Here’s How Ugly Guys, Average Guys and Handsome Guys Can Find Love
From birth, women are told they need to be beautiful. They’re confronted by the message everywhere they look — fashion billboards, magazine covers, movies and music videos.
The idea even worms its way into decidedly non-visual media, taking the form in books that describe female protagonists’ beauty, love songs that go on about how beautiful the singer’s lover is and the compliments people pay little girls.
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But even though that shallow view of women is undoubtedly not equally placed on young boys growing up, that doesn’t mean that men aren’t conscious of their looks at all. While it might be easier for a guy to dress sloppily or groom himself little if at all, many men internalize messages of how to look growing up, and come out of it feeling ugly.
That feeling of inferiority, whether it’s about your looks or about anything else, can really hamper your ability to find romantic success. Not because of how you actually look, however, but because if you’re expecting other people to treat you badly, you’ll be starting every date and flirtatious conversation off on the wrong foot.
But no matter what you look like, it’s possible to have dating success. The most charming average-looking guy will have way more success on the dating scene than a devastatingly handsome guy with a deeply unpleasant personality, and a so-called ugly guy who makes the people he’s with feel great will be much more attractive to lots of people than a decent-looking guy who treats everyone he dates like garbage.
Don’t believe me? To prove it, we spoke to a dating coach and two psychologists about the relative unimportance of looks when it comes to dating success.
It’s Time to Stop Overestimating the Importance of Looks
“Men put way too much importance on their looks, especially straight guys,” says Connell Barrett, a dating coach with The League and the founder of DatingTransformation.com. “We project our world view onto women. Men prioritize visual beauty, so we assume women do the same. But women are more attracted to behavior, confidence and intelligence. Good looks are a nice bonus to women, but a guy can [be ugly or handsome], as long as he makes his date feel good vibes. For most women, physical attractiveness doesn’t crack top 10.”
This focus on looks is rarely a case of men patting themselves on the back for being handsome. In fact, many men who could be considered traditionally handsome still view their looks as underwhelming or disappointing.
“It’s not just average-looking men [worrying about their looks],” notes Barrett. “Many objectively handsome guys fight this fear because they don’t have six-pack abs or runway-model looks.”
All that anxiety doesn’t add up to much, according to Jor-El Caraballo, a relationship therapist and co-creator of Viva Wellness.
“I generally think that (straight) men overestimate the importance of looks with dating,” he says. “While there is no definition of success that’s objective, I do think that men could work on being more compassionate with themselves and focus on what they do bring to the table rather than what they think they are lacking. This will help them appear more confident and self-aware, and those are very attractive qualities.”
What to Focus on Instead of Your Looks
“There’s so much media focus on looks that we all get the impression that looks are most important,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., psychotherapist and author of “Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today.”
Instead, she suggests men consider focusing more on their grooming habits. “While styles change, being clean and tidy is always attractive. There’s a grunge look being advertised now, but don’t be too gritty. Clean up your act, wear some acceptable clothing, and look your best.”
If you’re already well-groomed but you still feel like your looks put you at a disadvantage, there are tons of other things people look for in a male partner, regardless of their gender.
“A man can do many things to become more attractive,” states Barrett. “He can develop his sense of humor because everyone loves to laugh. He can become a better, more present listener because everyone loves to be heard. He can communicate in a more expressive, less filtered way because a man who ‘tells it like it is’ is magnetic.”
Even outside of self-improvement, a simple mental switch can help you feel more confident. According to Barrett, a guy who’s struggling to feel handsome should “focus on and feature the traits that make him a great catch — the fact that he, say, speaks three languages or has a cool job or makes amazing guacamole.”
How to Have Dating Success No Matter What You Look Like
How to Have Dating Success If You’re Insecure About Your Looks
Step one to overcoming a feeling of ugliness in the dating game? Working on your confidence.
“Insecurity about looks is kryptonite for a guy’s dating success,” says Barrett. “If you’re out on a date and burdened by thoughts of ‘I’m not good looking,’ then you’re toast.”
How much fun would you have if you could tell your date was super insecure about their looks? Probably not much. Instead, try to re-frame what the focus is, highlighting what makes you attractive rather than what you feel makes you unattractive.
“Play to your strengths,” he adds. “Tell great stories. Crack jokes. Be vulnerable. Find commonalities. Learn to flirt. Become a better man and showcase your real, vulnerable, always-improving self.”
Tessina argues that connection is the real place that attraction manifests itself, and connection can develop with no real regard to looks.
“You’re at your most attractive when you’re a good listener, who clearly cares about what your date is saying,” she says. “Show interest. Don’t let nerves cause you to talk non-stop. Give them a lot of chances to tell you who they are and what they like.”
And even if you’re insecure about some aspect of your body you definitely can’t change, whether you’re too short or too tall, too heavy or too slight, you can put a new spin on how you come across with the right style and grooming choices.
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“In dating, your looks don’t matter, but your look matters,” says Barrett. “You can’t change your face without a surgeon’s knife, but you can upgrade your style today. Buy shirts and pants that look fitter for your body, wear quality shoes, get a great haircut. Dressing sharp makes you feel more confident, and when you’re more confident, you’re more attractive.”
If you’re not sure where to start, consider asking for help from someone whose fashion sense you respect, or by asking salespeople in clothing stores what they’d recommend.
Regardless, if you’re willing to put in a little effort in that department, it can totally revolutionize your look (and your confidence) without much time or even money.
How to Have Dating Success If You Feel Like You Look Average
Feeling like you’re average-looking can feel like a death sentence for your dating chances.
But even if you don’t feel like your looks are holding you back, feeling stuck in the middle can sap you of your confidence in a heartbeat — particularly in a modern dating culture that can feel completely looks-obsessed at times.
However, according to some anecdotal data, what really resonates in dating app photos isn’t your looks so much as how happy you look.
“With Tinder and the apps, the attractiveness of your photos largely corresponds to the emotions you convey in the shots,” notes Barrett. “I’ve run countless tests on Photofeeler, and pictures that show a man smiling or laughing rate twice or even three times as attractive as the shots where the guys do a smoldering, [runway model]-type pose. To be more attractive on Tinder and get more matches, dress great, look into the lens and smile.”
Tessina, for her part, notes that average-looking guys can take their attractiveness up a notch by being strong conversationalists.
“Don’t sound average,” she advises. “Have some conversational topics that will interest a woman. Make sure she knows you care about who she is, not just how she looks.”
How to Have Dating Success If You’re Confident in Your Looks
Compared to all the less visually fortunate men out there, handsome guys might think they’ve got it made on the dating scene, but as noted above, looks aren’t the be-all and end-all of attraction.
Barrett, for one, cautions handsome guys not to get so cocky about their looks alone to get them dates.
“Think of it like this,” he says. “Jerry Seinfeld said that famous comedians get a ‘grace period’ at the start of a performance, but after a few minutes the audience says, ‘OK, time for you to deliver.’ In the same way, great-looking guys can’t rest on the laurels of their looks. They still have to connect, to flirt, to be interested, to be authentic, and be the best men they can be.”
Good looks might cause people to seek you out in greater numbers, particularly on looks-focused apps like Tinder, but love (and even good dates) is more than just a numbers game.
If you’re handsome as hell but feel lonely all the time or struggle to get matches or good conversations on online dating sites and apps, trying to unhook your expectations and approach from your looks and focusing on what you can bring in terms of your personality and developing true connections will do you a world of good when it comes to your love life — just as it will for guys who feel like they’re ugly.
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