There’s a toxic dating myth that says that the best way to find love is to make yourself more attractive. This myth damages your sense of self-worth–and erodes your chance of finding healthy love! What’s an approach that’s kinder, wiser–and vastly more effective? Find out here!
There are many toxic dating myths that are just baked into our cultural awareness, and so many of these myths just seem to me like they’ve been created by a group of anxious teenagers, not by wise adults. The focus of so much of how we are told to find love is that the best way to find love is to make yourself more attractive. Make yourself look more sexy. Make yourself act more confident: flirt better, dress better, have better glutes, have better abs, a million different things that are all about this one thing that just seems to be the obvious simple truth, which is if you make yourself more attractive, you’re more likely to find love.
But there is a fatal flaw in this approach to finding love
Actually, there are a number of fatal flaws, and these flaws are proven by really solid research. So let’s just take a minute to look at this toxic dating myth, this myth that has just this beautiful kind of bright shine to it. Who would doubt that this wouldn’t be true? Make yourself look better, make yourself thinner, make yourself act more charming, make yourself look younger, make yourself be more confident. All of that sounds like self-improvement, but what it really is is self-criticism in a really sexy outfit. And self-criticism does not lead to love, it leads to insecurity, and over time a sense of desperation and helplessness.
So if you look at the books and the magazines and what they say, it’s kind of almost all on the same theme; you must make yourself more attractive. There’s a landslide of information telling you–telling all of us–about the latest and greatest ways to make ourselves more attractive. Now I want to say more about what’s wrong with this approach, but I also want to say: There is nothing wrong with making yourself look more attractive, in fact it’s a gift that you give yourself, and you give the person you’re going to be meeting. I am all for that. It’s about the fixation, and the belief that it’s the best key to find love, that’s where it all goes south.
The Myth Of Not Being Attractive Enough For Finding Love
The underlying message is, quite obviously, somehow, right now, you are not attractive enough to have your best shot at finding love. That’s just how it is. And it speaks to all the fears that every one of us has about not being attractive enough. Every one of us has a list, a litany of the ways in which we’re afraid we’re not attractive, and this toxic dating myth triggers all of them. It’s endless, it’s repetitive, it’s wrong, and more than just wrong, it’s harmful.
And how is it harmful? It’s harmful–it’s a funny kind of thing–because the message is, you don’t really deserve to be confident yet, because you’re just not attractive enough. Therefore, you have to fix yourself now. BUT– until you do, you’d really better act confident, because that’s the only way to make yourself more attractive. So you shouldn’t really be confident, because you don’t look good enough. But you better be confident, because that’s the way you’re going to find love. It’s like you’re screwed either way.
This is actually the kind of mess that we get into with these messages.
“Act more masculine, guys.” “Women, act more feminine. Act more vulnerable. But God forbid, if you’re too vulnerable and you don’t act confident! You gotta act confident too.”
We live in a culture that is twisted up into knots around these beliefs
And now I’ll add in another one: you gotta look young. So you reach a certain age, and you feel somewhat disappointed. You reach a later age, and you feel disheartened. You reach an even later age, and you begin to feel hopeless. This world of dating chews us up when we’re younger, and spits us out when we’re older. Because the messages tell us again and again that the older you get, the less likely you are to find love. And it’s not true. It tells us that any way that you veer from that perfect incredible shape that you think you should be in is going to diminish your chances of finding a partner. It’s really not true though.
Arthur Aron, who’s a brilliant and highly respected researcher (who I quote a lot) in the field of attraction told me that in fact, truly gorgeous people actually have less chance of finding love, because being truly gorgeous kind of brings a whole other set of inner and outer challenges to it. But think about this for a minute: think about the people you know who are young, and hot and successful, and gorgeous. Are these people any more lucky in finding lasting, beautiful, nourishing, healthy love? No. They’re not. Because those are not the qualities that draw lasting, healthy love.
A Study: What qualities are the most desirable for you?
