall skinny blonde long legged fair skinned type as the ultimate and the only brand of beauty. Yes, thanks to the media, the images of this 1% of all women that 100 years ago 99% of men would never encounter in real life have now been digitally enhanced further, multiplied and broadcasted to every home and the male population is conditioned by this impossible standard. Yes, those of us who look closer to the “ideal” will have more options in dating, and yes, for some of us with clear drawbacks easily “fixable” by modern science, it is worth fixing it rather than waiting for the world to become a better place where men appreciate various types of beauty and value women by what’s on the inside.

  7. 47
    Zaq

    Karl

    Can’t be bothered to find the studies. Suggest you google it.

    From memory, the study quoted in Freakonomics Men were more likely to approach those that were physically more attractive, and in several orders of magnitude greater than those who were less attractive.
    The OKCupid study showed that with many thousands of interactions, the men showed that the majority of women were considered a 5 (or whatever their mid point was). In fact it was a perfect normal distribution curve. This is only possible if there is a high correlation between the men on what is considered attractive, and by how much. In particular it shows that men’s view on what is considered beautiful is NOT affected by Hollywood’ s representation of the average female, which is I think a little unexpected unless you take note of what the evolutionary biologists are saying.
    In complete contrast, the women showed that, as a whole, they found that men were less than averagely attractive, which IS what you would expect if there is disagreement on what is ‘beautiful’.
    I remember reading somewhere that women only agree on who is the most attractive, but disagree on everyone else.

    A separate study showed that a persons own attractiveness had NO effect on who THEY considered attractive (that’s not what they expected either). And yes of course that also supports the OKCupid study, because again NORMAL DISTRIBUTION CURVE !!. Not therefore affected by one’s own attractiveness level.

    Now on a personal level, I could say surely Juliet Roberts mouth is too big. Surely Angelina Jolie’s EVERYTHING is too big. But I cannot deny they are attractive. Yet some women can find Robert Contanzo or Ernest Borgnine attractive. What ???

  8. 48
    Zaq

    @Paul

    You are completely correct. I do not value intuition at all. Anyone with any knowledge of Quantum Mechanics will quickly lose faith in “intuition”. The Universe is how it is measured to be, not how you want it to be.
    Yes, I’d like to be believe that either sex would value the other on the beauty that is within, not on what is skin deep. That is however NOT what we observe.
    Why was Prince Charming a good mate choice ONLY because of his ability to provide resources. Why was Cinderalla good because she was beautiful. Why were the evil sisters physically ugly.
    Fairy tales can tell us much about our value systems.

  9. 49
    Karl R

    Stacey said: (#46)
    “Yes, Victoria Secret and Sports Illustrated have done all of us a huge disservice by pushing a tall skinny blonde long legged fair skinned type as the ultimate and the only brand of beauty.”
    “the male population is conditioned by this impossible standard.”

    OkCupid looked at the data on how men had rated women on their site:

    “Our chart shows how men have rated women, on a scale from 0 to 5. The curve is symmetric and surprisingly charitable: a woman is as likely to be considered extremely ugly as extremely beautiful, and the majority of women have been rated about “medium.” The chart looks normalized, even though it’s just the unfiltered opinions of our male users.”

    “Given the popular wisdom that Hollywood, the Internet, and Photoshop have created unrealistic expectations of how a woman should look, I found the fairness and, well, realism, of this gray arc kind of heartening.”

    OkCupid also looked at the data on how women had rated men on their site:

    “women rate an incredible 80% of guys as worse-looking than medium. Very harsh.”

    You can read their results here:

    According to the data, men have a realistic opinion of women’s appearance. Women have a harsh and unrealistic opinion of men’s appearance.

    Perhaps the finger-pointing is going in the wrong direction.

  10. 50
    Karl R

    Zaq said: (#47)
    “Can’t be bothered to find the studies. Suggest you google it”

    I googled it and could only find one study. It didn’t provide enough information to support or refute your claim.

    If you want to prove that the study exists, stop being lazy and do your own search.

    Since you’re showing a tendency to skim without reading details, let me point out that the headlines to the articles implied there was a consensus, but if you read the details that’s not what the data indicated.

    Zaq said: (#47)
    “The OKCupid study showed that with many thousands of interactions, the men showed that the majority of women were considered … whatever their mid point was … In fact it was a perfect normal distribution curve.”

    I mostly agree with that. It was an almost perfect distribution curve.

    Zaq said: (#47)
    “This is only possible if there is a high correlation between the men on what is considered attractive, and by how much.”

    That’s completely wrong. If you had actually read the first OkCupid link I’d provided, you would realize that the actual data proved that statement wrong.

    If you had studied higher math, you’d also realize that you can get a normalized curve without a high correlation.

    So to recap, you claim that “all the studies” support your belief in consensus among men about women’s beauty. Of the three studies I’ve found, two don’t provide enough evidence to support or refute your claim, and one study refutes it.

    1. 50.1
      Imogen

      why is everyone arguing with each other? ive noticed that a lot of people are making an effort to describe how they look. dont be lame. Your statistics will never measure up to how you actually look.  

