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  • Writer's pictureKate Warren

Vanity - is it self-care or self-conceit?

Welcome to 2024, everyone! It's wonderful to have you here as we head into a new year. For those of you just joining us, I'm Kate, the owner, Counsellor, and career guide of Stay U. I write a monthly blog of tips, tricks, and general advice on all things self-care, mental health, and LGBT. I aim to be informative but not boring and spread awareness and understanding of key issues that affect the world we live in. So, let's get started!

This month I'd like to touch on a topic that affects me personally, and that I'm sure some of you will be able to relate to. I often talk about self-care and self-love in my blogs and social media posts, and I truly believe they are two of the most important things that we can do for ourselves. However, I'll be the first to admit that I don't take care of myself as much as I should. The reason for this is two-fold: one, I do not have a lot of cash to splash around, and two, I worry that spending money on myself, especially on my appearance, is vain. For me (personally), the two things go hand-in-hand - you can spend "too much" money on getting your hair and nails done, on expensive clothing and jewellery, or on cosmetic procedures like Botox. It's difficult for me to see these expenses as "self-care", although they really should be in some cases. Not because we should all follow current fashion trends and portray our "best self" at all times, but because we all deserve to feel happy in our own skin. Am I happy with the way I currently look - no. Is getting my hair and nails done important for my happiness - yes. It really should be that simple, but is it?

Vanity is a topic I teach in my other job as a primary school Ethics Teacher. When I was the same age as the kids I teach (back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth), vanity was drummed into us as a "sin". This is probably due to its connection with the Seven Deadly Sins, a group of behaviours or habits considered wrong in our society within Christian, particularly Catholic, teachings. It's now generally seen as an excessive belief in one's abilities or attractiveness to others. Essentially, being really keen on yourself.

The weird this is, prior to the 14th century, the idea of vanity did not have such narcissistic connotations and simply meant futility - pointless and useless. Then someone brought religion into it, and made people believe that if they overvalued their capabilities and looks, they felt that "God wasn't needed". Well, that escalated quickly!

When we break it all down, vanity is all about how we view our outward appearance and how much we believe in our capabilities (our skills and competence in doing something) and essentially having what others consider "too much" of a focus on or belief in those things. That's a very subjective thing, isn't it?

Let's shift gears for a moment and remind ourselves what Self-Care is...

Self-care is a term used to describe the practice of taking care of your physical, emotional, and social well-being. It involves engaging in activities that promote health, prevent disease, and help manage illness and mental health challenges. Self-care can take many forms, such as getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising regularly, and taking time to relax and unwind. It is important to prioritise self-care as it helps ensure that our bodies and minds are functioning at their best. Neglecting your self-care can lead to stress, burnout, and other physical and mental health issues. It’s important to think of self-care as not a luxury, but rather an essential part of maintaining good health and well-being. That all said, is taking pride in our appearance and believing in our abilities part of self-care, or is it vanity?

Imagine one of your friends or a work colleague said to you:

"I’m passionate about learning. I’m passionate about life. I’m passionate about feeling good."

Would you think they were narcissistic, vain, inspirational or confident? Are they someone who engages in things that promote their physical health and well-being and manages their mental health? Or are they someone who thinks they are better than everyone else?

What if I told you that quote was from Tom Cruise? Did your opinions change?

Vanity, like many things in life, can have different meanings depending on the context and perspective. Some people may define vanity as excessive pride in one’s appearance or achievements, while others may see it as a positive trait of self-confidence and self-esteem. Therefore, it is possible to say that vanity is on a spectrum, ranging from low to high, and from healthy to unhealthy. If you do things that improve your outward appearance or improve the way you see yourself, it's safe to say they are more about self-care rather than self-conceit or vanity.

In conclusion...

Vanity and self-care are not the same, but they can sometimes overlap or conflict. For example, some people may use cosmetic products or procedures as a form of self-care, to boost their confidence or express their identity. Others may use them as a form of vanity, to impress others or to conform to unrealistic standards. The difference may depend on the motivation, intention, and outcome of the behaviour.

Ultimately, in the debate of whether vanity can also be seen as self-care, it depends on your perspective and values. Some people may see vanity as a form of self-care, while others may see self-care as a form of vanity. Some people may try to balance both, while others may reject both.

What do you think?

Thank you for joining me for this month's Stay U Blog. I hope you have enjoyed it and that it has given you many things to think about. I usually end my blogs with an old expression - "a problem shared is a problem halved". For 2024, I am going to move on to another - "If you want to find out about the road ahead, then ask about it from those coming back." This is an old Chinese Proverb meaning: Don’t pass judgment on the journey but instead seek the wisdom from others who have been down the path before. Take care, everyone. xx

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