Something that comes up as a very common source of body anxiety and obsession among my clients is the desire to be seen as attractive so that they can find, and keep, a male partner.
I say “male partner” there, because I am specifically referring to women looking to partner with cisgender men, a group of people we’ve all been taught to think of as superficial, judgmental, and highly visually motivated when it comes to mate selection.
In other words, a huge source of body image issues for many women who want to partner with men is the fear that she’s not conventionally attractive enough for a man to choose, love, or stay loyal to her.
At first glance, this seems to make sense. Everyone wants to be considered attractive to their partner, right? Of course.
But the logic of “I need to be more attractive in order for a man to love me” breaks down when we examine it more closely, for the following three reasons:
Men are more than shallow stereotypes. No matter what we’ve all been conditioned to believe, men are just human people. Which means that while they tend to be more visually aroused than most women, they also crave genuine connection; to be seen and known by their partner, and to be loved and valued for who they are. Some men are superficial assholes looking to validate their masculinity and worth by sleeping with or partnering with women who fit conventional beauty ideals, no doubt. But there are also many men out there for whom the stereotype feels ill-fitting, hurtful, lonely, or limiting when it comes to meeting women. (I wrote a whole blog post about that here.)
If you’re looking for one (or a few) great partner(s), you don’t need to be attractive to “all men.” Whenever I ask my clients what kind of partner they want to attract, they tell me about a man who is thoughtful, intelligent, kind, funny, feminist, emotionally aware, and passionate. When I ask if that man is likely to value and love her primarily for her appearance, the answer is always no. So anytime someone talks about wanting to be “attractive to men,” it immediately indicates to me that this woman has spent very little time and energy tuning into her own desires about what she wants in a partner.
Since most of us only need one (or a few) great partner(s), there is no benefit to trying to be attractive to “all men.” You’re not going to be for everyone, and that’s ok! Instead of trying to be attractive to all men as if they’re a monolith, ask yourself what you want! Get super clear on your specific target audience, and recognize that you only need to be attractive to a few in order to get your needs for love, intimacy, sex, and partnership met.