Social Challenges Of Being Good Looking While You're Also Shy And Socially Awkward
The stereotypical image of an insecure, socially awkward person is someone who's not that physically attractive. Of course, that cliche is inaccurate. Most people who struggle with shyness and loneliness look fine. Some of them are even above average in the looks department. In another article I go over why physically attractive people can end up having social issues, even with the supposed advantages their appearance gives them.
In this article I'll go over some of the unique social problems that might happen when someone is handsome or pretty, and also awkward around others. I'll stick to platonic situations and leave out things like getting hit on too often by creeps. This piece is descriptive, not full of hands-on tips. Maybe if you're shy and good looking you'll recognize some of what I'm talking about and be able to think, "Okay, it wasn't all in my head when I thought I was being treated that way." If you're average looking, like most of us, maybe it will help you view attractive people with more nuance.
Many of the points I'll cover can affect anyone who's attractive, but inhibited, less-polished people can have a harder time with them:
- They may not have the social skills to handle the tricky or uncomfortable spots their looks put them in.
- Their low self-esteem and insecurities may cause them to blame themselves when an interaction doesn't go well, not realizing the other person or people were reacting to their appearance. That's more likely if they don't realize or accept how attractive they are.
I'll address two objections a handful of readers might have:
- "Oh, boo hoo! Those poor gorgeous people! Are you really trying to tell me they have it rough?" - I'm not clueless. I realize being good looking has many benefits. But it doesn't automatically lead to a perfect, hassle-free existence. I want to talk about how it can be difficult in some ways.
- "Fine, some hot people may have the odd social hiccup here or there, but it's nothing compared to how tough uglier people have it." - I'm also not blind to the fact that being less-attractive has drawbacks. The ideas in this article aren't meant to minimize that. But it's not an all-or-nothing contest. Discussing one group's issues doesn't cancel out another's.
Problems from other people treating you poorly due to your good looks
It's hardly that every attractive person is constantly misunderstood and dumped on, but the following issues can come up:
People may make unflattering assumptions about your personality
Yeah, if someone is good looking people can assume they have other positive qualities, like they're charming or a good leader. But there are negative stereotypes associated with being attractive as well, especially if someone also seems like they're into fitness, fashion, or partying. Some examples:
- Mean girl
- Attention whore
- Gold digger
If someone has judged you this way they may keep it to themselves, or they could act on their belief in one of the ways farther down.
People can misread your shyness, anxiety, quietness, or passivity as something negative
Regular-looking people's inhibitions can be misread too. But the 'hot people are mean' stereotype can make it likelier that an attractive person's quietness is viewed through a negative filter. If someone sees a beautiful woman quietly sitting off the side at a party they may wrongly conclude she's...
Once they've become friends with someone it's not rare for good looking people to hear things like, "When I first started working with you I thought you didn't like any of us. I didn't realize how nice you were until we got to know each other better."
People may be condescending
If someone believes there's no way an attractive person can have any intelligence or depth they may talk down to you. Again, if you're confident and socially savvy you may know exactly how to work around that bias, and even win the other person over. If you're shy and insecure you might not have any idea what to do. In fact, your discomfort with being subtly dismissed and insulted may cause you to become tongue-tied and inarticulate, apparently confirming their opinion that you're an airhead.
People may be rude or confrontational
Your looks may make someone feel jealous, threatened, and competitive. Or you might remind them of one of the popular kids who picked on them in high school. Either way, they act subtly or overtly hostile around you.
People may be guarded and defensive
They assume you're a jerk. You set off their over-sensitive bully alarm. Their ego would take it extra hard if a hot person was cruel to them. They may not even know they're doing it, but when they interact with you it's like they expect you to say something cutting at any moment. They may react defensively to your harmless comment, because in their mind you said it in a mocking tone.
As an aside, people whose attractiveness has recently changed can be thrown off by the new reactions they get to their usual behaviors. Like people may have loved their sarcastic humor when they were considered average-looking, but now that the jokes coming from a pretty person, everyone's quicker to see their lines as catty put downs.
People may not want to give you any form of positive response
Your looks may make someone may feel envious or competitive, but not to the point of obviously butting heads with you. Instead they can make an unconscious decision of, "I'm not going to give them any validation. That would feel like they got a mini victory over me. I won't laugh at any of their jokes. I'll act flat and indifferent if they share an interesting insight or story. I'll certainly never pay them a compliment." You may notice they're making too big of a show of ignoring everything you do, but more often they just seem a bit aloof and distant.
Problems from people being awed by the your looks
Here are some ways the supposed benefits of being good looking can backfire:
People may try too hard to impress you
You're good looking. Some people want you to like them, to the point where they can't act natural around you. They may try too hard to be funny and witty, or seem smart and interesting. They might brag or show off. In a group conversation several people may be constantly interrupting each other to try to get your attention. It's a bit intense and off-putting, and you're not sure how to handle it.
People can be too fawning and complimentary
They laugh too hard at your jokes, which you know aren't that funny. They give you way too many compliments. You know on paper you just need to say "Thank you", but it all makes you self-conscious. When it's your turn to speak they may hang too much on your every word, which causes you to feel on the spot.
People can treat you in an overly stiff, formal, respectful way
It's like they think because you're attractive that you're delicate, sensitive, touchy, or uptight, and they can't be casual and jokey with you like they are with everyone else. You may find it uncomfortable to be treated this way, or might wonder what's wrong with you that you're not seen as one of the gang.
