Women tend to be aware of and rate their looks fairly accurately. I know this because a lot of readers send me pictures saying "I think I am an X out of 10, can you tell me what I really am?" Although I always refuse to give them my numerical opinion (because all men think differently), their guesses are usually very close to what I would have ranked them.
So why would they set the bar so much higher than what they know they can get? Some might point out that their "delusion" is caused by their experiences getting men who are out of their league for sex and casual dating. And though I agree that this happens, it doesn't capture the whole picture. Women just aren't that easily deceived about their own physical attractiveness. It shouldn't be surprising, then, that the problem is primarily an internal one.
Each of us has an inherent knowledge of our own capabilities and dispositions. We know the inner workings of our own mind: how honest we are, how prone we are to mood swings, our insecurities and strengths, what we've experienced, what we still need to learn, the strength of our ambitions, etc. This translates into an excellent knowledge of our personal capabilities, our personal potential. We all know roughly what we could achieve, whether or not we have achieved it. Occasionally we modify this self-perception when we realize the extent of strengths we didn't know we had, or weaknesses that have greater implications than we'd imagined. But in general, we know ourselves well; we know what we are capable of becoming. This is true in all aspects of our lives: business, working out, academic learning - everywhere. It also applies to dating. Because we know ourselves, we also know roughly what we should be able to get when it comes to the opposite sex.
A statement that often accompanies women's complaints about not getting the men they want is something to the effect of "I know I am a catch. I have so much love to give a man. Why can't men see that??" This is a symptom of the above-described phenomenon: you know that you have the right "raw material" to attract the kind of man you want (in fact, "the kind of man you want" is partially defined by your self-knowledge), but you are confused about why it hasn't happened for you yet.
The reason for this is simple: your self-perception of your potential is roughly accurate, but you aren't living up to that potential. You aren't the person you know you can be. You have the capability, but you haven't used it. You have the potential, but you haven't fulfilled it. You know you can be a fun and exciting person to be around when you feel comfortable, but you haven't confronted your insecurity in social situations, so men don't realize this. You know you have a great figure, but you haven't learned yet to show it off by correcting your posture, so no one notices it. You know you have great hair, but you don't put the effort in to style it well, so it does you little good. You know you are pretty, but you haven't confronted your fear of looking a little awkward, and this has dramatically slowed your efforts at learning how to dress yourself well. Your are well aware of your inner feminine self and you instincts to nurture and love, but you suppress them (as you've been implicitly told to do by your parents or the culture around you) and men assume you are cold and boring. You know that you are an incredibly sexual person, but because of your strict conservative upbringing, you cloak it in "modesty" and men are turned off.
The reason women can't get what they think they deserve is that we (men and women alike) always peg our standards to what we know we can be, not to what we are, while members of the opposite sex judge us - understandably - only on what we are currently. They have no access to the inner workings of our mind; and even if they did, they would have no guarantee that we'd ever reach the potential this would reveal to them. So your discontent in dating boils down to the fact that you aren't living up to your own standards - yet. Incidentally, this also explains why most people have such an aversion to settling: our subconscious knowledge of what we "should" be able to get is achievable (if not currently accurate), so it seems defeatist to accept something less.
I've illustrated an example of this in the diagram below. A woman who is a 5.5 out of 10 has the potential to be a 7.5, so she "knows" that she can get men of that caliber (red arrows). She is constantly setting her sights on men who are in the 7-8 range (dark blue arrows), and she is constantly being rejected by them. She doesn't understand why, since she thinks these men are in her league, when the truth is that she could get into their league. Her situation isn't helped by the fact that a lot of the men she wants haven't met their full potential yet either, meaning that they - also wrongly - have their sights set on women of an even higher caliber (light blue arrows).
|Rank out of Ten (Combined Looks and Appearance)|
So the bad news is that you probably can't get the men that you think you can get. But the good news is that you probably can eventually get the men that you think you can get - assuming you are willing to work at it, and do. The biggest takeaway, though, is that if you aren't getting the men you want (but you think that they are in your league), your first move shouldn't be to lower your standards, it should be to self-improve.