I hopped on the Twitter train lately, and have, therefore, been hearing a lot bout a band called One Direction. Who is this One Direction? I asked myself today. So I looked them up, and I found this.
Oh, god. Those guys.
The ones who praise women for being insecure. The ones who like when women smile at the ground because they think they're ugly. Because, to them, what makes a woman beautiful is her not knowing she's beautiful.
They're not the only ones. Sometimes at karaoke, people sing "Just The Way You Are," by Bruno Mars. I love their singing, but I hate the message.
I know, I know
Then there's John Legend's "You and I" -
You fix your makeup just so, Guess you don’t know that you’re beautiful
And many, many more. The message is always, insecure women are sexy. Women don't inherently feel beautiful... That's why men have to tell them they're beautiful.
And then, you have this big, happy ending where the woman finally sees what the guy sees, and she's all like, "Thanks! You're totally right! I love the way this dress looks on me!"
"Thanks for noticing! I love my new haircut."
"Thanks! Personally, I think these shorts might be a little obscenely short - but, man, do I look good in them!"
I mean... they're not that short, right?
Just kidding!! The woman doesn't believe the guy! She'll never "see what he sees!" She just doesn't know!
Is this truly because women all think they're ugly... or because women have learned the consequences of expressing confidence about their looks? Thanks to the power of the Internet, we can definitively answer this question.
In 2014, a woman named Gweneth Bateman was having a problem online. When guys messaged her with a compliment and she didn't reply, they'd lash out -- usually with something along the lines of, "You should be grateful for my compliment!" And often ending with words like "rude" and "bitch." (Sounds kind of like a cat caller, no?)
So she and some other women decided to try something. Whenever a guy messaged them with a compliment, they would agree and accept the compliment.
Here's what happened:
So... yeah. It's okay for a guy to tell you you're beautiful. It's just not okay for you to agree with him.
Which is probably at least part of the reason that this Dove #ChooseBeautiful campaign turned out so predictably. (I mean, it was a lovely message and everything, but still.)
Not to brag or anything (since that would obviously make me a vain bitch), but I was a #ChooseBeautiful hipster. I've been on the #ChooseBeautiful train since... pretty much forever. I guess the first time I consciously thought about it was in high school, when my crew coach and English teacher, Ms. Moore, complimented me on my confidence.
"I really admire how you're not afraid to say you're good at things. That's a trait I don't see in a lot of women."
I realized she was right. I realized that when a woman tells a friend she looks great, she's "supposed" to say something self-depreciating, like, "Well, I don't know if this dress looks great... but it covers my hips, so there's that." And when a woman complains about her appearance to her friend, the friend is "supposed" to a) tell her she's wrong, and b) reciprocate by saying something ugly about herself. (E.g., "No, really, that dress is great -- and at least you don't have my acne!")
I refuse to play that game. And wouldn't it be great if other women did, too?
Because changing that script could help change other scripts. It could help close the wealth gap -- after all, when women are afraid to self-promote, the result is often that they miss out on opportunities and promotions. When women in business hope/assume that their boss will notice the extra effort and progress they've made... they're usually wrong. Bosses have a lot on their plate. If you don't tell them about the awesome things you did, they will never know you did them.
And don't assume that your male colleagues are shy about self-promoting -- they're not. They're doing it, and you're not. That's why he's going to get the promotion and you're not.
(A good solution to this is to send out a weekly email update, in which you list some key metrics for the week and talk about the contributions you've made. In addition to this, keep a list of everything you do -- otherwise you'll forget -- and bring it with you to your performance reviews. Trust me: if you can't remember all the accomplishments you made six months ago, your boss certainly can't, either.)
Moreover, it's well known that men and women stereotypically apply for jobs differently. Say there are ten "requirements" for a certain position. In general, women will only apply for the job is they meet more than eight of the requirements. Men will, in general, apply if they have at least one.
You will be rejected from 100% of the jobs you don't apply for. Just sayin'.
I also remember hearing about a study that looked at salary negotiations in men vs. women. One reason they differed by gender was attitude. Women felt lucky to have been hired. Men felt like the company was lucky to have hired them.
