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Vanity is an issue that can dramatically damage your ability to forge and keep relationships.
The problem is that vanity introduces a layer of competition to the relationship where the other person may not even feel they are competing. They may also not feel the need to compete because competition in personal relationships is a good way to tear them to pieces.
You may compare yourself to others to figure out how you are superior. But, there’s a problem with that. You may indeed be better than other people in a particular way. Maybe you have an impeccable style, or you make a lot of money, or you’ve managed to accomplish a lot. None of those things are bad.
Vanity, however, causes you to compare your successes to others who may not be as successful and find yourself superior.
“Oh, I have a great style! Why doesn’t this person? Ugh.”
Well, maybe they’re not fortunate to have enough money to rock a good style. Maybe they don’t have the kind of eye for fashion that you do. Or maybe, just maybe, they don’t care. Plenty of people value function over form, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The big issue with vanity is that you use it as a tool to elevate yourself over other people, not just elevate yourself. It’s a matter of humility because no one wants to be talked down to or made to feel inferior. And if you do that, you’re probably going to have a broken trail of friendships and relationships behind you.
What causes a person to be vain?
Why does a person sit there, admiring themselves in the mirror? Why does a person feel so superior because of the success they have had? Well, vanity can stem from a number of deeper problems.
1. A skewed system of morality.
People are judgmental. There’s no getting away from that. It doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it; someone will have an opinion on it and even a problem with it. And if you are in a position where you can look down on others, you may feel like they have some kind of moral failing for not doing better.
A good example of this is poverty. Some believe that pious, good, and moral people are inherently rewarded by God for being pious, good, and moral. Never mind that most religions say the exact opposite – that those well-off should do what they can to elevate their fellow people who aren’t so fortunate.
People in poverty may be in poverty for several reasons. Maybe they were born into poverty and couldn’t find a way out because only minimum wage jobs exist in their area. They could be hit with insurmountable medical bills and have to declare bankruptcy. There’s also the issue of an adequate education to start being competitive.
Are any of those things a moral failing? No. They’re all circumstances largely outside of a person’s control. But that’s hard for the vain person to recognize, let alone accept.
2. Poor self-esteem and self-perception.
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” – Shakespeare, Hamlet
Vain people often stand out like a sore thumb because they incessantly need to ensure everyone knows how superior they are. Some are quiet about it. Some people just have those thoughts, and they keep them to themselves. It may also be that those people do things like fish for compliments. That way, they can appear as though they are humble, because they understand that the perception of vanity is negative and wish to avoid it.
A person who tries to draw attention to a particular facet of themselves stands out because someone who doesn’t care just doesn’t do that. That doesn’t mean that you, or anyone else, can’t be proud of what you did. Maybe you graduated college, or you’re really feeling the outfit today, or you landed that sweet promotion at work you’ve been angling for. Be proud. That’s fine. Just don’t tear other people down with it.
The secure person doesn’t need to compete with others because they know they have self-worth and value who they are. The vain person is often over-correcting for lack of those emotions.
3. You’re in an image competition.
Vanity isn’t an inherent trait. Some people develop vanity over time precisely because they act vain. You can think of it as “fake it ’til you make it,” except what you faked is something negative until you made it a general part of your personality.
Today, social media is a strong driver of narcissism and vanity. Understand that we are not talking about Narcissistic Personality Disorder. We are talking about lowercase “n” narcissism, that is, excessive interest in or admiration of the self. It’s like vanity, but not quite.
Social media encourages competition where there doesn’t necessarily need to be any. Maybe you want to appear as though you look better or have a better life than you actually do, so you feel like you have to project that image.
Only, that could become an income issue. Suppose your income is tied to how you look or how other people perceive you. In that case, you will be involved in that kind of behavior often, which can lead to it just becoming a part of your personality.
It’s not exactly a secret that social media dramatically negatively affects self-esteem and self-worth.
How do I stop being so vain?
Mindfulness is a full-on buzzword in the self-help space, but that doesn’t mean there’s no merit to it. Quite the opposite, actually.
To be mindful is to be in the present moment, considering your thoughts and emotions and not letting them run away unchecked. That is a necessary skill to develop if you want to correct unwanted behavior.
