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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

Physically Unattractive - What Makes Us That Way to Others?

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Physically Unattractive

What unwittingly can make us seem physically UNattractive?


This is a great question, because many people often spend time trying to make themselves more physically attractive but often fail to consider how their attitudes and behaviors might sabotage their efforts. The following attributes can make a person appear significantly less physically attractive, even if the person would generally be considered physically attractive:

1. Excessive concern over physical appearance.
For example, a really handsome man who constantly wonders what others think of how he looks or a woman who complains that nobody will like her because she believes that others will see her as “homely.”

2. Lack of confidence over one’s physical appearance.
Even if a person actually is homely or only mediocre on the handsome scale, confidence in one’s appearance—a sign that someone is mature enough to have made peace with the body that they were given in this life—can make a person seem less homely or even more physically attractive.

3. Self-deprecation of one’s physical appearance.
This draws attention away from whatever non-physical qualities could have more than made up for one's homeliness and even made a person more physically attractive than they would normally seem. So unappealing is this behavior that it can make even a physically attractive person look ugly.

4. Undesirable personal qualities.
Sometimes people find us physically unattractive simply because they dislike our personal qualities — qualities that may or may not be “bad” and which, therefore, we shouldn’t necessarily aim to change. For instance, if a really attractive person happens to be very insightful and you fear that s/he is able to divine your secrets and insecurities, then you’ll find that this person’s physical attractiveness diminishes over time. Conversely, if a physically attractive person has personal traits that are undesirable (mean, rude, insensitive, belligerent), then they will also come to be perceived as less physically attractive over time.

5. Self-deprecation of one’s mental health or personal qualities.
This is related to lack of confidence in one’s physical attractiveness in a way. For example, people come across considerably more undesirable if they’re constantly professing statements like “I am so weird” or “I have a lot of issues.” Voicing insecurities over one’s own personal qualities signals instability, poor self-esteem and intolerance.

6. Questioning or challenging loyalties or relationships.
This is another sign of insecurity. For instance, asking a person “Why don’t you like me?” or “Why do you like the other coworkers better than me?” is sure to introduce tension and conflict, and therefore, make the person less unattractive.

Keep these guidelines in mind as you’re picking out that killer outfit, changing your hairstyle or spraying on that that enticing cologne. Improving your outer appearance is definitely worthwhile, but so is taking honest stock of how you portray yourself to others in your attitudes and behaviors.

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