Insecurity: A recipe for successful dating?

A man and a woman on a date. She's kissing his neck.

The spoils of insecurity. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/ish Snyder/Flickr)

File this one under completely counter-intuitive to everything you’ve every heard about dating, writes New York Magazine. It appears that while self-confidence is still a desirable trait to have when it comes to attracting a mate, it’s not the only way to go. Apparently, there’s something to be said for bringing a healthy dosage of insecurity to the table, says psychology professor Claudia Brumbaugh of Queens College in Flushing, N.Y.

Confidence is overrated; insecurity is hot

Brumbaugh’s study of confidence and insecurity in dating was born out of her curiosity about her friends’ relationships. The question she set out to answer is just how insecure people attracted others. Brumbaugh brought in 146 single university students for the study and asked them to fill out a confidence questionnaire.

Specifically, Brumbaugh asked just how confident the participants felt in their day-to-day lives. Then the students were shown various videos featuring attractive men or women who were seeking a lunch date. While viewing the videos, Brumbaugh asked the participants just how they would get the attractive person’s attention and what they would say to them in order to gain favor. Finally, as a kind of anchor, Brumbaugh asked the students if they tend to worry about their relationships.

Bring in the models

Next, Brumbaugh brought in the same models that appeared in the videos. The students were allowed to interact with them, and Brumbaugh scored the students’ repartee on a variety of levels, including eye contact and the amount of flattery used.

After analyzing the results, Brumbaugh found something surprising. Those students who rated themselves as being self-confident tended to come across as more arrogant. A “take it or leave it” attitude tended to pervade the interaction of these subjects. On the other hand, those students who characterized themselves as being more insecure seemed to be more attentive to the other person’s needs. While the self-confident sometimes displayed similar traits, they tended to back away from the interaction if their flirting techniques were not well received initially.

“Insecure individuals present themselves as warm, engaging and humorous people,” Brumbaugh writes in the study, which published in the psychology journal “Personal Relationships.”

People-pleasing: A double-edged sword

While Brumbaugh’s finding that the hyperawareness of insecure people could translate into being more committed and attentive, there’s a down side. Insecurity can easily translate into jealousy, which can be a relationship-killer.


New York Magazine

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