Unwanted behavior, such as judging other people or mentally talking to yourself about how you are superior, is something you need to be able to catch in the moment. Once you catch it in the moment, you can interrupt those thought processes and replace them with something healthier.
2. Replace your internal narrative.
Once you start catching those negative perceptions, you can start replacing them with healthier thoughts. We suggest taking some time to create some positive mantras to repeat when you find yourself falling into those negative thoughts.
Here are a few examples that might help you get on the right path:
“I am not better than anyone else because I have __________.”
“It’s okay for me to be proud of _________, but it’s not okay for me to look down on anyone.”
“I am worth more than _________.” [insert a trait or characteristic here, NOT the name of another person!]
People often believe that if they do this a few times, their thoughts will magically change. Of course, that’s not how it works. It takes regular effort over a long period before you start seeing any results. And sometimes, those results may not be what you think they’ll be. Sometimes, you may find that you still have those thoughts, but you are now empowered to act differently because of them.
3. Develop your empathy for others.
Vanity may be rooted in the desire to feel superior to others. The problem is that everyone has a different story. Your story may just be more fortunate than others. Sure, hard work and effort can go a long way. But, it often paves the way for additional circumstances and a little luck to take you to the next level.
Consider training for a new job. You work hard, you go to school, you work your way through school, you graduate, and you land that job that you’re angling for in a career that you love. All of that requires hard work. That is something to be proud of. However, many other people who do similar things have goals derailed by life.
You work hard – but you get injured and can’t work anymore. You go to school – but you can’t make rent, so you can’t pay the tuition. You try to work through school – but you can’t find a job that will work with your school schedule. You graduate – but you can’t find a job in your field. You land that job – but you get laid off because you missed the signs they were going under.
No matter how much work you put in, luck is always an element. The work just improves your chances for success.
And so it goes for many people out there who are living lives of quiet desperation. Try to relate to the struggles of others. If you find that you can’t, just try listening without telling them how they can fix it or what they should have done differently. Just listen and absorb their story.
4. Purposefully do the opposite of what you’re vain about.
You may alter your perception of yourself by going in the opposite direction of your vanity. Let’s say you’re vain about your wardrobe. You always want to look good, so you always do look good and know that you look good.
Do the opposite. Head to a local thrift store and buy some clothes that don’t look so good. No need to break the bank. Plenty of thrift stores and charity shops have excessive clothes. You won’t be depriving the needy of anything. Buy some clothes that don’t look good, and try wearing them regularly.
Are you vain about your money? Restrict how much you can spend. Do a little math and cut your budget to the same as people who aren’t so well off. A reasonable metric is $10 an hour for 60 hours a week, so $2400 a month, because plenty of people work two or three jobs to make ends meet. Often, those ends don’t meet. $2400 for a car payment, bills, food, rent, and utilities. Try it for a few months and see how people who struggle live. That’s not even counting taxes. It’d be even less than that.
5. Help people who aren’t doing as well as you.
There is always someone who needs a hand up. A good way to build humility is to see how other people actually struggle with whatever it is that you may feel vain about. Plenty of volunteer opportunities exist out there to help less fortunate people.
And even if you can’t do something precisely related to what you’re vain about, it can still help just to be around and help folks who need a little extra help.
And while you do, consider their own stories. People don’t typically choose to live in bad circumstances or have serious problems that keep them held back. It can be as simple as being born into a bad situation that doesn’t really have a path. It may include mental illness, bankruptcy, physical illness, or job injuries.
There are a lot of people that want to change their lives but don’t have the resources available to them. Worse still, too many people don’t have a good perception of themselves and just don’t believe they can do better. If you’re told you’re trash by society and people who think they’re better than you, you can eventually believe it. So why bother trying?
Vanity is a problem that may reach deeper than just feeling superior to others. It could be a symptom of a deeper problem like childhood trauma. Some people over-correct and convince themselves they are superior because of a lack of love and acceptance from the adults they had as children.
If it’s something like that, you’ll want to see a certified mental health professional to help you find your way to healing, a healthier attitude toward yourself, and better relationships with others.
A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
You may also like:
- The Dark And Dangerous Side Of Modern Day Vanity
- How To Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
- How To Be Less Competitive: 7 Highly Effective Tips!