Where Attraction and Confidence Really Come From

By John Howard and Peter Craig – May 1, 2019

We all want to look good, feel attractive and confident about ourselves. We want to attract others’ interest and attention, even if it’s from our partner or at work. While our society can sometimes place much attention on physical beauty as the currency of attraction and confidence, the roots of both go well beyond skin-deep, even in terms of how the brain responds to others. In order to understand how be naturally more attractive and feel more confident, let’s break down the roots of attractiveness and confidence from a psychological perspective.

What is it that attracts us to others? Is it physical features only? Physical features, such as basic anatomy, trigger primitive circuits in the brain that light up with interest when we’re around people that exhibit our personal criteria for good looks. Those circuits only get us so far, however. From there, we need to be impressed with the way someone is to sustain interest in that person. What tends to stoke the most interest is someone who is confident in themselves and comfortable in their own skin. When we feel comfortable with ourselves, we exude a sense of acceptance and joy that is infectious. Our warmth and laughter draw others in because they want to feel that way too. Confidence suggests a maturity, wisdom and ease that triggers important security circuits in the brain, and the brain seeks security more than anything else! So, when we’re around someone that makes us feel secure in ourselves, we seek that person out more and want to be close to them.

What is attractive is a confidence with ourselves that then washes over others and says, “I feel okay with the way I am, therefore you are also okay just the way you are.” People love to feel accepted and connected, but struggle to accept themselves just as they are. Someone who has that superpower to help you feel comfortable in your own skin becomes attractive as a friend, co-worker, leader and as a romantic partner.

Many people struggle to feel a sense of confidence and comfort just being themselves, so what is that confidence based on and how can we develop more of it? While our society often gives us the impression that confidence is a stoic, independent kind of arrogance or not caring what others think, to psychologists, that type of confidence is a sign of insecurity. Such ‘being above it all’ doesn’t hold up as attractive in relationships, either, even though it can spark interest at the outset — similar to physical appearance.

True confidence — the kind that attracts others in a sustained fashion and keeps desire for more connection increasing — is based in self-love. When confidence originates in self-love, it has a solid feeling to it, but also a warm and connected energy. It doesn’t need to impress by putting others down or by acting superior. It is confident in a way we all want to feel about ourselves — kind and peaceful — and that is what is attractive about it. So, attraction is largely based on confidence and comfortableness in our skin, and that confidence originates from self-love. With that understanding, we start to form a more complete understanding of how human attraction really works. In order to feel more love and acceptance toward yourself, we recommend the following tips:

Pick up Kristin Neff’s Book

Kristin Neff is an Austin-based professor of ‘self-compassion’ at the University of Texas. Her book chronicles her own story from being hard and critical of herself to learning how to have a healthy, radiant, sense of love for just how she is. We could all use a dose of that!

Choose Loving/Respectful Friends

Sounds obvious, but social pressures and norms can cause us to stay in touch with ‘friends’ who don’t seem to really care about us, how we feel, want to know our experience of life and that we don’t really trust. There are great people out there, so don’t settle for those types of friends! The problem with flaky, fly-by-night, sometimes here/sometimes not kind of friends is that they’re not helping us feel love and acceptance toward ourselves. They keep us questioning ourselves or causing us to feel we have to adapt to fit in. It is often surprising for people to learn that self-esteem is externally driven in many ways, so who we surround ourselves with and the partners we choose makes a big difference to our confidence. Caring friends increase a positive internal sense of value and security that becomes more internalized over time.

Join a Group

Austin is big on therapy groups. Since our wild days in the 70s as a bastion of self-exploration and connection in close, intimate community, countless Austinites have relied on group therapy as a way to better understand themselves, learn how to foster deeper, connected relationships with others and practice the skills that allow you to develop a rich, more confident sense of yourself and your life. You can have support in developing that sense of ease in yourself and to practice connecting in a way that attracts others and makes you a better friend and partner. Group therapy is a fun and bonding way to increase your self-confidence and attractiveness to others.

We hope the above tips and information help you be gentler and more caring toward yourself, so that you feel more at ease in your own skin. The more natural confidence you have, the more appealing and attractive you become to others. To shine and be your radiant self at work, at home, or out about town, keep developing a greater sense of love and acceptance toward yourself and building a caring and consistent community around you!

John Howard and Peter Craig are psychotherapists at Austin Professional Counseling™. They offer group, individual and couples therapy to help their clients with anxiety, self-esteem, and relationship life.


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