Are You Worried You Lack the Qualities You Admire in Others?
It's not worthwhile to double-guess what others do or don't see in you.
Posted September 26, 2021 | Reviewed by Kaja Perina
Think about what kind of person you're attracted to. Physical appearance likely plays a strong part, of course, as do kindness and sense of humor. But you probably have more specific preferences as well, finding yourself attracted to, for example, athletic people, people who dress a certain way, or people who share your tastes in music.
If you're like me, you're attracted to impressive people, people who have done or are doing great things. Maybe it's a writer, an artist, or a musician; a doctor, lawyer, or journalist; or an activist for a cause I support. I think it's less the talent or natural gifts that enable these successes, and more the character traits that make it possible to put them into action, such as drive, perseverance, and passion.
However, if you've read my blog for a while, you might remember that I've struggled with these same things myself, which leads to the conundrum: I'm attracted to people who have qualities I admire but lack myself. And because I assume people with these qualities would be most interested in people who share them, I don't feel qualified to even consider the possibility of pursuing a relationship with them.
This problem extends far beyond my specific example, though. If you're attracted to athletic people, for instance, but don't regard yourself as fit or active, you may not think you stand a chance with the people you see working out at the gym or running past you in the park. If you're attracted to musicians but don't sing or play an instrument yourself, you may wonder what someone who does these things well would see in you. This dilemma even applies to basic traits like looks, intelligence, and sense of humor: If you don't think you have any of these, you're likely to feel inadequate to approach people who do (which is just one step away from basic self-loathing).
Challenging Your Assumptions
However, there are several mistakes with this way of thinking.
1) You shouldn't assume that everyone is looking for someone who shares qualities they possess themselves. Just because you're attracted to athletic people doesn't mean that every athletic person is too; they may have a specific reason they take care of themselves (such as family history or past experiences), or they simply enjoy an active lifestyle, without needing a partner to share those reasons or that particular aspect of their lives. A musician isn't necessarily interested only in other musicians; they may really like to meet somebody from a completely different walk of life that appreciates what they do without doing it themselves.
People often like to date others who share some of their interests and qualities, of course, but no one wants to date their clone (except perhaps narcissists), and you can never know which things they want to share with their partners and which they'd appreciate some contrast to in their lives.
2) The qualities you identify and admire in other people may not be the same ones they identify in themselves, much less want in others. This applies to my example of impressive people, who may not define "impressive" in the same way you do or think of themselves that way at all. And while you may find their success, drive, and passion impressive, maybe they're looking for someone who knows how to step back, smell the roses, and enjoy life. For all you know, this person you admire for their success could be an extreme type-A personality who's very close to burnout, and they would really appreciate meeting someone who can show them there's more to life than achievement and accomplishment.
In other words, they could find these traits of yours more "impressive" than their own, and as a result could be just as impressed by you as you are by them.
3) Stemming from the last point above, you are probably underselling your own positive qualities, whatever those happen to be. You could very well share the same positive traits you admire in other people, even if you can't see it in yourself, while others likely can (and will appreciate your humility about them). Furthermore, you probably have other traits that you may not find especially attractive in others but that some people will admire and value in you—and for all you know, they are afraid to approach you because they feel they lack those traits!
In the end, it isn't worthwhile to worry about falling short of what you think other people want. All you can do is be yourself, put your best qualities on display, and see who responds to them. And if you like someone for certain traits, let them know without doubting that they'll like yours. If there's one character trait that never attracted anybody, it's doubt—especially if it prevents you from ever finding out if your attraction is shared in the first place.