People may assume you're busy and popular and not even try to befriend you
When it comes to making plans some shy people don't feel comfortable asking someone to hang out, and wait for others to suggest something. The problem is if you're good looking people might assume you already have a hectic social life, and wouldn't want to hang out with little old them. If you make plans once, but have to cancel, they'll be likier to assume you're blowing them off. Of course, some people will make an extra effort to try to befriend an attractive person, but they may not be the types you'd want to be buddies with.
You may be thrust into difficult roles you don't want
At work or in your friend group, people may assume you're a natural leader and expect you to make decisions about plans, or give a project update at the big meeting. As a shy, awkward person those are the last things you may want to do.
Problems that can be caused by people overreacting to your looks, for a mix of reasons
These are issues that look the same on the surface, even though one person might be doing it out of resentment and another because they figure you're too awesome for someone like them.
People can get nervous, flustered, and tongue-tied around you
Most of us can recall a time we found it intimidating and nerve-racking to speak to an attractive person. Not everyone who's easy-on-the-eyes causes our brain to stop working properly, but with certain ones the nerves kick in. Maybe we were afraid we'd get a mean response, or we really wanted their approval.
Once more, a good looking person who's self-assured and charismatic might be able to put a flustered conversation partner at ease. If they're socially awkward themselves, then both people are going to stew in the stilted, uncomfortable interaction.
People may be scared to approach you (at least the types you want to talk to)
If you're shy you may not be good at initiating conversations, and rely on other people to make the first move. If you're good looking one of two undesirable things might happen. 1) Not many people approach you, because they find your looks intimidating. 2) Plenty of people do come up to you, but they're not the types you want to get to know. They may not even be jerks, just perfectly friendly people you don't have a ton in common with.
People may be quicker to give up on a conversation with you
This is another one where your looks sometimes help and sometimes hinder you. At times people will try harder to make a conversation work with an attractive person. Even if they're getting lots of one-word answers, they'll hang in there. At other times people will be too quick to give up. If you're shy you may need the other person to do a little more of the lifting at first, until you start to warm up. But they're too eager to bail, thinking something like, "They're hot. Why would they want to talk to me? I'll do them a favor and leave them alone."
Someone may decide ahead of time they can't be friends with anyone as attractive as you
However it is their personal baggage is influencing them, they can't see themselves being close with a super-attractive person. Maybe they don't want a constant reminder that they're not as good looking in comparison. Maybe they're worried everyone else will think they're only pretending to be friends to try to get laid. Even if you're nice to people like this, even if you have a lot in common, even if you take steps to start a friendship, you can't seem to get the relationship to go anywhere.
Having friends disappear on you, because of their hang ups about your looks
One friend may phase themselves out of your life because of their own insecurities - they think there's no way someone as attractive as you would want to keep hanging out with them. Another may ghost you because they've become jealous of how you have an easier time getting dates than they do.
People may be reluctant to introduce you to their partners or other friends
Their fears may be totally unfounded, but they might worry that if you meet their buddies they'll all decide they like you better than them, or that you'll steal their girlfriend or husband.
Inner stress that can pile up due to knowing you're socially awkward and also good looking
Not everyone who's hot knows or accepts it. However, if someone's well aware they're conventionally attractive, it can weigh on their mind in certain ways.
Feeling a general extra pressure in social situations because of your looks
Someone may feel more self-conscious and on the spot simply because their looks draw more attention. When they walk into a room they feel all the eyes on them, and it's not just in their imagination. They have a sense everyone's sizing them up whenever they speak. The additional pressure may even go to a meta level where they think, "Because of my looks everyone expects me to be confident and magnetic, and I just can't live up to that. It's only a matter of time before I disappoint everyone by revealing I'm actually an awkward mess."
Feeling pressure not to fit a negative stereotype
- Feeling stressed and in your head whenever you're speaking to someone intelligent, because you don't want them to think you're a ditz or a dopey bro.
- Around other women, being on edge and trying extra hard to seem nice, because in the past they've been too quick to conclude you're a mean popular girl.
- Being careful to downplay your accomplishments, because people may think you're a bragging pretty boy who's had everything handed to him.
As I mentioned earlier, ironically sometimes you can get so worried about fitting a negative cliche that you can't think as clearly, and accidentally end up going along with it. Like you may work so hard to seem pleasant that you take it too far, and everyone thinks you're fake.
You can never be sure if your friends have ulterior motives for hanging out with you
Do they genuinely like your company? Or...
- Are they trying to hook up with you?
- Do they think you have other hot friends they could meet?
- Do they want the status and reflected glory of hanging out with a pretty person?
- Do they think if they hang out with you they'll have an easier time getting into clubs?
If you're already insecure and think you're too quiet and don't have much to offer, it doesn't help to wonder if people are only hanging out with you because of your appearance.
Getting a lot of attention, then having the interactions go poorly, can make your shyness and insecurities worse
Your looks could lead to people approaching you a lot, but the ensuing conversations don't go well. Sometimes it's because they were jerks to begin with. At other times you just didn't have the confidence or social skills to keep a back and forth going. You don't see these constant interactions as a good chance to practice. The fact that they never go well reinforces your sense that you're a social cripple, and makes your self-esteem even more shaky.
Getting down on yourself for struggling socially, even though you supposedly have it easy
You may not consciously put it into words, but on some level you may believe, "I'm good looking. I should have an easier time making friends, but I still can't do it. I must really be a lost cause."
It can harm to your self-esteem to think you're getting a pass on your flaws because of your looks
It's not a nice feeling to believe people aren't that fond of you, but tolerate your presence. Being good looking can sometimes lead to that nagging fear. You're pretty sure your iffy interpersonal skills can make you be irritating and abrasive. You know your social anxiety makes you flaky and undependable. But people like having a hot person around, so they put up with you. Where would you be if you didn't have your looks?