And we’re going to talk about what some of those qualities actually are. And we’re going to use some science to help us understand this. So now I want to talk about a study that’s seminal, and that I think captures so much of what we’re missing with this misguided, painful, painful emphasis on the need, the driving need, to make ourselves more attractive right now. So David Buss, who’s another really well-respected researcher, did a very large study of men and women, all ages, all backgrounds, huge variety of locations. And the study asked, what qualities are the most desirable for you, in your search for a mate? What are the ones that matter the most?
So you’d probably think that attractiveness would be number one. Well it’s not. It’s actually number two, maybe number three, depending on the gender of the respondent. But guess what number one is?
And this is across the board, men and women, all different ages, locations, and backgrounds: number one is kindness and understanding.
Now if that’s true, then why the hell do the majority of articles, and books, and blog posts, and advice pieces not start with kindness and understanding? How many pieces have you actually read telling you, “Baby, you want to find a great relationship? Well the key is developing your kindness and understanding.” How many front pages of magazines have you seen that on? Probably none. And yet, it is in fact the most desirable quality. And Arthur Aron also told me that it is in fact the single greatest forecaster of a relationship that can last; the quality of kindness and understanding in both partners.
The land of dating can be a culture of unkindness
So how much time do we spend cultivating kindness and understanding in the land of dating? And I can tell you, as someone who’s done a lot of work in this field, the land of dating is a culture of unkindness in so many ways. Not completely, not many of us, many of us not so, but so much generally, it’s a culture that sculpts jerky behavior. We are not taught that we need to be kind, and that’s a really critical piece of information.
So, again and again, what are we taught? We’re taught we need to be buff, we need to look young, we need to look great, and we need to act confidently. But remember, vulnerable too.
Ken’s story from his 30’s
So I just want to share a story about me, from my 30’s. So I believed, hook, line, and sinker that the reason I was chronically, chronically, chronically single was because–if you really got down to it–it was because I was overweight, and because I wasn’t confident enough. My belly was too soft, and my heart was too soft. I wasn’t cocky enough.
So that was this way deep down thing that I believed, and I believed too, if I could change those things, I would be so much more likely to find love. Well, in fact I did change some of the things. The confidence; we’ll put that one aside. The soft stuff, the soft heart, we’ll put that aside. But let’s talk about the weight, and the getting buff. I really got in shape, and I got really buff. So did I have more sex at that point? Yes I did. Did more people notice me? Yes, they did. Did I get more dates? Actually no, I didn’t. And was I any closer to finding healthy love? Not one drop. In fact, I was years away.
There is a different set of skills that works better
So for those of us who’ve been beleaguered by these messages, kind of like a dog or a cat with a can tied to your tail, we can begin to let go of them. What I discovered over time was that there were another set of actions that I took, an entirely different set of skills and actions, that worked infinitely better, and made me like myself more. And we’re going to talk about what those are.
But I want to say one something else too, and that is, I just want to point out that there really are lots of different kind of attractions. It is just not true that everyone is attracted to a 20 something, buff looking person who is witty and acts confident. Now, that’s like a scratch-the-itch type that many or most of us have, but many people are turned on to people who are shorter than the norm. Or actually are turned on by people who are taller than the norm. People who are turned on to people who are older than we’re supposed to look for, or people who are of different weights, different physical challenges.
Old sexism in a new age bottle
There are a world of different kinds of turn-ons, and I really mean this. I cannot tell you how many people I know who came to realize that there were a huge number of people that liked older women, overweight men, overweight women, men who are not “alpha men,” women who are not this model of femininity, and that is a whole other toxic dating myth that you get taught, that if you’re a guy you have to be an alpha male, confident, and kind of tough, and very protective. A leader, you have to be a leader.
And women, no matter how empowered you are in your profession, if you want an alpha man, you need to==as they say, and I hate this– “Leave your fake balls in the office,” because otherwise you’re never going to attract a masculine man. This breaks my heart. It’s old sexism in a new age bottle.
Guess what happens when we’re not ourselves?
