Without Vanity, Who Would I Be?

A “Normal” person is the sort of person that might be designed by a committee. You know, “Each person puts in a pretty color and it comes out gray. – Alan Sherman

Labels are for filing. Labels are for clothing. Labels are not for people. – Martina Navratilova

Most people have become convinced that vanity is a bad quality to have. In fact, it may actually be a cardinal vice which makes it more than bad; it’s terrible. If one explores this negative pronouncement in more depth though, it ain’t necessarily so. For example, Lord Chesterfield said, “To this principle of vanity, which philosophers call a mean one, and which I do not, I owe a great part of the figure which I have made in life.” There you go. Chesterfield thought vanity was one of the keys to his success.

It may be that vanity is little more than one of those things that is just going around. If so, even you may have a little yourself. As Blaise Pascal suggested, “Vanity is so secure in the heart of man that everyone wants to be admired: even I who write this, and you who read this.” No less an icon than Mark Twain said, “There are no grades of vanity, there are only grades of ability in concealing it;” and there is no end to how clever people can be when concealing it. To illustrate, Louis Kronenberger suggested this strategy, “Nothing so soothes our vanity as a display of greater vanity in others; it makes us vain, in fact, of our modesty;” so if you are uncomfortable with vanity, substitute modesty about being not so vane as some people you know. Just be sure to cleverly conceal it.

Fran├žois de la Rochefoucauld is another one of the folks who got it, “What makes the vanity of others insupportable is that it wounds our own.” Benjamin Franklin got it too, “Most people dislike vanity in others, whatever share they have of it themselves; but I give it fair quarter, wherever I meet with it, being persuaded that it is often productive of good to the possessor, and to others who are within his sphere of action: and therefore, in many cases, it would not be altogether absurd if a man were to thank God for his vanity among the other comforts of life.” Antonio Porchia also understood, although he did slip in “ridiculous,” probably as a minor concession to the vanity police, “Without this ridiculous vanity that takes the form of self-display, and is part of everything and everyone, we would see nothing, and nothing would exist.”

Fortunately, there is a much better approach. You can simply re-conceptualize. What folks refer to in you as vanity isn’t vanity at all. Rather, it’s merely a reflection of your positive self-perception. It’s what the psychologists call a good self-image. If someone accuses you of vanity, just smile and say:

I’m not a giant or a meek little lamb. I am me, that’s who I am. I’m taller than a cat and shorter than a tree. I’m the very best me you’ll ever see.

I like to laugh, I like to smile. I like to daydream once in a while. I’m extra special but I’m still just me. I’m the very best me I know how to be.

I always try to do my best. I’m good at a lot of things and getting better at the rest. Here’s the truth for everyone to see. It’s totally terrific being me.

I could tell you more stuff about who I am. I like spaghetti and strawberry jam. Here at last is the most spectacular part. I’m extra special because I’m so smart.

Now you know so there you go.