Marilyn Monroe Effect Explains How Confidence Changes Your Appearance

Blond icon Marilyn Monroe was arguably the most magnetic celebrity of her time. Though her talent as an actor and singer spoke for itself, perhaps just as much of her fame can be attributed to the way she carried herself. 

Born Norma Jeane Mortenson, she was known for being able to slip in and out of the Monroe personality by those closest to her. "Marilyn knew how to turn on and turn off Marilyn to the point where she could be walking down the street wearing the same exact thing, looking like Marilyn, and go completely unnoticed," explains marriage proposal planner and TikTok influencer Destinee Quinn in a video shared to the platform. 

According to PsychCentral, this instant change in energy was deemed the "Marilyn Monroe effect" by Amy Greene, the wife of the star's personal photographer. Today, the term is used to explain how the way you carry yourself can completely change how you appear to others. The effect encourages you to adopt the age-old concept of "fake it until you make it." In other words, by acting confidently, you will be perceived as such, and can fight back against low self-esteem

Using the Marilyn Monroe effect in everyday life

In her TikTok video, Destinee Quinn explains that capturing this effect involves changing your body language to be more open, strategically positioning yourself to a place in the room where people can easily spot you, and slowing down as you walk and talk. It's also important to make eye contact with anyone you are attracted to, as this can send the message that it's safe for them to approach you. 

Speaking about her experience with the Marilyn Monroe effect, TikToker Mikaela Willson reveals that smiling more helped her to implement the effect and notice the difference in the way people perceived her, as well as how she felt about herself. She also recommends being friendly and authentically nice, and introducing yourself confidently to people by shaking their hand. Like Quinn, Willson believes that making eye contact and using powerful body language, such as standing up straight, also helps you to become more magnetic. 

Many people struggle with being confident in their appearance, but in reality, confidence can significantly impact how attractive a person is perceived to be, per The Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Of course, you cannot completely change your physical features in a matter of seconds with your thoughts, but you can change how you appear to others by adopting these simple behaviors. 

How and why does the effect work?

In essence, the Marilyn Monroe effect is about acting confident, even when you don't feel like it. Faking confidence is so powerful in attracting positive attention because part of the human condition is looking for social cues in others, per American Confidence Institute. By believing in yourself, you reinforce to other people that they can believe in you as well. They subconsciously get the message that there must be a good reason to like you, because you appear to like yourself.

There's scientific evidence to back up the claim that pretending to be confident really can have the same impact as actually feeling confident, too. "Behavioral activation is a concept and intervention frequently used in cognitive behavioral therapy that utilizes behaviors to influence emotions, thoughts, and mood," licensed therapist Rachel Thomasian told HuffPost, indicating how practicing certain behaviors can change your feelings. In this way, thinking and acting as if you love yourself can lead to you actually being perceived as worthy of that love, and eventually receiving that love. 

The term is all about faking self-love and poise until these traits become true second nature. Wharton professor of psychology Adam Grant told the New York Times that people should act in the way that they want others to perceive them, and then "bring the outside in." Grant encourages people to be themselves, but also to find traits of the kind of person they would like to be, and practice those until they become natural.