And these messages are psychically violent, because they deny the fact that the magic that we have for a person who’s going to love us for who we are, the magic we have is the person who we authentically are. Trying to be these other things, tying ourselves into knots, well guess what’s going to happen?
We’re going to either find someone who’s looking for the kind of person we’re pretending to be but are not, or, more likely, we are going to be attracted to people who sense weakness in us. They sense our insecurity, our lack of self-acceptance, and the people who are attracted to that are the people who go in so they can leach from us, or take from us, or step on us, or get to feel better than us. So, for so many reasons, it is the path of authenticity that has nuclear power, baby. Not the path of self-fixing.
Toxic Dating Myth: I can’t really date until I have a better job
So, another piece of this toxic dating myth that I want to encourage people to consider abandoning is this: I can’t really date until I have a better job. I can’t really date until I lose those five pounds, or 10 pounds, or 15, or 20 pounds, or 50 pounds. Well what I want to tell you is this: chances are the person who would love you for who you are is going to love you, even if you’re 10 pounds heavier. Is going to love you when you’re unemployed, or when you’re employed. Because you are who you are. They’re going to be attracted to you because they’re attracted to you. And they could be attracted to you emotionally, because of the life that you’ve created, and the way of being that you’ve created and curated for yourself.
When we’re ourselves, we glow
When we try to be something else, maybe we’re slick, maybe we’re shiny, but we don’t glow. And really we only glow with those people with whom we feel safe, and feel right. And that’s what we need to start looking for. The key, really, is less working on your attractiveness, as it working on your attractions. Because attractions can’t be forced, but they can be educated.
And here is a really amazing thing: this is something that I have seen to be true, that I never would’ve guessed, but I see it again, and again, and again, from people that have worked through, worked with my book, from people who are in my intensives, from people who are in my courses, from people who’ve never heard of me but have kind of figured these things out on their own, and that is this:
The degree to which you start embracing who you really are–not this airbrushed version, but the person you really are–your attractions will begin to change. You will notice this is really true, and you will end up being more attracted to people who love you for who you are, and are good for you. You’ll notice them more, you’ll probably meet them more, you will be more attracted to them, and the chance of a reciprocal attraction is much, much greater.
The deeper physics of dating
This is like the deeper physics of dating. And I don’t exactly know why it’s true, although I have some ideas, but in my role I see it again, and again, and again. You can rewire your attractions. When you do this act of shifting away from this dreadful thing of how you have to fix yourself, and instead shift to this kind of existential choice to treasure yourself, the field will change in your dating life. It really will.
Three tools to help you change the way you date
So I want to suggest three tools to help you change the way you date. And these three tools are movements away from this obsessive fixation on making yourself more attractive. And they’re movements towards something that will make you a better human being, that will make you happier, and it will actually make you more attractive to the right people. Really.
Number one: Start practicing kindness and understanding in your daily life
David Buss’s research. Start practicing kindness and understanding in your daily life! Try that. Actually try to become kind, become understanding, become generous, or let those parts of yourself show. Of course don’t do it in complete blindness, do it with a sense of discrimination, because when you do that you want to be really careful to just look for people who are not going to take advantage of you. When you decide to be kind and understanding there’s a corollary part to this, and that is that you look for people who are also kind and understanding.
And when you make that decision, that you’re going to consciously choose to lead with kindness and understanding, and then consciously only choose people who know how to do the same, you will already have made a profound shift in your dating life.
Number two: Try being who you naturally are
I want to suggest to all of you, that you take all of this advice that you had to swallow, that’s left you feeling anxious and insecure, maybe driven to a kind of “I have to get the perfect whatever”, but also feeling insecure, (who wouldn’t go nuts with this advice?) All this kind of advice that tells you to be vulnerable, but be confident, be authentic, but be charming, and all this kind of crazy advice, and what I’d like you to do is imagine that all of this advice is on a desk, piled up; a whole bunch of articles and magazines and everything, and just imagine taking your arm and moving your arm along the desk, until every one of those piles of advice has been knocked off into a garbage pail. Because baby, you don’t need them.
