How Good Looking People Can End Up Shy And Socially Awkward

If you asked people to picture a stereotypical socially awkward person, many of them would imagine someone who's not that conventionally attractive. They might have poor fashion sense, unkempt hair, bad skin, or be gangly or overweight.

There are those who fit that cliche, but more shy, awkward people than you think are good looking. They may not be one-in-a-million supermodels, but they're attractive. They have nice facial features and physiques. They know how to put a flattering outfit together. If you saw them on the street you'd likely assume they were confident and had a good social life.

Many of you reading this might be thinking, "That's not news. Just because someone has good cheekbones doesn't mean they're immune to feeling shy or putting their foot in their mouth." But a few readers may be more incredulous. There's a belief that attractive people have it easy, and could never be awkward or unconfident because everyone's always giving them approval and wanting to be their friend. Or that they must have received so much acceptance and positive reinforcement growing up that their only possible path in life was to become charismatic and self-assured.

This article doesn't have any practical advice. It's just my observations. Though maybe if you're good looking and shy it will validate some of your experiences.

Reasons good looking people can end up as socially anxious, insecure, awkward adults

As I was saying, some of us assume that if a person's attractive then they'll have a bunch of validating social experiences in their youth, and end up as confident grown ups. Being nice looking as a kid can cause people to treat them well, but that alone doesn't mean they'll be the life of every party or have great self-esteem.

Not every attractive adult was thought of as good looking when they were younger

Some physically attractive people have been seen that way since middle school. Others were late bloomers. They may have looked a bit goofy before and during puberty, then grew into their looks later. They may have been overweight, then got in shape as adults. Or been underweight, and filled out in their twenties. They might have had good features, but flew under the radar because they had acne and wore baggy clothes.

As teenagers they didn't get a steady drip of positive feedback for their looks. At best they were considered average. At worst they were picked on for their appearance. If they developed decent social skills and self-esteem growing up, then once they become attractive as adults they can probably parlay their looks into greater success. If they enter adulthood being awkward and anxious, becoming hot may help in some ways, but it won't magically make up for all the social practice they missed out on, or erase their childhood wounds.

The way shyness, social anxiety, and low self-esteem develop, and are held in the mind, don't factor in whether someone is hot

A lot of social anxiety and poor self-worth go back to negative experiences people have as kids. They're rejected, criticized, humiliated, mistreated, abused, or traumatized by their peers or family. They don't need to live through completely horrendous events, just enough to create a mental model of, "I'm flawed and unlikable, and other people are emotionally dangerous."

Once that worldview forms in someone, it doesn't go away just like that. In a sense, the part of their mind that holds it is frozen in time and still thinks they're that vulnerable fourth grader who got bullied by their classmates and constantly criticized at home. It doesn't care, or even fully grasp, that they're now an adult who has dreamy eyes and a sharp jawline. When they show up to a party all that part can do is think, "There are people here you don't know. They might mock you! Danger! Danger!"

Someone's outer surface may look sexy or handsome, but in their head they're a nervous loser who never got the hang of talking to people. On another level they may be able to acknowledge they look nice, but it doesn't put in a dent in their deeper baggage. They might think, "Alright, so I'm pretty, but that doesn't change the fact that once someone actually starts talking to me they'll realize I'm bumbling and annoying and have nothing interesting to say."

Good looking people can be picked on as kids too

Many self-esteem-shredding experiences happen to people when they're children, before their looks play much role in their lives. Or they happen to Ugly Duckling middle and high schoolers. And like I just said, once that corrosive mental model is in place, becoming attractive years down the line won't do a ton to shift it.

Maybe on average physically attractive tweens and teenagers are less likely to get picked on, and have their self-worth damaged, but it still happens. There are all kinds of things their peers could bully them about aside from their appearance: Their personality, their interests, their beliefs, their race, their sexuality, being an immigrant, their parents' jobs, and so on. They may even be made the class scapegoat for no clear reason. Either way, they have the message "You're unlikable and worthless" hammered into their psyche. It's more than enough to override any self-esteem boost they may get from being easy on the eyes.

Not every good looking person knows they're attractive

Let's say for the sake of argument that, all else being equal, if someone's hot it will give them a bit more social confidence than someone who isn't. The thing is not everyone who's good looking knows it. They may look in the mirror and truly not see what everyone else sees. They may be stunning, but think they're just average. Or they could be decent looking, but genuinely believe they're ugly. How could someone not see the obvious?

There are genetic reasons someone may struggle socially (and having a nice figure won't cancel them out)

I didn't forget this big factor. Developmental differences like being on the autism spectrum, or having ADHD make it harder for people to grasp social rules on an intuitive level. It can also cause them to act in ways that alienate their peers. All the unpleasant experiences that result then do their own harm. Some kids are also born with more inhibited, sensitive temperaments. That won't always lead to them becoming shy, self-conscious adults, but it makes it more likely that difficult life events will push them in that direction.


Related: Social Challenges Of Being Good Looking While You're Also Shy And Socially Awkward