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Am I Attractive? How Attraction Does (and Doesn’t) Work

A woman looking at herself in the mirror and wondering, Am I attractive?

Yes you are attractive—we are all attractive, because beauty is such a ridiculously subjective thing. We’re all beautiful in so many different ways, different degrees, and to different people. Whoever one person deems attractive or unattractive is irrelevant to you, because they’re just one person. Someone who catches one person’s eye in bar, may cause another person not to bat an eyelid.

Can we even explain why that happens to us? Why is it that we’re attracted to one person, and turned off or indifferent about another? What are the reasons we’re drawn to someone?

“I dunno, there’s just something about them,” you might say.

Attraction is a lot like love, in that it works in weird and wonderful ways. There are many invisible forces at play, which influence our levels of attraction to people. This includes appearances, values, and personality traits.

To understand how attraction works, and what’s really happening in that moment when you’re swooning over that hottie who served you your coffee the other morning, we’re going to look into human biology and evolutionary psychology.

Physical attraction is based on instinct.
Did you know that most people can tell if they’re physically attracted to someone within 60 seconds of meeting them? Think back to your own experiences of attraction, and you’ll probably find you made an instant decision which you weren’t really conscious of. But why?

Women tend to be attracted to masculine features like an athletic build, a strong jaw, and height, because these signify strength and protection. In terms of personality, we’re often attracted to men who are direct and decisive.

Men tend to go for fuller breasted women, with wide hips and thinner waists, and long hair—because these are signs of fertility, which are wired into men’s brains.

We fall in love at first smell.
I’m not talking about perfume or aftershave, I’m talking about pheromones. Phereomones can be found in someone’s natural smell, which is secreted in their sweat and other bodily fluids. They’re subtle, but we pick up on them when we meet people, and this plays a role in who we become sexually attracted to. If we like their smell, they’re in. Pheromones also act as a type of communication below the level of consciousness.

We’re attracted to people who look like us,
Often you’ll find couples look similar to each other, because many of us find our own features the most attractive in other people. (We’re not egotistical at all, are we?!)

There’s also the creepy—but totally true—fact that we’re often attracted to people who remind us of our parents or siblings. This doesn’t necessarily mean physically—for example, people born to parents who have a large age gap may also be more drawn to a partner that has a wider age gap to them.

Platonic attraction is important.
It’s not all about looks, although they are important. But we also prioritize qualities like how trustworthy someone seems, how romantic they are, how reliable they are, if they live in the same town or city as us, if they’re listening to us, how we feel when we’re in their company, and if they share similar beliefs and interests to us. In fact, having common ground is one of the foundations of building a deep emotional connection with someone.

All of these elements help us feel a platonic attraction with someone in the early stages of meeting and getting to know them.

Personality is important.
Deepening the previous point here, personality can actually make or break an attraction. If we find someone’s personality a good fit for us, they’ll instantly appear hotter than if their personality turns us off.

Women tend to vocally rate personality higher than men do when articulating what they look for in a partner, but it’s the key to success in any long term relationship. If you’re not attracted to someone’s personality, you’ll have a hard time building a life with them.

People want what they can’t have.
Human beings are designed to crave what they can’t have. It’s like a child being told they can play with all the toys in the room apart from this silver football; then balling their eyes out for the next two hours because all they want to do is play with said football.

Men and women tend to be attracted to people they consider to be out of their league, because those people represent an ideal in our minds. Subconsciously, we might also develop these attractions because we’re forcing ourselves to improve our own physical attractiveness and social status.

Open body language.
A lot of the cues we give out to people happen through our body language, instead of the things we actually say. For example, when someone has their torso open, their arms out, and their legs uncrossed—they create the feeling of openness. If their body is positioned towards you, that’s also a signal they’re interested in you and what you’re saying; all of which naturally attracts us to someone far more than a great outfit or hairstyle can.

We are all different!
Yes, there is a bit of science to the way attraction works, and some of it is hard-wired into our brains. But we’re all individuals, and we each have our own desires and preferences when it comes to choosing romantic and sexual partners.

If you’re wondering if you’re attractive, the answer is yes. But the real questions is, who are you attractive to?

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