And instead, try this: try being who you naturally are. Try being the you that glows, instead of this false shine that you’re told you’re supposed to have.
How do you glow?
You glow when you feel safe with someone. You glow when you’re loving who you are, that’s how you glow. And when you’re with the wrong person you kind of feel like, well, if I’m going to have to act confident and comfortable and all that, I’m going to really have to fake it at this moment.
You want to be with people with whom there’s a sense of easiness. My friend, the author Pamela Cytrynbaum says that her mom taught her that men are like shoes, you want to go to the shoe store, and you don’t want to leave with a pair of shoes that’s uncomfortable and tell yourself “I’ll grow into it.” You want to leave with a pair of shoes that feel comfortable. It’s the same with men, women, whatever the gender is that you’re interested in. And why has nobody taught us this?
Number three: Does my soul feel safe with this person?
I have a question that I would encourage you to add to your dating life, as the central question, the number one question you lead with. Just try this and see what happens. When you date someone–and you won’t know right away, but it’s a question that’s going to shift your entire approach. Ask yourself, “Does my soul feel safe with this person? Does my deep heart feel safe with this person?” If the answer is yes, then you’ve got gold, you can take the next step.
Now, are there more questions?
There are a million more questions, including: is this a safe person, am I physically and sexually attracted to this person, are they interested in me? There’s a million more questions, but when you lead with the question, “Hey, do I feel safe with this person?”, there’s a way that you are dignifying your authentic self. It changes the way you carry yourself. It makes you kinder and more understanding, it makes you softer, but it also gives you more of a backbone. And when you make that your question–which, again, it’s amazing that we have not been taught this–but when you make that your primary question, your dating life changes, because this is the path to happiness in love. This is X marks the spot of where you want to build your home in the world, with someone with whom you do feel safe.
Break the back of your fear of rejection
So what also happens when you make that decision, when you go out on a date, and you say that your intentions are to be kind and understanding, and see if the person does that too, and your intention is also that you’re going to ask yourself, “Do I feel safe with this person?” When you make those your commitments, you actually begin to break the back of your fear of rejection. It’s really true, you disassemble your fear of rejection, because you have shifted your focus from, “Am I worthy enough?”, to “This is me, and do I feel safe with this person?”
I’d love to hear your stories!
Try this, you will love it. It’s a kind of life-changing tool, and let me know what happens. You can actually go to DeeperDatingPodcast.com, and at the bottom of the page there’s a microphone icon. I’d love to hear your stories about what happens when you try these three tools.
So there’s so much more here, and I do want to say, once again, that it is great to make yourself look attractive, but that you are not obligated to be with someone you’re not attracted to just because they’re a good person, and you feel safe with them. You have a right to be attracted to them. And there’s nothing wrong with improving the way you look, but when that need becomes tyrannical, when it rules your sense of self-worth, you’re screwed. Not only will you probably not find healthy love, you probably will be drawn to relationships that chip away at your sense of self-worth.
The truth that we’re not taught
So I’d like you to consider making these shifts, and just notice, because what I want to do is promise you right now that at your weight, at your height, at your age, there are unequivocally people who would you find you the cat’s meow. And that’s just the truth, and it’s the truth that we’re not taught.
Although I do want to add one caveat here, and that is, if you have an active addiction, something like an active addiction or a serious psychiatric condition that is not stabilized or treated, those things need to be addressed before you’re going to be able to find and keep love. You need sobriety, because otherwise you’ll spin around in circles. So the greatest gift you can give yourself, if either of these two things apply to you, are that you get the help that you need. Either that you get sober, or you get the mental health treatment that you need.
For everyone else, try these ideas. They will shift your approach, they will shift your life, they will shift your dating life, and they will save you so much time, and so much heartache. They’ll make you like yourself more, they’ll make you feel more comfortable with your own humanity, and they will lead you to the kind of love that can make you happy.
Ken’s Bestselling Book: Deeper Dating
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