  11. 51
    Kathleen

    As a tall slim leggy fair skinned blonde I resemble those comments !!!!! LOL

  12. 52
    Stacey

    Karl R #49

    I am not “pointing fingers” at men, as you seem to suggest, I am pointing at the media and their impact. The fact that men have “realistic” opinion of women’s looks does not disprove or contradict what I said about impossible standards. Men just acknowledge that most women do not live up to those standards, completely realistically.

    Consider a hypothetical situation where all women with VS proportions and looks (i.e. 10-s) disappeared off the face of the planet. Suddenly, women who used to be 9-s move up to 10-s, 8-s to 9-s, etc. In other words, the entire “cost curve” shifts upwards, if you will. Since modern men are being repeatedly shown lots of images of extremely beautiful women, within a very narrow definition of what beautiful is, in their eyes this is what a 10 should look like. This leads to depreciation of beauty outside of that standard and to boyfriends who throw into faces of their g/fs the cold, hard “realistic” facts that they are no Angelina Jolies like from the letter from last week.

    OTOH, a 100 years ago a 10 would be the most beautiful girl in their town for example. Alas, in the modern world women are being forced to compete not just with other girls next door, but with perfetly altered images of models/actresses cast from all over the world for their attractiveness, or should I say closest approximation of the modern western standard of beauty. This is why you see eating disorders epidemic and body image crisis among young western women. Can this be changed, i don’t kow, but what I do know is what I said in #46 – the closer you’re to the ideal, the more options you have.

  13. 53
    Paul Mawdsley

    Thanks for confirming my intuition Zaq. Lol.

    I have a fair amount of knowledge of quantum theory and its various interpretations but have not lost faith in intuition. I see us has having a very poor understanding of the nature of intuition and our culture of disrespect towards it just goes to make our understanding worse and our intuitive development stunted.

    Ironically, intuition can be understood as the brain functioning as an undivided wholeness instead of the linear functions of its parts; kinda the difference between quantum physics and classical physics. What was it Penrose suggested about tubules and the possibility of a quantum brain?

    Btw- I think Einstein had a pretty good knowledge of QM. I don’t remember him losing faith in intuition. Although those who had no faith in intuition did lose faith in him.

    Now, how do I tie this back to the original thread? Oh yeah…our sense of attractiveness, and our sense of the aesthetic in general, is more intuitive than it is the result of objective measurements and linear thought. So, maybe Zaq, it is your disdain for intuition that is shaping your view more than your objectivity.

  14. 54
    Eliza

    Based on how society views beauty–you have to be 5’9, blond and weigh no more 120 lbs to be attractive. That rules me out. 5’4, 130 lbs with auburn hair. most men don’t go for petite women with dark eyes, and dark hair. Women are held at very high standards….yet men can walk around with huge beer bellies. No? Evan–do you agree? I base this comment on what I hear men comment on amongst themselves.

  15. 55
    mara

    HI everyone,
    can I disagree on two points?

    1/ Since when “blonde” is a beauty standard?
    There are just as many brunettes top models as blondes. Since Milla Jovovich is considered less attractive than Claudia Shiffer?

    2/
    I must agree with Evan that female beauty is not that subjective (the rules by wich surgeons enhance women’s look prove it).

    If there was absolutely no standard but just as many opinions as people well, women would stop hitting the gym, dieting, having botox, nosejobs, wearing makeup and so on…tomorrow!

    As a former model, I can tell you that if men’s taste is so ‘different’ from one another than I don’t see why in my life I have never ever encountered rejection, never had a guy turning me down.
    I just turn heads.

    (please note that I am not vain, shallow or full of myself: I am actually annoyed at how superficial most people are, and how it’s hard for me to be taking seriously in my present job JUST because I look like a model, thus I must be constantly heavily technically underestimated. I am fully aware beauty is a gift we all have to give back, and I don’t pride myself of something I can just keep but I certainly did not create)

    But the fact is: all men I met have agreed that I look pretty damn good, so how subjective can female beauty be?

    After all, female beauty (when it comes to proportions of the face and hips) hasn’t changed since the Egyptians and the Greeks.
    Sure, when the economy is down we like a few extra pounds, but the proportions of wais/hips is unchanged and even back in the 18th Century we praised thin ankles and (horribly) thinning corsets.

    If female beauty was just an opinion, there couldn’t be top models, there couldn’t be Angelina’s (who BTW got TONS of plastic surgery to fine tune her naturally pretty face into an angular bombshell, following precise mathematical rules, she added a chin she just didn’t have before – just watch “Girls, Interrupted” in a profile shot, no chin whatsoever – got cheekbones too, reduced lower lip, enhanced upper lip, tweaked her once boxy nose, added big boobs, got several injections to stay young and had a tummy tuck after the twins too…) or Megan Fox (same process as Angelina pretty much, and well, they ended up looking a lot alike..).

    If you still think female beauty is in the eye of the beholder, check out any “beauty design” surgery by this guy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=695dn9EnWeY

    He systematically turns ugly or average chicks into very pretty to absolute knockouts.
    He states he’s following mathematical rules of proportions that are universal indicator of youth, health, fertile, feminine and unchanged since we can track human history.

