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Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica is a good “Strong Woman” example. No father, abusive mother, running from her vulnerabilities. I loved her character, by the way…

People who dispense dating advice will often tell you that confidence is sexy, sexier than a good income or a great face, and a key to attracting the other sex. And they’re right. However, it’s more of a challenge to define what confidence is and how to convey it. Sometimes, it’s easier to offer examples of what confidence ISN’T.

Last time, I talked about confidence and why it’s important. In my mind, confidence is believing in yourself. It’s being comfortable in your own skin and making peace with your imperfections and insecurities. I allude to this in Changing Your Game and It’s Not Him It’s YOU. Confidence isn’t something you just “have” or “don’t have” — it’s something you build with experience. This is why older people are more confident in themselves than younger people, and why risk-takers have more confidence than those who avoid risk — they’ve experienced difficulties, faced some of their demons, and have learned that they can handle whatever comes their way.

This time, I’ll focus more on confidence (and insecurity) in women. John Gray (author of the Mars/Venus series) differentiates between self-confidence (better for men) and self-assuredness (better for women). To me, this difference is unimportant; believing in yourself is believing in yourself. However, women do differ from men in some ways. People don’t expect confidence in women as much as they do in men, but confident women do have more success with men and in other areas of life. An insecure woman may attract an insecure man who needs her to remain insecure to feel okay about himself; or, she will repel other men, who fear (rightly or not) that she’ll become a ball and chain in his life. Moreover, because men and women are different and we have different expectations for them, a lack of confidence can look a little different in women.

Here are some common examples:

The TNG (Too Nice Girl): Being kind, accommodating, supportive, and considerate of others is a good thing and can be one of the main things men seek in a female partner. What man doesn’t want to come home to a woman who will kiss him and make him a nice meal? However, as with the male TNG, one can take this too far. Once you’re being nice in order to avoid conflict or keep a guy, it’s done out of insecurity and fear, not kindness. The TNG may become a doormat who puts up with jerky men or men who take her for granted because she hasn’t learned to stand up for herself or assert her needs. This is a common form of insecurity in women because it’s reinforced by our social mores and our “sugar, spice, and everything nice” ideas about women.

The “Strong Woman.” Strong women are the opposite of TNGs. They can be bitchy, prickly, pushy, and confrontational. They don’t take shit from others and will give you their opinion truthfully, whether good or bad. Some call these women “alpha females” and they will refer to themselves as “strong women.” However, they aren’t nearly as strong as they like to think. Much like the Big Man I talked about last time, Strong Women are so afraid of feeling small or weak (or being TNGs) that they swing the other way and overcompensate with behaviors that can repel men. A certain level of alpha-ness in women can attract certain men; but too much and you wind up alone. Remember, true confidence isn’t aggressive, angry, or overbearing, in either sex.

The Catty Girl. Catty Girls have made a habit of being critical and nitpicky. They will look for flaws in others and make them known. They’re the office gossip or the one who looks you up and down. They tend toward jealousy and envy; when they see another woman who has something they lack or don’t understand, they lay into her. If a guy she likes looks at another girl, she attacks the girl. This is a classic type of lack of self-confidence in girls that begins in middle school and, for some, persists into adulthood. Catty Girls lack a foundation of self-worth, likely because they were raised in an environment that didn’t foster it, and anyone who seems to have what they lack serves as a painful reminder of that. Catty Girls tend to throw their daggers at women, not men… but men eventually see the chink in their armor.

The “Do I Look Fat?” DILFs, instead of hiding insecurities, may opt to advertise them. They may ask the classic DILF question that puts men in an impossible position, as a way to gain confidence through reassurance. Unfortunately, we can only gain so much confidence through others; the rest has to come from inside, and DILFs look too much to others. I had a colleague who I invited to hang out with my group of friends. She’d had a rough year and put on close to 40 pounds, and kept making references to her “child-bearing hips.” The first time she did it, it was funny in a self-deprecating way. After all, it shows some confidence to be able to joke about your perceived flaws. But she did it multiple times, and with a nervousness that belied her deep insecurity about her weight gain. She was an attractive woman my male friends always liked, but never wanted to date. When you advertise your insecurities by mentioning them in this way, you make men wonder just how deep that rabbit hole goes.

 

Just as I mentioned in my article for men, before you feel too deflated when you recognize these traits or tendencies in yourself, here’s some good news: all women, myself included, can relate to these insecurities. We’ve all been there, and we ALL have ways we attempt to compensate for our weaknesses. This is the human condition and it’s unavoidable.

The trick isn’t to eradicate the insecurities or weak areas (good luck with that) — it’s to identify where you’re insecure and what you do to compensate. Confident people have insecurities too; they’ve just learned to deal with them proactively instead of unconsciously trying to cover them up in ineffective ways. It’s a bit like the balding man who does the “combover” with his remaining hair — everyone can see that’s he’s bald but not coming to terms with it, and they look down on him for it. He would be better off cutting his hair in a flattering way and accepting the reality of his baldness. Another example is when an overweight woman wears sack-like clothing in an unconscious attempt to hide her body. This backfires and makes her look insecure. As difficult as it is, if she embraced her size (even if she isn’t fully comfortable with it) and wore flattering clothing, she would convey that she’s comfortable in her own skin. And men like that.

Give some thought to your own weaknesses. Do you relate to one of the above types… or more than one? What scares you most and what do you do to cover it up? How have you been burned in the past and what have you done (consciously or not) to ensure it doesn’t happen again to you? It’s not the fear or pain that’s hurting you; it’s what you do (often without thinking) to compensate for it that decreases your attractiveness to men. Learn to face your weaknesses, to be aware of them. Then you’ll find more confidence.

 

Resources

Christie’s Books

Confidence and Insecurity, Part 1: Men