IS BEING INSECURE AN ADVANTAGE IN
Maybe, says recent research.
However, many aren’t buying the study’s results.
Are you more likely to get dates if you are self-confident or insecure?
This seems like a no-brainer, right?
Conventional wisdom says self-confidence is a key in dating (as in much else in life).
But a new study suggests being “almost obsessively insecure” works as well or better.
The whole idea of the self as an arbiter in human relationships is complex.
This study and the reaction to it is an example of how people feel about it.
NEW STUDY ENCOURAGES THE INSECURE
Claudia Brumbaugh, a psychology professor at Queens College, in New York, wanted to know how insecure people attracted others in dating so she conducted a study that found that insecure folks have some advantages. Paul Kix wrote about it in New York Magazine (Dec. 2010).
We know how self-confident people attract others. They are open, out-going, and convivial while insecure daters are generally the opposite.
However, the researcher says that the insecure also have “numerous dating tactics and positive qualities that they display to win over romantic partners.”
Her sample was single university students, who reported on how confident they felt in life. The students watched videos that showed attractive men or women supposedly looking for a date. In interaction between the subjects and the good-looking actors in the videos, the good lookers asked the subjects things such as…
- “How would you get an attractive person’s attention?
- How would you talk to this person?
- Do you tend to worry about the relationships you’re in?”
Brumbaugh says that students who had rated themselves as self-confident tended to come off as arrogant while the insecure appeared to be acutely attentive to the other person’s needs. They appear interesting, because they want desperately to seem that way.
“Insecure individuals [present] themselves as warm, engaging, and humorous,” Brumbaugh writes in the paper, published in the journal, Personal Relationships.
Insecure people are hyper aware and up to speed on new clothes and music so they’ll have something to talk about, she says. They know how they’re perceived, so they hide their undesirable traits by focussing on the trendy topics they study so hard in order to compensate.
BUT IT DOESN’T LAST
But it doesn’t last. Insecure daters betray themselves through jealousy and poor communications, she says. (True)
AND MANY DON’T BUY IT!
Readers of the study as reported in the Kix article were not impressed, saying it confused self-confidence with arrogance, repeated old information, and suggested insecure people communicated in certain helpful or positive ways “often” when they hardly ever communicate at all. (“Insecure people have a hard time saying hi, or communicating in general, so they don’t communicate often” observed one commentator.)
Here are some of the observations. (My comments are in brackets and the end of each.)
- It is the same as what college boys say, “Fat girls try harder.” (Crude, but true.)
- “Insecure people prefer other insecure people, just as most people end up with someone roughly as attractive as they are.” (True)
- “Polling college students, who are going through an age specific development phase that involves lots of insecure feelings & self-exploration… (isn’t representative)… (W)omen I know get turned on by some aspect of a man’s confidence, whether it’s sexual, intellectual or something else. Also, most of us have learned to adapt somehow to compensate for various shortcomings in order to attract (others).” (True. True, True and True!)
Another writer dismissed the study saying:
- “There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding here about the difference between secure self-confidence and arrogance. Self-confidence is about being who you are, not telling people who you are. A self-confident person feels he can afford to be interested in others, their concerns, accomplishments and needs. This study is the kind of thing that makes people think poorly of psychology as a science.” (Ouch!)
- Another said “Do you tend to worry about the relationships you’re in?” (a question asked of the subjects) is not a pure measure of insecurity; it’s imbued with a capacity for self-reflection. This “study” (like most social psychology research) is a mess. Self-report is a horrible way to research something like insecurity.” (True, if that’s the only variable.)
- “The investigator is not differentiating between conscious and unconscious insecurity. It’s the latter that makes us insufferable — whereas the former can make us charming. (True)
- “The problem is not insecurity — it’s cluelessness — but the researcher has ignored that (although, sadly, revealed her own).” (True and I’m not sure!)
Someone who calls herself (himself?) Psychohistorian wrote:
- “This is the dumbest and least scientific thing I’ve read…. It shows that insecure people behave insecurely, and that dominant people behave dominantly, and then speculates that people might prefer the former, despite …overwhelming evidence to the contrary” (True and true)
While Buddahbless wrote:
Wow. This study seems really subjective and odd. It sounds to me like the so-called confident are assholes, and the ‘insecure’ are actually more interesting, nice people.
Hare Wave wrote”
I think this study is confusing intelligence with insecurity. Most overly confident people are that way because their ignorance lulls them into a false sense of security. Anyone with a brain realizes that they have strengths and weaknesses and can be insecure about some aspects of themselves while confident about others. This study wants to throw people into one category or the other but most people…are far more complex than these overly simplified concepts.
SOME OTHER THOUGHTS
WOW!! Fascinating stuff! Here are some other thoughts (mine).
- Some people prey on the insecure. They are easily spotted and others can take advantage.
- Some insecure people think anybody who is confident is arrogant. Their very insecurity makes them suspicious of self-assured people.
- Men are often attracted to women who appear insecure because it makes them feel helpful and manly.
- It also gives them a better shot at “getting a girl” especially if they themselves are insecure. (And ladies, yes, a lot of men are insecure!)
It’s one thing to study and report on human behaviour accurately—we all want to know more about how we behave so we can either fix a flaw or improve our performance but if the study is flawed or is perceived as being flawed the results don’t help us much.
At the very least studies such as this one are not clear enoough are thus unconvincing.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON IT?
It’s a complex topic. I’d love to hear what you think.
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