There’s a famous adage that goes, “If you want something you’ve never had before, you need to do something you’ve never done before.” Similarly, people often offer the advice “Nothing changes if nothing changes” to those who find themselves stuck, be it in their personal life, career, or even their relationships. Now, would you agree with these sayings? Because if not, then the paradoxical secret we’re about to tell you now is bound to surprise you and make no sense.
Defining “The Sherlock Paradox”
See, the way our mind works is a lot like the great detective Sherlock Holmes: always looking for clues and piecing things together. And the “Sherlock Paradox” of attraction posits that our perceptions of ourselves — which we confirm with evidence from our experiences and environments — greatly influences how others in turn perceive us to be. In fact, a study by Krantz, Friedberg, and Andrews (2012) even found that the effect of physical attractiveness in predicting a person’s popularity depended on their self-perceptions, regardless of how objectively attractive they are!
So whatever it is we believe about ourselves, we then start to interpret our experiences and other environmental cues in a way that confirms these beliefs. This is called a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is defined as “a belief that leads to its own fulfillment by shaping an individual’s behaviors in expectancy-consistent ways” (Madon, Willard, Guyll & Scherr, 2011). Simply put, this means that even if we believe something about ourselves that isn’t true, we make it come true by thinking and acting as if it already is!
A very good example of this and how it relates to our relationships and romantic attractiveness is the idea of Contingent Self-Esteem (or CSE for short). First studied by researchers Knee, Bush, Canevello, and Cook in 2008, CSE is a core component of our self-perceptions based on external factors, such as popularity, romantic success, the approval of others, and how we think we compare to those around us.
Like most of our beliefs, CSE is often formed in our childhood. Our early experiences teach us what to think of ourselves based on how other people treat us. If they like us and we have a lot of friends, we might get the idea that we’re wanted, attractive, or well-liked. If they reject, criticize, or abandon us, however, then it will form this belief in us that we are not enough or that something is wrong with us. And once we have this belief about ourselves, be it positive or negative, we then begin to behave in ways that are aligned with these beliefs, only making them stronger over time.
Say for example you have a negative perception of yourself (“I’m unattractive”), so you start acting like you are and thinking that everyone else thinks it, too. You don’t make much effort to look good, you don’t try to flirt with your crush or let them know you’re interested, and you always put yourself down, never believing anyone who compliments you. People like this, who are overly self-critical and insecure, then become unattractive to others not because of the way they look but the way that they act.
Ways To Apply “The Sherlock Paradox”
Now, let’s turn it around, shall we? The question I’m sure you’re dying to ask, the entire reason why you’re even here in the first place: how do we use the Sherlock Paradox to make ourselves more attractive? Well, it’s simple, really. The principle is much like that of a Chinese finger trap: the more you try to get something, the harder it seems to be. So you have to do something paradoxical instead, the opposite of what you want to achieve.
“But how on Earth is that supposed to work?” You’re wondering. But keep in mind these two things: reactance and reverse psychology. Recall a time when someone tried to push you to do something or act a certain way. Didn’t their pressure only make you want to do the opposite? That’s called reactance, and it happens in romantic attraction, too. The main reason why reverse psychology works is that when people feel pressured to act a certain way, they often prefer to do the opposite in order to assert their autonomy. This is based on Brehm’s (1989) reactance theory.
So to answer your question, there are two paradoxical ways to attract your crush: First is to act in a way that’s the opposite of what you want; and second is to make yourself more attractive simply by believing it. Some concrete examples include:
- Giving them space when you want to get closer to them. Showing them that you’re okay with spending less time together.
- Showing a willingness to be less physically close or intimate when you actually want to be more physically affectionate.
- Making less of an effort to woo them and get their attention, thereby making yourself seem more secure and sure of yourself.
- And most important of all, planting a belief that you are attractive and that your crush would be lucky to have you. Then, look for signs that point to yes and act accordingly to strengthen this belief and make it come true.
So, what are some ways you plan to start applying this paradoxical secret to attracting your crush? Remember, nothing in life is possible if we do not first think it possible. Confidence is key to attractiveness, and a strong sense of self-confidence starts with a simple belief.
- Krantz, M., Friedberg, J., & Andrews, D. (1985). Physical attractiveness and popularity: The mediating role of self-perception. The Journal of psychology, 119(3), 219-224.
- Madon, S., Willard, J., Guyll, M., & Scherr, K. C. (2011). Self‐fulfilling prophecies: Mechanisms, power, and links to social problems. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5(8), 578-590.
- Knee, C. R., Canevello, A., Bush, A. L., & Cook, A. (2008). Relationship-contingent self-esteem and the ups and downs of romantic relationships. Journal of personality and social psychology, 95(3), 608.
- Brehm, J. W. (1989). Psychological reactance: Theory and applications. ACR North American Advances.
- Heracleous, L. & Robson, D. (12 Nov 2020). Why the ‘paradox mindset’ is the key to success. BBC: Worklife. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20201109-why-the-paradox-mindset-is-the-key-to-success