In the last thread, I had mentioned that based on some experiences I had recently had, I was starting to wonder if most women overrate their looks/SMV. I think a couple of commenters agreed, and commenter CAB mentioned that he had seen an instance of this in a blog thread that I had linked to where a female commenter had estimated herself to be in the 7-7.5 range. The only problem, CAB noted, was that a few weeks prior, this same commenter had posted a link to her Facebook page, which had allowed him to see some photos of her…and she was no 7-7.5.
Roissy maintains that all women intuitively know where they stand on the 1-10 scale and that it is delusional, hamsterrific vanity that makes them score themselves higher than they ought. He is right…mostly. I don’t think most men realize that female self-image is a maelstorm of a lot of competing messages and ideas, some of which can contradict each other yet still be held concurrently by the same woman. Basically, women’s opinions of themselves doesn’t occur in a vacuum, and it is these exterior and interior pressures and suggestions that mold and re-mold that opinion throughout each day. (This is partly why a woman can feel perfectly fine about her body at noon and be in tears about it an hour later.)
Before I start discussing different factors that contribute to a woman’s overestimation of her looks, I want to state upfront that no woman alive is satisfied with her body. Every woman probably has at least a half dozen things she would like to change about her body, and that is a very conservative estimate. This includes women who are famous for being beautiful and have bodies and faces that are the envy of most women. Actually, those women are probably the ones most paranoid and insecure about their looks since their looks are literally their primary source of value and there is new, younger competition coming on the scene every day. Women who claim to be truly content with their bodies either are lying or have reached a point in their lives where they’ve given up on their looks. Sometimes the lady truly doth protest too much.
Probably the strongest factor in women’s overrating of their looks is women’s conflation of personality with physical beauty. Just as a woman will find an average-looking man with a good personality handsome, she will also consider an average-looking woman with a good personality prettier than she objectively is. So if a woman believes herself to have a good personality, she will probably give herself an extra point or two that a man would not give her if he saw her across the bar – or across the church foyer. In most women’s minds, a number rating includes a consideration of personality. And, well, how many women truly think they have dud personalities? Have you ever noticed how many average- or below average-looking women claim to have beautiful, gorgeous, amaaaazing friends who are funny, witty, and smart to boot – and then you meet them and one is slightly cross-eyed, one is top-heavy, and one is inoffensively unremarkable, even though they’re all dressed tastefully in Banana Republic? Which brings to me to my next point, which is….
Groups of female friends tend to become an echo chamber of inflated rankings. Most women do not have close friend groups that include 3-point spreads of beauty. It’s far more likely that the “pretty one” of the group is at best a half to one point better-looking than the others. The plainer friends then normalize their rankings relative to the pretty one’s, and because they’re not that far away from the pretty one and they’re all factoring in personality points, a group of 5s can easily see themselves as 7s. Also, girl etiquette requires friends to praise each other’s looks and insist that their friends are pretty – “You look terrific!” “You were so pretty in that dress!” “I love your hair!” “Girl, you look HOT tonight!” – so no woman is going to say to her friends, “Um, actually…you’re sort of busted.”
A corollary to this is the opinion of Mom and Grandma. Many mothers refuse to believe the fruit of their loins is anything but gorgeous, and grandmothers are genetically programmed to think their granddaughters are beautiful. But if Mom and Grandma see beauty that no one else does, well……..
Another strong factor is environment. If you’re a 7 and you live in a town of 4s, people are going to treat you like a 10. (And, because your church and women’s groups preach against the unrealistic image of female beauty in the media, your “real” beauty is going to be even more valuable.) People do, to a certain extent, normalize their expectations to their surroundings. This notably includes the tendency of horny alphas to slum. If you’re a female 5 who hooks up with a few male 8s, you’re not going to think you’re a 5 anymore; you’re going to think you’re pretty hot and those guys who used you are just big fat entitled jerks. Then again, sometimes any male attention, period, is enough to convince a woman that she’s hot. It’s not uncommon for a single woman in her mid-30s to have a longtime beta orbiter from high school or sleazy alpha friend who’s always looking for sex. That the woman can reject these men leads her to believe her sexual power is greater than it is in the wider market, even as the same woman complains that she can’t find any attractive men who want to date her.
Women also have a tendency to disregard the toll that age and weight take on their looks. A woman who was an 8 at age 18 will probably not rank herself lower than a 7 at age 38, barring a colossal weight gain or other drastic change. Additionally, most women do not think that a 20-pound weight gain is that damaging to their appearance. So Mabel got a little chubbier since high college…it doesn’t matter because she’s still got a great personality, great hair, and great fashion sense! That tire around the middle? Oh, that’ll go away when she finds time in her busy schedule to go to the gym…someday…soon…ish. Anyway, she’s still a cooler chick than all of those vapid girls who only care about exercising and eating salad. Men are so shallow!
Finally, yes, there is an element of delusional vanity, too. It is just incredibly, unspeakably painful for a woman to accept that she is not beautiful and is actually not all that appealing to look at. It is equally painful for a woman to accept that she has lost all of her beauty, especially if she was known for her beauty in her youth. (That is why in Los Angeles it is not uncommon to see borderline grotesque-looking women in their 50s and 60s sporting immobile faces, duck lips, and breast implants as they exercise themselves into their skinny jeans after trips to the salon. Or, see: Madonna.) For these women, the most delusional shred of hope is better than no hope at all. This is also why – in my opinion – the modern evangelical church stresses inner beauty so much to young women. If you have inner beauty, then no loss or lack of outer beauty can really hurt you. Not that this message has no merit, but if the message is that Jesus, the Ultimate Lover of Your Soul, is relentlessly, passionately, daringly pursuing you, and not just you, but you as you actually are, not the idealized version of you that sticks to her diet and does her makeup and hair every day – like Edward Cullen a regular lover might, except for all of the icky horniness – then where is the motivation to spruce up the physical body? Jesus already loves you as you are, and isn’t it the job of men to be more like Jesus? The responsibility is therefore on men to be like Jesus, rather than you conforming to the world, HELLO.
But, in spite of all this, is it really all that bad for women to overrate their looks? Most women end up marrying, and chances are, their husbands rank their wives’ beauty higher than the average man does. (What else can explain the abundance of men on the internet who claim to be dating/married to female 8s?) And what man wants to be with a woman who feels bad about her body, anyway? So maybe it all works out in the end, and very few are any worse off for it.
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