Recently at breakfast with my husband, he asked me my opinion on whether confidence is sexier than being good looking. As I waffled back and forth on what I thought about the subject, I realized I that if a client asks me if they should spend their time at the gym or learning public speaking, I didn’t know what I would recommend. So I did some research and this is what I came up with.
So is confidence sexier than looks? Confidence is more attractive than looks by themselves. Women often rate confident men as more attractive. Self-confidence radiates biological signals that demonstrate highly desirable traits that can be passed on genetically and thus perceived as more important than outward appearance alone.
So does that you mean you should skip the gym in favor of the public speaking class? Not exactly. Looks absolutely matter, and here is where it gets more complicated. It depends on the life stage you are in and what you are looking for. We need to unpack what is sexy in order to understand the role confidence plays and when the scales tip in favor of confidence.
Researchers have tried to determine exactly what universal traits are considered desirable.
What did they come up with? Well besides all of the hip to waist ratio, masculine jaw line in men with just the right amount of stubble and youthful fertility and curves in women stuff (that we have heard a million times), what I found interesting about the research was how diversified desirable characteristics were perceived.
Let me explain. First we need to create some definition around attraction.
What is sexy? Desirability defined.
Since what we find sexy aka desirable isn’t universal, which was determined in a study of identical twins and fraternal twins to find out if what one finds desirable vs. another is genetic or personal preference, let’s look further into what scientists are saying.
The 3 studies below tell us a few things.
- Muscularity, i.e. good looks is more important for short-term relationships.
- Control of resources, i.e. financial stability can outweigh physical attractiveness (in men). Women find this a desirable quality.
- Similarity can be all it takes to deem someone attractive.
|Study||Number of |
|286 women||Women had to choose ideal men |
based on looks for short-term vs.
long term relationships. It turns
out that women were more
interested in guys with bigger
muscles for short-term relationships
but not long-term relationships.
|This study demonstrated |
that there is a trade-
off between physical attractiveness
and financial stability. Women get
interested in men who control
Chapel Hill –
|Similarity breeds attraction |
outside of relationship
To further flesh out my research I asked my husband about a college course I remember him telling me about.
It was called Anthropological Perspectives on Love and Marriage. The students in the course spent the semester reviewing, testing, and discussing theories.
The whole thing was about putting biology and love on trial.-said my husband
The students knew that at the end of the course they would each decide whether heterosexual adults choose their significant others based on love or evolutionary biology (like animals on the discovery channel).
While the class consisted of individuals with quite diverse backgrounds, guess what happened. The class unanimously agreed at the end of the semester that biology was the master of the fate of falling in love. (For once humanity agreed, drop the mic)
Ultimately, we are all looking for individuals that ensure our survival and offspring’s survival.
Let’s jump back over to how confidence plays a role in sexiness, desirability and attraction.
When do the self-confidence scales shift in favor of confidence over looks?
Now that we understand that what we find attractive will depend on where we are in life and we are in a position to peel back the layers when we might notice confidence that insights attraction.
Consider that if you are in your high-school or college years, and are focused on having fun through short-term relationships, then yes looks matters a whole lot.
However, if you are in a phase of your life in which you are looking for someone to be a long-term companion, then you will most likely see the scales shift more in favor of finding someone who displays confidence.
(Read how you can hack your way to greater confidence in the article I wrote that discusses the core characteristics of confidence which are: hope, efficacy, optimism, and resilience. Here are my other posts on the subject. I like to look at confidence in anything as the ability to have faith that you (or a potential life partner) have what it takes to deal with any outcome of a situation whether it is positive or negative.
What does a confident guy look like?
Let’s look at an example of what a confident guy looks like bearing in mind that this scenario can play out in many different ways.
A woman is looking for a life partner. She might ditch chasing the jock in favor of the average Joe at the park walking his puppy. It’s not far fetched is it. We see this play out all the time. Why? Because puppies are cute, and clearly the rules have changed. What she wants now is biological stability ensuring viability for the future.
Consider what the whole “walking the puppy” thing communicates. (Heads up guys, you might want to keep this example in mind the next time you wonder if you come off confident.)
- Nurture (if he can care for a puppy, he can care for her and her offspring)
- Commitment (He has to be able to stay consistent to care for a puppy.)
- Financial Stability (He probably has access to resources (aka job) to care for himself and the puppy.
- Happy (He is most likely a happy person if he takes time to visit the park with his puppy.)
- The fact that she appreciates his doing all of the above indicates similarity.
All of these qualities are consistent with what we discovered in the scientific studies above, and it can make the guy highly desirable. The next step in the attraction phase is confidence.
As long as average Joe can carry on a conversation with potential Mrs. Right, and doesn’t mention that the puppy belongs to his neighbor who we works for or worse that the dog is his girlfriends dog, he’s got a shot.
You can see that in these circumstances. Being good looking is much farther down on the scale than confidence.
If someone is happy, financially stable, and shows capacity for commitment, they would be assumed confident since they would not be or have those things if there were a gaping hole in their capability to display confidence.
Is confidence attractive to guys?
Most men agree that they like self-confident, self-approving, self-determine women. Nothing to fear here. If you are confident, stay that way. If you aren’t find things about yourself to appreciate. This will pay dividends for attracting a confident man.
There is a caveat however. A man can be intimidated by an extremely confident woman. Especially one who seems to have no room for anyone else’s opinion.
Is confidence more important than talent?
I love this question because at the core, it questions something else entirely. It brings light to the whole concept of “fake it till you make it.” The short answer is no. But a more exact answer is that if we repackage the question as: Is faith in your ability more important than talent, I think it is a bit easier to answer.
First you have to have faith in your ability to learn a skill. Too much faith and you might be tempted to have pseudo confidence overstating your ability, and if you have too little faith, you may not spend any time trying to develop your talent.
There are anomalies however. I remember seeing a Bulgarian (singer make an attempt on a Mariah Carey song (Without You) on Bulgarian Music Idol. Her name was Valentina Hasan completely killed the English lyrics. After she finished, the judges asked her, “What language were you singing?” to which she replied, “Angliiski” which means, “English.” They laughed. The singer was extremely confident that she got every word right, when in fact the opposite was true. Interestingly enough, she established a hit single entitled “Ken Lee” and became famous for it.
So in that case confidence trumped talent. But we have to be careful with examples. Many over confident singers have been booted from these shows.
My advice… get your talent worked out and the confidence will follow. They go hand in hand.