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besthealth1These eight predictors of attractiveness affect how others see you and how you see yourself

By Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

June 2008

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Botox, breast implants and beauty products may change your appearance, but they don’t make people love or even like you. What does? These eight predictors of attractiveness affect how partners, colleagues, friends and family perceive you and how you see yourself.

1. Short, tall, round, slim size doesn’t matter

It seems that no one variable consistently predicts perceptions of female beauty, says Dr. Maryanne Fisher of Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. She studied the effects of body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio and curvaceousness, and found that none reliably determines beauty. However, she notes that perceptions of beauty may include biological factors that are currently undiscovered. We know that across cultures, people’s perceptions of attractiveness are relatively consistent for faces. The same could be true for female beauty in general.

2. Warts and all

Not being yourself is a common theme for women, says life coach and relationship expert Meredith Haberfeld. [One of my clients] tried for two decades to be someone she thought a boyfriend would want, but each relationship fizzled,” she says. “After she turned 40, she stopped shaping herself into what she thought others wanted. She risked being herself and losing her new boyfriend and now she’s happily married. Letting your true personality shine through warts and all makes you more attractive not just to your partner, but to friends and family, too.

3. Two laws of attractiveness

Ann Demarais is a psychologist and co-author of the book First Impressions: What You Don’t Know About How Others See You . She says, How sexy you are [is determined] by how you present yourself. The more confident you are, the more attractive you appear. People take you at your own estimation. Personality and charm can play a stronger role than appearance. Plus, she says, positive traits spread like wildfire. When we see one positive quality in a person, we tend to automatically attribute other positive qualities [to them] as well.”

4. You’ve got (great) personality

Characteristics such as honesty and helpfulness make you more appealing, says researcher Gary W. Lewandowski, Jr., of the Department of Psychology at Monmouth University. In a recent study of college students, he found that the more positive personality traits you have, the more desirable you are as a friend and dating partner. How do you develop attractive traits? Spend time with people you admire and respect, because attitudes and opinions are contagious.

5. Brains R us

I’ve worked with many women who believe their success or intellect is intimidating to men,” says Haberfeld. “I’ve even had clients ‘dumb down’ [their behaviour], such as smiling and giggling when a man’s jokes aren’t funny, because they think that’s more appealing. A study from the University of Wisconsin Madison showed that men find powerful women sexy. So, don’t downplay your natural intellect, abilities or talents. Let your intelligence and power out, says Haberfeld.

6. What you like about you

Thoughts are physical things,” writes Rachel Caplin in I’m Beautiful, Dammit! “They are neuronal pathways that use neurotransmitters to keep a thought moving and grooving. These neurotransmitters then float through your entire body. Negative, ugly thoughts disperse negative, ugly neurotransmitters Imagine I hate my thighs’ circulating stinky, negative chemicals all throughout your body. Then imagine My body is just right as it is’ bathing pink, effervescent joy all throughout your body. Your thoughts affect your self-perception, attitude and appearance; make sure they’re working for you, not against you.

7. Wild cards

What you look, smell, sound and feel like may be no match for someone’s core erotic theme or it could be a perfect fit. That is, your appeal may be affected to varying degrees by factors beyond your control, no matter how white your teeth or how witty your conversation. Marriage counsellor and sex therapist McKenzie explains that our core erotic themes, which are established in our mid-teens, largely determine who we’re attracted to. Thus, clothing size and perfect skin may hold less sway than pre-established personal preferences such as an inexplicable attraction to dark curly hair.

8. Ride an upward spiral

The better you feel about who you are, the happier and more likeable you’ll be. How do you create an upward spiral or reverse a downward one? Lora Park, assistant psychology professor at the State University of New York, studied rejection and appearance. She writes, [In this research], a reminder of one’s strengths or close relationships was enough to reduce the damaging effects of thinking about negative aspects of one’s appearance. These findings emphasize the power of self-affirmation and of having close relationships in helping people cope with insecurities regarding their appearance. Stay plugged in to your strengths and good relationships; they’ll keep you beautiful in more ways than you can count.