Vanity, according to Merriam Webster, is inflated pride in oneself or one’s appearance; conceit; something that is vain, empty, or valueless.
James Mason, author of “The Principles of Chess,” wrote in the 1946 guidebook preface: “But everything under the sun is vanity if pushed to extremes.” Vanity is not one of the seven deadly sins: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth.
A store mannequin is a visual example of vanity: Perfect hair, skin, smile, clothes, shoes, and fingernails. Their message is, “Look at me. I am everything you want!” When someone wants me in a photo, I have said, on many occasions, “No! I am too vain to go down in history looking like this!”
Everyone is vain once in a while. Think of the farmer who wants perfectly straight drill rows because they are easily seen by neighbors. A little bit of vanity rises when a grandma shows-off the new grand-baby or when an older grandchild gets their name in the newspaper for earning a spot on the honor roll. How many of us straighten the house or prepare our most praised recipes when guests are coming.
A healthy range of mental wellness, whether we are discussing vanity or any other potential vice, is illustrated by normal distribution on a bell curve. The bottom or tails of the bell are out of the normal rage. To again quote James Mason, “But everything under the sun is vanity if pushed to extremes.”
Even the seven deadly sins would not be criminal if done in moderation. Many a Saturday, I curled up on the sofa (sloth) and ate junk food all day (gluttony). I smiled inside while watching Clark Gable or Brad Pitt (lust), and hoarded Sees chocolate (greed). I admired the cities where
movies were filmed (envy) and told nobody what I did all day ( pride ). I also felt irritated when the phone rang ( wrath ).
Balance is the key. If I repeated the above described Saturday all day, every day, my behavior would fall in the tails of the bell curve, and not in the normal range.
We all have extreme behavior when we need downtime or when we are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT). If actions are interfering with relationships, physical health, or safety, it is far out of the normal range and therefore concerning. Maybe a vacation, a call to your counselor, a thinning of responsibilities, or a good hard run in the sun is needed.
Most activities in life are permissible and healthy as long as they are 1) in balance 2) not extreme and 3) follow the #1 rule: You cannot hurt yourself or others.
In the meantime, a little vanity is okay by me; trying not to be vain isn’t worth the worry.
Until the next time: Live while you live.
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