    Than of course, there is personal taste….when a women is beautiful !
    Given 10 top models someone prefers Kate Moss, someone prefers Coco Rocha, some Joan Smalls….. but the bottom line is,
    to a computer 50 women who are famous for their looks they pretty much the same:

    high cheekbones, full lips, 1/3 rule of proportion of the length of the face, perfect triangle between eyes and nose (or faraway eyes, NEVER close together), small nose with an angle within 90 ° and 110 ° with the face)..

    I could go on and on but honestly:
    as a professional fashion photographer AND retoucher I can tell you guys there is only one way to make a women prettier: not two.

    And the simple fact one cas say ‘she is pretty but she had a big nose’ well, big compared to what?
    Compared to these rules, of course.
    =)

  16. 56
    Karl R

    Eliza said: (#55)
    “Based on how society views beauty—you have to be 5’9, blond and weigh no more 120 lbs to be attractive.”

    That’s rather emaciated (a BMI of 17.7).

    Maybe you should avoid making such sweeping statements until you better understand how height, weight and build interrelate.

    Eliza said: (#55)
    “most men don’t go for petite women with dark eyes, and dark hair.”

    You’re claiming that men don’t go for Asian women?

    Eliza said: (#55)
    “Women are held at very high standards….”

    I’m assuming you’ve had a long-term boyfriend before. Think back to when you did. If you were spending a day at home with your boyfriend, did you bother todress up and put on makeup? (My fiancée and ex-girlfriends wouldn’t under those circumstances.)

    Now think about the last time you went to a wedding shower, baby shower, tupperware party, or other event where only women were going to attend. Did you dress up and put on makeup to attend that event?

    Women are held to high standards by other women.

    Eliza said: (#55)
    “men can walk around with huge beer bellies.”

    Women can walk around with thunder thighs, too.

    What point are you trying to make?

    Eliza said: (#55)
    “I base this comment on what I hear men comment on amongst themselves.”

    If you are present to hear what the men are saying, the men aren’t talking amongst themselves. The men are talking in mixed company.

    Stacey said: (#53)
    “Consider a hypothetical situation where all women with VS proportions and looks (i.e. 10-s) disappeared off the face of the planet. Suddenly, women who used to be 9-s move up to 10-s, 8-s to 9-s, etc. In other words, the entire “cost curve” shifts upwards, if you will.”

    Consider a hypothetical situation where all the geniuses (i.e. 10s in intelligence) disappeared off the face of the planet … with all the accompanying “cost curve” shift, etc.

    Are you claiming that the existence of geniuses depreciates the intellect of all the non-geniuses in the world?

    Stacey said: (#53)
    “Alas, in the modern world women are being forced to compete not just with other girls next door, but with perfetly altered images of models/actresses cast from all over the world for their attractiveness,”

    That’s your choice.

    When it comes to attractiveness, I’m not competing with the best looking men in Hollywood. I’m competing with the best-looking men in the room.

    Stacey said: (#53)
    “This is why you see eating disorders epidemic and body image crisis among young western women.”

    Earliest documented medical case of anorexia nervosa: 1689
    Invention of the corset: around 1530

    And you’re blaming Victoria Secret, Sports Illustrated and other modern media.

  17. 57
    Zaq

    @Karl
    “Since you’re showing a tendency to skim without reading details”
    “stop being lazy”
    “If you had actually read”
    “If you had studied higher math, you’d also realize”

    So you are saying that a normal distribution curve from a large data set is most likely to be produced without a high correlation.
    Really ? Or are you just trying to make a point ?

    You know Karl, I could site the studies, and if it was for anyone other than you I probably would.

  18. 58
    Helen

    Zaq and Karl R: What does a normal distribution have to do with correlation at all? It is the distribution of an independent variable. For a correlation to exist, there must be two variables.

    Eliza said: “most men don’t go for petite women with dark eyes, and dark hair.”

    Karl R said: “You’re claiming that men don’t go for Asian women?”

    Eliza and Karl R: Petite women with dark eyes and dark hair get loads of attention.

  19. 59
    Karl R

    Zaq said: (#58)
    “So you are saying that a normal distribution curve from a large data set is most likely to be produced without a high correlation.”

    I’m saying that the normal distribution curve in the OkCupid article that we’re both referring to is not produced from data points that have a high correlation.

    I’m not going to even bother discussing whether it’s “most likely” or not, becaue that’s irrelevant.

    How can you possible believe the (alleged) “most likely” explanation is more accurate than the actual explanation?

  20. 60
    Zaq

    @Paul

    Its a fair cop, you got me. You do realize that people lost faith in Einstein’s “God does not play dice” intuition because it was, well, WRONG, as the results of experiments have since shown.
    I have heard Roger Penrose speak on the ‘beauty’ in certain mathematical concepts in physics, which is almost like intuition.
    But we are now stuck with a ‘multiverse’ which is positively ugly.

    I notice that you used the word ‘faith’ as well, which is the language of religion, and you think that there is something beyond measurement.

    So back to the original thread. Why would beauty be objective ?
    One word – Darwin

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