Until relatively recently, I spent my time trying to be the person I thought guys found attractive.
I projected the cute, fun-loving and intricate but not-too-complicated woman. Basically who I thought the “ideal woman” would be.
I read way too many articles about how to be more attractive, more fun, more alluring -- all the things that would help me get into a relationship.
And, as someone who spent a few years taking this advice, I can tell you this: It works.
The person I pretended to be was actually more like a “manic pixie dream girl,” though.
I unknowingly played this archetype so guys would find me attractive, and they did. I had more male attention than I knew what to do with, and it was awesome.
Here’s the thing, though. Very few of those guys I dated knew much about me. They were attracted to the image I projected, but nothing more.
This meant that when I did something that didn't align with the “ideal woman,” they reacted poorly.
I was too clingy, unladylike or acting crazy.
In short, I was being myself.
The “manic pixie dream girl” is used to describe a female character who is "that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures."
The term for the archetype was coined by Nathan Rabin in 2007 in reference to Claire from the movie “Elizabethtown.”
In July 2014 though, Rabin apologized for creating a fundamentally sexist trope and called for people to stop using it.
And, while it is not used as often in movie reviews, that same character is still put on a pedestal in real life.
Unless the publication is liberal and forward-thinking, women are still encouraged to be the type of woman men will find attractive.
Here are four reasons being the ideal woman will actually make you miserable:
1. You are not a static character.
Since the MPDG is pretty close to people’s notion of the ideal woman, let’s look at the archetype.
When writing a script, there are round characters and static characters. The more prominent a character is in the story, the more depth they have — making them a well-rounded character.
Round characters undergo change. They grow and develop, which gives them depth.
However, not every character can be round because there isn’t enough time in the story. The protagonist also cannot know the depth of every character because they see life from their own perspective.
In the case of the MPDG, they show the protagonist (usually a male) a new point of view. While doing this, they help the protagonist undergo some sort of change, but they themselves remain the same.
The MPDG is a static character.
You, on the other hand, are not a static character. You do not exist to help someone else achieve their goals.
Everyone is a rounded character in their own life. You go through trials and have your own wants, desires and needs.
Other characters in your life may be round as well, but you ultimately have the most depth. It is up to the other person, not you, to decide if you are a rounded or static character.
To be a static character in your own life would mean that you never developed or changed. There wouldn’t be any growth.
Attempting to do this would not only make you miserable, it is impossible.
2. Being the MPDG fosters fear of intimacy issues.
When someone has a fear of intimacy, they tend to focus the attention more on the other person. Therefore, if things go south, they can save themselves some hurt by arguing that the other person never really knew them.
There have been plenty of times when I realized I knew dozens of meaningless facts about my SO. When I asked them the same questions about me though, they didn’t know the answers.
If I asked my ex-boyfriends if they knew my middle name, or how I like my coffee, I doubt the majority of them would know.
Inevitably, there will be times your SO does all the talking. Sometimes, he or she is upset and you just need to listen.
You cannot be the only one listening, though. That’s pretty much a one-sided relationship.
It’s also pretty difficult to lose your identity in a relationship if the other person only sees the image you project.
This isn’t fulfilling. Relationships are supposed to change you at least a little. Ideally, they would make you a better person.
If you’re too busy projecting an image of what you think someone wants, you are losing yourself in the relationship by not being unapologetically yourself.
Showing people a version of yourself you think they want to see if it may attract them — even make them fall in love with you — will also reinforce your notion that guys only want the MPDG version of you.
3. Guys develop crazy ideas of what you’re actually like.
I never lied to someone about what I liked or what I didn’t. There were a lot of people who didn’t ask, though.
While attempting to be the “ideal woman,” there were quite a few times I was a more subdued version of myself.
For instance, if I was with a friend at a bar, I would order Jameson on the rocks. If I was on a date, I would be worried of appearing unladylike.
Someone I dated briefly a few years back once told me about how he pictured me as a fabulous stay-at-home mom. I’m fairly sure a white picket fence was in this fantasy.
I wanted to gag, because that couldn’t be any further from how I picture my life.
When someone doesn’t see parts of you that contradict their ideal woman, they begin to project the rest of their ideal woman onto you.
This feels awful not only because it’s not necessarily what you want, but their idea of your wants, needs and desires become increasingly intricate. It’s difficult to keep up and can make you pretty miserable.
Showing someone who you actually are is part of dating. Being what you think a person’s ideal woman is, pretty much is the opposite of that.
Most people’s true character eventually surfaces, and if you haven’t been upfront, this is when conflict will arise.
Suddenly, you’re explaining that you’re pretty invested in your career. Staying at home isn’t necessarily your goal.
It’s also possible that what you want will change if you’re with someone for a while. That’s fine, but it’s not how a relationship should start.
4. You resent your significant other for not knowing you.
This is the worst part of attempting to be the ideal woman.
It’s not entirely the other party’s fault, though. After all, you’re the one who only showed them the MPDG parts of yourself.
Most people try to make themselves attractive. That’s completely okay. What’s not okay, is a situation where you are so busy trying to make someone like you that you sacrifice parts of yourself.
Chances are, you’re losing something pretty spectacular that the person didn’t even know existed.
On the other hand, this is also partially your partner’s fault for not trying to focus more on what you actually wanted instead of what he or she thought you wanted.
For instance, anyone who knows me knows that I write — a lot. Anyone who has read my writing has a fairly good idea of what I'm thinking or who I am because I don't hold back in this area.
The people I've dated in the past who have never asked for a link to an article of mine have missed a big part of me.
Even though I could tell you a lot about random things my ex-boyfriends liked, I doubt they could do the same when it came to me.
It’s difficult not to resent someone for all the time you invested in him or her, while you stifled who you are to be what you thought he or she wanted.