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The dating persona: Why do women struggle to be themselves?

The dating persona: Why do women struggle to be themselves?

The nerves of meeting someone new and the fear of rejection can pressure us into misrepresenting ourselves. Research shows that 61% of us lie about our lives, embellish our interests, and play down our body count to avoid awkward silences and early exits. 

But a relationship built on lies won’t last. Your opinions will clash, your hobbies will differ, and your incompatibility will eventually drive you apart. So be yourself — It’s one of the most important rules of dating.

Pure surveyed 3000 adults on whether women are free to be themselves while navigating the dating scene. The results show that while judgment is unavoidable, there are plenty of good fish in the sea that will love you for who you are.

Key takeaways:

  • Given most women feel they are scrutinized far more for their looks and behavior than men, just 22% believe they can be 100% themselves on a first date.
  • Some 73% struggle to talk about themselves, 84% avoid discussing their sexual past, and 52% play down their intelligence.
  • However, data shows that heterosexual women should worry less about being themselves. Some 80% of men like a strong and intelligent woman, 78% like when a match shares her opinions, and 81% don’t mind if your paycheck is higher than their own.
The dating filter: Do single women feel free to be themselves?
The dating persona: Why do women struggle to be themselves? .1. 1

So eager to make an impression or avoid causing upset, 78% of women don’t paint a true picture of themselves during a first date. While most say they’re 75% honest (only telling the odd white lie in the hopes of sounding more interesting or appearing more attractive), almost one in ten say they’re just 25% authentic — essentially portraying themselves as an entirely different person.

The dating persona: Why do women struggle to be themselves? .1. 2

Why? Because 78% of women feel that they are unfairly judged when it comes to dating. When we feel like every inch of our appearance is under the microscope and every move we make is being scrutinized, the easiest way to avoid a dating faux pas is to say exactly what your partner wants to hear.

The dating persona: Why do women struggle to be themselves? .1. 3

The sense of judgment is so strong that 73% of women struggle to talk about themselves, with 20% regularly fearing they’ll say too much.

Disclosing the body count: Can women comfortably talk about sex?
The dating persona: Why do women struggle to be themselves? .2. 1

Dishonesty and dating go hand-in-hand — especially when it comes to sex. Just 16% of women feel comfortable openly sharing past sexual experiences with a date.

The dating persona: Why do women struggle to be themselves? .2. 2

There’s a good reason why many women shut down when it comes to discussing their sexual history. With 17% of men stating they find it unattractive when women have had many sexual partners or kinky experiences, many have faced judgment in the past. Yet, for everyone who finds it a turn-off, there are 83% that aren’t put off by an impressive body count or wild stories.

Intelligence: A deal-breaker or the ideal date?
The dating persona: Why do women struggle to be themselves? .3. 1

With anecdotal evidence suggesting men tend to pick partners less intelligent than themselves, dating for heterosexual women often requires a conscientious effort not only to look good and converse well but to dumb down. More than half of women have played down their intelligence in order to avoid intimidating their partner in the past.

The dating persona: Why do women struggle to be themselves? .3. 2

Yet, there’s little evidence that men find women with ample brain power unattractive. In fact, it’s quite the opposite — 80% of men like to date women who are strong and intelligent.

The dating persona: Why do women struggle to be themselves? .3. 3

A good sense of humor (23%) and physical attractiveness (23%) are important. However, if you’re looking to score a single man, your brain will prove to be your most effective tool, given 37% of men value intelligence and the ability to communicate effectively.

The dating persona: Why do women struggle to be themselves? .3. 4

But is intelligence a priority? For 53% of men, yes it is. While the majority of women value intellect above all else, men are evenly split between intelligence and attractiveness — and that’s okay. We’re all looking for something different and first dates are all about finding out whether you’re compatible. As long as you’re being yourself, it won’t take long to realize if it isn’t going to work out.

Speak up or stay quiet? Sharing opinions in the dating scene
The dating persona: Why do women struggle to be themselves? .4. 1

What do you do when your date’s political views make you squirm, their favorite show is one of the worst you’ve ever seen or their ideals don’t quite align with your own? For 58% of women, the answer is to keep quiet and avoid confrontation.

The dating persona: Why do women struggle to be themselves? .4. 2

But if you’re a straight woman and you think that approach is more likely to lead you to greater success in your dating life, you’re mistaken. While 22% of men do think being too opinionated is a red flag, 78% prefer women who aren’t afraid to talk their minds.

The dating persona: Why do women struggle to be themselves? .4. 3

Likewise, 86% of men believe that debating is a healthy part of any relationship and it can be a great way to judge a potential partner. It’s an early indicator of how someone deals with conflict, whether they have self-control, and a willingness to understand others’ opinions. It’s always better to learn who your match is early rather than wasting months dating a walking red flag.

Emotional diplomacy: Should women try to spare men’s blushes?
The dating persona: Why do women struggle to be themselves? .5. 1

The day and age of a male-dominated world is thankfully behind us, but unlearning society’s sexist rules takes time. We’ve been taught for so long to play down our ability and diminish our achievements. Even as highly successful as womanhood is today, 66% of us have felt the need to make ourselves “smaller” to avoid bruising a man’s ego.

The dating persona: Why do women struggle to be themselves? .5. 2

But maybe it’s time to stop pretending and start flaunting the outstanding woman you are. With 81% of men stating they don’t care if a woman earns more than them, most will celebrate your brilliance alongside you. If they don’t… who cares? Pay the bill and find a date who will.

Methodology: To create this study, researchers from Pure surveyed 3,000 adults aged over 18 years old. The study includes participants from all geographies.

Team Pure

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