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The Analogy Between Confidence and Beauty

April 13, 2012
Popular magazines routinely publish the results of polls in which both sexes are asked what qualities they are most attracted to in the other. And they routinely discover the same thing: above all other traits, men desire beauty in women, and women desire confidence in men. I am always skeptical of studies based on surveys, but in this instance, observation corroborates the survey results: men really do prioritize beauty in women, and women really do prioritize confidence in men.

While the fact itself might be old news, very few people realize how instrumental it can be in understanding the opposite sex. Typically confusing actions are instantly illuminated in light of these priorities. And you can understand them in terms that make sense to you, by using one of the most powerful tools of thought: analogy.


The next time you are confused by a man’s actions, try the following: Put his actions into words; then replace all of the masculine nouns and pronouns with feminine ones, and any rephrase any references to beauty so that they instead relate to confidence. The situation will make miles more sense that way.

Here are a few examples:

Example 1: “I surprised him at his office, wearing my new dress, with my hair and makeup done; and even though he was preoccupied with an employee who had just stopped by his office to ask him a question, I could tell by the look in his eye that he wanted to close the door, throw me on his desk and ravage me right there.” While you might take it for granted that your beauty attracts him, the fact that you don’t feel the same surge in attraction simply because he has a new haircut, a fresh shave and is wearing a well-fit shirt might make it a little difficult to understand his reaction. But consider the analogous situation in which you witness a display of his confidence: “I walked into his office to hear him giving instructions for the week to the project team. They were all listening intently, obviously impressed by his authority and experience. He looked so sexy giving orders and being admired like that. The second they left, I went over to him, grabbed his shirt and kissed him deeply. He seemed surprised.” While he might not understand how attracted you are by what is a routine occurrence for him, your response is similar to the urge he feels when he sees you looking your best.

Example 2: “We were driving to the party and he started getting on the freeway, but I knew that back roads would be faster. I told him this, and he immediately become annoyed and cold towards me – when moments before he’d been affectionate.” Why would he take such offense to this? After all, when he corrects your driving, you usually take his advice, and he was going the wrong way. The problem is that you’ve effectively undermined his confidence by questioning his judgment. You can understand the effect of this by considering how you would feel if he undermined your beauty: “I’d bought a new dress and had done my hair and makeup perfectly. I knew I looked hot. My husband and I were driving to a party together, when a 20-odd-year-old in a tight dress and heels crossed the street in front of our car. His eyes locked on her and his head turned as she walked across our field of view. Though I’d felt cheerful and affectionate towards him seconds earlier, I immediately felt hurt and distant.” By checking out the girl as she walks by, your husband undermines your desire to be beautiful – and especially, beautiful to him. The hit to your self-esteem is identical to the hit he takes when you question his judgment and thereby undermined his confidence.

Example 3: “Ugh, he is obsessed with looks; he will never find a good girl that is hot enough for him. He’ll end up single.” I expect this sentiment is very common among women. I’ve had it said about me. But you will find just as many men complaining that “She wants a guy that treats her well, but only dates assholes, she deserves what’s coming to her.” Women, of course, realize that they like assholes not because they are assholes, but because they are confident. (They like them in spite of the fact that they are assholes, not because of it.) In the same way, men date women who are boring or stupid, not because they are boring or stupid, but because they are beautiful. The fact of the matter is that men are no more interested in woman’s beauty than women are interested in a man’s confidence.

Example 4: “She dresses kind of slutty, but she still gets much more attention from guys than me; don’t these guys see that she is trashy?” Men are much more likely to look among hot and sexy women for a girl that has a good personality, than to look among nice and friendly girls for one who is attractive. This is because looks matter more than personality to men. To understand this, consider the analogy with confidence: men often say about guys who do well with women “He is so arrogant, but he still gets more girls than me. Don’t these women realize that he is unintelligent and a hot-head?” Women are far more inclined to look for a guy with a good job and at least half a brain among the ones who are confident enough to approach them, than to look among the smart and level-headed guys for one who is confident enough. In the same way that looks trump personality for men, confidence often matters more than personality for women.

Example 5: “She is funny, smart, genuine, cheerful and confident, but I just can’t make myself attracted to her because she isn’t that hot.” Girls are routinely professing their confusion at men’s inability to prioritize what seem (to them) to be the most important characteristics in a potential girlfriend or spouse. The relative unimportance of these qualities will make a lot more sense when you compare them to his confidence rather than her beauty: “He is funny, smart, genuine, cheerful and good-looking, but he is always waiting for me to take the lead, always asks me what I want to do, and is deferential to other men. I just can’t make myself attracted to him because he isn’t confident enough.” (Incidentally, a lot of men are just as confused by this kind of statement as you are by theirs: “But he is letting you do whatever you want – isn’t that a good thing? Why wouldn’t you like that?”)

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