Webster’s Dictionary identifies Vanity as:
1: something that is vain, empty, or valueless
2: the quality or fact of being vain
3: inflated pride in oneself or one’s appearance : conceit
This makes sense, yes? It is what we have been taught to believe about
vanity. It is how we have been taught to perceive it in the past.
Dictionary.com defines vanity as:
1. excessive pride in one’s appearance, qualities, abilities,
achievements, etc.; character or quality of being vain; conceit:
Failure to be elected was a great blow to his vanity.
2. an instance or display of this quality or feeling.
3. something about which one is vain.
4. lack of real value; hollowness; worthlessness: the vanity of a selfish life.
5. something worthless, trivial, or pointless.
Here’s the catch, folks. In these definitions, words such as
“excessive,” “inflated,” and “value” are used. These words are
typically based on subjective perception.
How do you define excessive (aside from being a smart-ass and looking
it up in the dictionary… oh… Whoops)? Excessive force? Excessive
make-up? Excessive chatter? Many people can agree with what be
excessive in those realms, but not necessarily everyone. Their
internal viewpoints don’t always fall in line with the majority of
What about excessive knowledge? Excessive self-worth? Excessive
self-respect? Excessive unconditional positive regard? What do those
things look like? How do you quantify that? Who gets to be the person
to draw the line? How do they decide?
What is the threshold of “excessive” and, again, who defines it?
Culture defines it. Culture decides. I love piercings, but my culture
has helped to mold my perception of what would be considered
“excessive” in this regard. The news show. The magazines I ready
monthly or weekly. Any media can help either shrink or expand my
definition of excessive.
My peer groups can contribute to my definitions. My family created the
original mold- a mold that I have since expanded from.
The problem with the word vanity is how we project onto it and how we
use it to fit people into a mold.
“Oh great, she’s wearing a zebra stripped and leopard print top with
peacock fathers overlapping the print. How vain is she? ‘Look at me!
Look at me!'”
“Stilettos? Someone’s screaming for attention.”
“Diamond earrings with diamond rings. And don’t forget her diamond
necklace. Who does she think she is, wearing all that? She isn’t the
Queen, you know.”
“He puts gel in his hair. He spends more time man-scaping than any
woman I know. How self-centered.”
“The mirror is his best friend.”
“Really? You put affirmations on your mirror every day and read them
every time you look at it? Self-worship much?
“‘Every day in every way I’m getting better and better”? New age hippies.”
“She says she works out because she wants to be healthier. I think she
wants to fit her ass into a pair of skinny jeans. It’s not about her
health. It’s because she wants to look good.”
“You call it confidence. I call it bitchiness. Who do you think you are?”
“Look at him just traipsing through here as if he owns the place.”
It really is a matter of how we frame it. Confidence, self-love, and
feelings of self-worth are often misinterpreted by people as vanity.
Even saying “I love myself” can elicit looks of disdain, snorts of
disregard, and furrowed eyebrows. This whole “humble servant”
mentality has gotten out of hand throughout the years. To be humble,
it seems as though people have an expectation of self-deprecating
self-talk, self-sacrificing behaviors at any cost, and living in a
cloud of misery and sorrow.
No! No no no! It’s no wonder self-esteem issues run so rampant. I
don’t know about you, I don’t want to be self-loathing. It’s flat-out
uncomfortable. All. The. Time. And how can I help serve my fellow
people if I can’t serve myself? I can’t put 100% into work and social
events if I spend my precious me-time in my head doubting, blaming,
over analyzing, fearing, and disrespecting myself. I can’t even do well
to serve others if I’m completely neutral to myself. And believe it or
not, that stiff upper lip can soften into a smile every now and then.
Read any article by an active therapist (who isn’t behind the scenes
just manipulating numbers for research), life coach, healer, or the
story behind the rise of a motivated, successful, AND happy
individual, and you will note that confidence, self-respect, a sense
of self-worth and self-love (ie, what some people might interpret as
vanity) play an essential piece in his or her happiness and success.
I’m not saying that vanity doesn’t exist. It does. It’s about
motivation or the lack thereof.
However, self-love, confidence, good boundary setting, and good
self-esteem does not always equate negative side of the dreaded