And then there's the whole body language, confidence and hormones thing. As I wrote in What Women Can Learn From Scottie Pippen, the Best Chicago Bulls Player of All Time,
Confidence -- as well as doubt -- affects how we carry ourselves, which affects both how others see us... and, in a frustrating and self-perpetuating cycle, governs some hormonal and physiological processes in our bodies. When you assume a powerful "victory stance," your testosterone (the dominance hormone) levels rise, and your cortisol (stress hormone ) levels drop.
I could go on and on about the research on this. But I won't. If you want to know more, check out The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance --- What Women Should Know.
Cortisols are bad for you. Whether you truly feel humble or you're just feigning humility to fulfill some social expectation, the results are not going to be good for your health.
But major implications for your life, health and career aside... it feels good to like how you look. I'm not afraid to admit that I always have. In fact! When I was a little girl, I thought that I was the most beautiful girl in the entire world -- however, I also had this hypothesis that, due to some kind of cognitive bias, it was impossible for anyone to not think that they were the most beautiful person in the whole world. No matter what they looked like.
I thought that, sure, beauty is subjective. And, subjectively, humans must all find themselves to be very beautiful. (What can I say? I was a born psychologist.)
And wouldn't it be wonderful if that were true? If, instead of body image problems... we didn't have body image problems? If, instead of being afraid to leave the house without makeup on... we just walked with confidence everywhere? If, instead of men having this bizarre interpretation/fantasy/whatever of women being insecure and hating how they looked... they just loved when women owned it?
Instead, women are expected to not like how they look. I get really annoyed when I read stupid shit on the Internet, like, "All women hate trying on jeans!" "All women hate looking at pictures of themselves from behind!" "All women stress about how they look in a bikini."
Because I'm a woman. And I love trying on jeans and swimsuits. I just wish I could buy them all!
Well, not all. Just the ones that are functional. Because if you can't surf in it, what's the point?
And I know I'm not alone. A while back, someone on Quora asked, "What is it like to be both very physically beautiful and very academically intelligent?"
When I answered, there were already a few other answers -- and they were all written anonymously. On principle, I felt like I had to answer. And, also on principle, I felt I had to answer using my real name. Why should I be ashamed of being smart and beautiful?
So I answered:
Your mind, not your body, should define who you are. I think that I have never felt ugly because I was raised to value myself as an entire, real person. Not as an attractive or unattractive person.
Since then, several other women have answered that question. But every single one of them has gone Anon. Maybe they're smarter than I am, and are more keenly aware of the consequences of saying, "I am beautiful" -- or, worse, "I am beautiful and smart!" Maybe everyone who's read my answer thinks I'm a vain bitch now...
But guess what?
I'm not vain. I mean, sure, I sometimes come across pictures of myself looking like this:
You know. Just checking out the view. (But so what? It's nice when you work really hard at something, like boxing people out on the basketball court or climbing V4s at the rock wall - and then you get big, strong muscles to show for it.)
But there are also lots of pictures of me looking like this:
Modesty. Because there's a time and a place for everything. I wouldn't talk about being good at something if I thought it might make someone else feel bad. But, for the most part, I assume that my confidence won't make my friends, family or coworkers feel bad. When my friends are good at something, I feel awesome for them - and I hope they feel the same for me. If they don't -- if I have to sugarcoat all of my accomplishments and positive traits for them... do they really like me? Do I really want to be friends with them?
Also, given the choice, I'd take being a little vain over having a self-esteem problem any day.
Also, let's have a very basic lesson in English vocabulary. There's a difference between thinking you're pretty (self-confidence), and thinking you're BETTER than other people because you're pretty (vanity). And maybe this is where a lot of dudes run into problems. Throughout puberty, and life, they've liked pretty girls. Pretty girls often reject them. They protect their fragile egos by saying the girl was vain, a bitch, and full of herself, and they wouldn't have wanted to date her, anyway. Maybe they unconsciously believe that a woman who thinks she's pretty would never give him the time of day -- that only a woman with a confidence problem would date him.
So then, when a new woman comes along and expresses self-confidence, it triggers the guy's little post-traumatic high school rejection thingy, and he freaks out about it. I mean, look at the images from Gweneth Bateman's experiment (above). Is there any other possible explanation for the dudes' bipolar, crazy, hysterical reactions to the girl accepting their compliment?
