The Science Of Narcissism: Why We Really Just Want To Date Ourselves

by Gigi Engle

The other day, I was sitting in a coffee shop (yes: basic, I'm aware) with one of my best friends discussing the difficulties of dating in the city.

I was ranting about how there are no dateable guys left and how all of the hot men were gay (I stand by this; NYC is a haven for all the gorgeous gay men on planet earth).

As clichéd as this scenario sounds, it's one many of us find ourselves in regularly.

I then blurted out, "I wish I could just date myself." After I'd said this, I realized something: I was serious. I wish I could just date myself. Why not? I think I'm pretty, I have a good sense of humor and I'm entertaining -- so can I find someone who is just me, but in male form?

We spend our lives looking for our soul mate, our other half: the cream to our coffee, the Yin to our Yang.

We're told "opposites attract" and yet, this doesn't seem to be a dating reality; it seems like a simple and highly-romanticized idea. Why would you want to spend your life with someone who didn't have much in common with you?

When looking for a partner, are we looking for our "complement" to be our perfect half or someone who'll have a deeper understanding of us on a fundamental level?

It's interesting to look at the modern world we live and thrive in. With the rise of the "selfie" and an emphasis on self-love and narcissism in this culture, don't we all just want to date ourselves?

If given the choice between someone who's our perfect match in looks, intelligence and humor, wouldn't we choose that person? Doesn't that seem like a match made in heaven?

Instead of feeling an attraction to someone who looks like us is "weird" and "creepy," maybe we should try and understand why we do this.


Research shows we tend to be attracted to people who look like our parents. After all, we share physical qualities with our parents. While we may be geared toward saying “ick,” this makes psychological sense.

Think about it: They're the people you're first exposed to and their qualities are the first to make an impression on you. Their physical appearances are the first human building blocks in our minds, and the first step toward categorizing what is and is not attractive.

Millennials are a narcissistic bunch. We take countless selfies, we nurture our social media accounts -- we really do love ourselves.

And while some may perceive this as a bad thing, it's really just more interesting than anything else. Perhaps we're just more confident in our appearances and since we consider ourselves attractive, we want partners who are on the same level.

Take a look at The Boyfriend Twin Tumblr. As the site says, “What's sexier than dating yourself?” It's filled with images of male couples who look extremely similar and, in many cases, identical.

As we live and thrive in a world in which self-obsession is valued instead of demonized, doesn't it seem rational we would be attracted to our non-related twin?

The Siblings Or Dating Tumblr shows gay and straight couples who also look decidedly similar.

This site shows it isn't just gay couples who are taking narcissism to the next level, but all couples. If you're dating yourself, you're dating someone worthy of you.

So where does this attraction come from?

As Time puts it, the term is called:

Homogamy, a marriage between two individuals who are extremely similar. For decades, we've been becoming more homogamous in terms of education, income, religion and even looks.

In a study from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, researchers “altered their subjects' faces into those of strangers and asked them to evaluate the strangers' attractiveness. Subjects favored faces that looked like their own."

Exposure at an early age

The Westermarck effect: In a series of studies, anthropologist Edvard Westermarck, found people "who grow up together are disposed not to fall in love with each other after they reach sexual maturity."

While this may seem likely, given the familial bonds growing out of these relationships, it's still possible the physical qualities we're exposed to early in life could have a marked effect on who we choose as a mate once we've reached adulthood.

We often look for partners with physical qualities we have ourselves -- qualities we were raised and imbued with as children and throughout adolescence.

This is all due to The Mere Exposure Effect. We're attracted to features based on our familiarity to them -- we see ourselves, our parents and our siblings constantly as we grow up -- making it much more likely these shared features will eventually become what we find attractive in a partner.


One of the key factors in our attraction to other people is our initial feelings of trust. If we feel we can trust a person, we're more likely to find him or her attractive.

According to Science Daily, our brains' signal to trust an individual is crucial. When we trust someone, we perceive that person's face as more similar to our own. This phenomenon is the brain's way of keeping us safe so, if we're attracted to someone who looks similar to us, it's because we perceive him or her to be trustworthy.

As reported in USA Today, Tony Little, a research fellow in psychology at the University of Stirling in Scotland, said:

When you have a face that looks more like you, you tend to trust it more and think it looks more cooperative.

So, because you trust yourself and you know yourself, you'll inevitably be geared toward a person who shares your facial features.

Similar personality traits

While we may be attracted to someone who physically looks like us, it's important to consider personality as well. While we may tend to think we're looking for the Yin to our Yang, the data don't correlate to this frame of thought.

If you're successful and ambitious, wouldn't you rather a partner who's also similarly motivated? If you had an outrageous sense of humor, wouldn't you also want a partner who loves to laugh?

We experience dating narcissism by finding certain aspects of our personalities attractive and then seeking out those qualities in our partners.

In a study conducted by Fifty Thirty Eight: 86 percent of people want a partner who "complements them" rather than "resembles them." But we're not looking for our perfect complement; we're looking for someone who's just like us. People want someone who shares many of their main, most-valued attributes -- like humor, intelligence, ambition and income.

Data from the popular dating site, EHarmony, show people want to date other people like themselves. The site allows its users to choose from 102 different personality traits and has found people mirror their own personalities when assessing what they want in a partner.

In a study by 23andMe, researchers wrote, "We analyzed data from 15,298 real-world couples who had children together and found that people paired with others who were more like themselves than they were different."

The data show 97 percent of paired couples were positively correlated:

Former smokers tended to pair with former smokers, the apologetic with the apologetic, the punctual with the punctual. It is worth noting that causality may go in both directions: Perhaps you're attracted to your partner because he, like you, was on time for your first date; it's also possible that he was initially incorrigibly late, but after you fell in love you trained him.

Many things contribute to attraction. We want someone who'll be our world, who'll take on life with us in the most adventurous of ways. Someone who'll build us up and make us better people. Who better to do that than a person who's exactly like you?

We do, in fact, just want to date ourselves.