Singles are often told that if they want to be successful daters, then they had better love what they see in the mirror. The way to win at dating is to appraise yourself very highly and then let every stranger you meet for burritos know you’re a hot commodity.
There are a couple of problems with this strategy. First, there is the reality problem. If you been walking this earth for twenty, thirty or forty-plus years without inspiring throngs of admirers and would-be suitors each time you step into a cafe or wedding reception, this might be a tough sell.
More important, what if you don’t have sky-high self-esteem? What if your last breakup left you feeling windblown and unsure of just about everything, including yourself?
Or what if you like yourself just fine but also know that you’re an average-looking person with a so-so career who spends most weekends drinking beer and quoting old Monty Python movies with your college friends?
Well, I have some good news for the modest and unassuming. A study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology indicates that pumping yourself up is not a requirement for successful dating.
In the study, participants read dating profiles, written by the researchers, in which the subject came off as either humble or not humble. The researchers found that participants expressed more romantic interest in the humble dater. They also discovered that people in relationships were more forgiving of humble partners than arrogant ones.
“Humble individuals are more other-oriented and the present research suggests that such individuals are also more desired as romantic partners and more likely to be forgiven following an offense committed in a particularly stressful relationship,” said the authors of the study, which was led by Hope College psychologist Daryl R. Van Tongeren.
The authors define humble people as those who have an accurate view of their strengths and weaknesses and who focus their attention on others rather than themselves. They’re also more interested in being in a happy relationship than in asserting their superiority or being in control.
What I love about this study is that while it might initially seem counterintuitive, it actually makes complete sense once you think about it for three seconds. The incessant mantra to “love yourself” has been so drummed into single people’s consciousness, that it’s easy to forget a complicated truth: Ultra-confident people are often really annoying.
The great news is humility is accessible to everybody. We may not all be able to jack up our self-regard, but most all of us can tone it down a notch.
Refill his water glass. Ask her thoughtful questions about her job. Say you like his jacket. It’s not that you can’t tell her about your latest promotion or triathlon, but see what it feels like to not dwell on it and instead switch the subject to her victories.
Of course, you may not need me to tell you this. Maybe you’re already an unassuming sort who prefers to stand back and let the other person shine. In that case, keep working it, you sexy thing.