Long story short, it's okay to #ChooseBeautiful. Even though men (and a lot of women) want you to #ChooseAverage. Small changes to the words and behaviors you take for granted could result in better jobs, better health and higher salaries. They could make you feel better about yourself. Psychology proves it.
Putting a pencil between your teeth and not touching it with your lips (which puts your mouth into the shape of a smile) improves your mood and reduces your stress levels and heart rate as much as a real smile. It makes experiences more enjoyable. It makes you appreciate humor more. Holding the pencil with your lips (which puts your mouth into the shape of a frown) does the opposite.
H/t The Science Dog
When you put yourself down -- even if you don't mean it -- you do bad things to yourself. And when you build yourself up -- even if you don't mean it -- you do incredible things for yourself. And when you make decisions for yourself based on other peoples' feelings... you put yourself in danger.
So what are you going to choose?
Ha! I LOVE this article!
1/12/2021 06:00:59 pm
Idk, in a lot of cultures humility is very important.
11/10/2018 08:01:22 am
You are a psychologist, so I assume you are familiar with the factors that correlate with sexual success for the genders ?
11/10/2018 06:40:03 pm
Cute opinion, but...
3/7/2021 04:07:14 pm
The commenter definitely went overboard with his claim that a womans intelligence (among other factors) had a zero correlation with how attractive men will perceive her to be.
3/7/2021 07:13:03 pm
Anything in particular, or....?
11/29/2021 09:40:48 pm
Hmmm, the comment doesn't seem to relate to the article. The commentor just seems butthurt about women being confident. Wonder why that is.
4/25/2019 08:56:05 pm
Hi, I really enjoyed this article, thank you. Early on in life, I found the whole mutual self-deprecation and reassurance game that women play to be sad. So much of the self-depreciation revolves around weight and body shape, ie complaining about being fat or having a big butt. Being a fat woman most of my life, I cannot see any way to play that game and maintain a sense of dignity. I cannot be self-respecting and reassure someone that, ‘it’s ok, at least you are not fat like me! Wouldn’t that be awful!’ So I never got into that game in the first place. Women much smaller than me have complained about being too fat, obviously expecting reassurance from me. Rather than play along, I have used these as an opportunity to point out that being fat does not make a person’s worth any lesser. Nor is it ugly. Personally, yes, I would prefer to be slimmer because it would benefit me medically, if I were able to lose more weight. But being fat does not make me less in value, or change the fact that I am highly gifted and intelligent, and well educated. Men-children have often used the “you’re so beautiful” line expecting an easy lay from me, and then been angered that I did not feel that I owed them swift sex for complimenting my fat appearance. These types of men-children seem to assume that I cannot attract men who are interested in me as a person AND find me genuinely physically attractive, but in fact my weight is not a barrier to finding genuine relationships and a satisfying love life - as my happy marriage to an adoring husband can attest to. In any event, I am enjoying reading your blog. It is quite refreshing. Thanks for writing.
3/29/2020 05:56:04 am
I agree with Tanmay. Finding 1 study refuting his claims doesn't prove alot. There are plenty of studies that support Tanmay. That's why here in OZ, women date plumbers who earn alot more than Engineers. It's why Moron sports stars with $$ get the ladies. Its why so many women who spend their 20's and 30's casing careers end up with alot of cats.
3/29/2020 10:55:26 am
You know how citations work, right? :D
5/5/2020 01:34:20 am
It is easy for you to get dates because you are young and attractive but as has been already said, " men are biologically attracted to young females". Do you think the likes of Madonna, Cindy Crawford, even someone like Brittney Spears get as many searches on google as say a Ariana Grande? No, because they are last years model, so to speak. It will happen to you too. You may still be easy on the eye but simply by lacking youth, your SMV will decline and getting dates won't be so easy and the quality of men you attract will decrease.
10/4/2020 06:12:46 pm
We get it, you're angry bcuz you repel women.
1/12/2021 05:59:26 pm
Dunno buddy, what happened to humility?
4/19/2021 02:52:55 pm
Great article. I especially liked the part about self-promotion at work. It reminded me of an incident at work years ago.
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Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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