Only vanity

It is only vanity. But if you wish to avoid too much exposure to mine, stop right now. The following post is about ‘I’.

In my quest to explore the emotions we humans feel, the one that has often made me stop and throw a confused glance in all possible directions is Vanity. Armed with my own set of virtues, I like to observe and analyse people’s bag of this remarkable emotion (sin, some like to call it), including my own. I find myself quite short of virtues to deal with this one, however. But it makes for an insightful study, so I’ve continued to explore its depths.

To begin handling a concept, you need to know what it means. But like all things I handle, I’ve never had a definition for Vanity.  Perhaps this is the reason my mind feels boggled each time I hear the word. (Oh. And I herewith reveal that all things  I handle leave my mind very boggled. So there.)

Before I began typing this piece on my observations, I sought help at my trusted and it came up with this: “excessive pride in one’s appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements, etc.; character or quality of being vain; conceit“. While this definition is very definitive (as it should be), I found myself veering towards the example sentence. “Failure to be elected was a great blow to his vanity.”

Given the premise that vanity is a feeling of excessive pride in one’s qualities and/or achievements, I suppose he wouldn’t have seen it coming. (Excessive) pride is blind. But, if he were a not-vain person, would not being elected not be a blow to his acceptable level of pride? I do not have an answer for this, despite my own set of pride-worthy virtues.

To reach a conclusion, I’ll have to dig further.

I have a onerous memory of often hearing the phrases ‘superiority complex‘ and ‘inferiority complex‘ when I was but a little girl. (yes, I rarely hear them these days). I don’t quite remember where I heard them. Could’ve come from my mother who’d had psychology as a subject in college, or could’ve been Juhi or Pallavi or any of those girls who thought they knew the world. I also remember one (or all) of them declaring that superiority complex arises from an inferiority complex. How interesting. Here, I reach my partial view.

All those people who stand out because of a generous share of pride in their heads usually betray a lot of insecurity from time to time. Not always, of course. They are too insecure to betray themselves as a routine. Vanity is much like how Friedrich Nietzsche puts it. “…is the fear of appearing original: it is thus a lack of pride, but not necessarily a lack of originality.” I’d have liked this to have come from my head, but it hasn’t. My vanity does feel a little threatened, but I am going to presently coddle it with reminders that I made these words famous on this blog. That should put it to rest for a while.

It is quite safe to call ego-coddling a global pastime. And I am going to call it just that. Since vanity is nothing but hugging ego till it becomes nauseous with too much attention, the result normally is a bilious substitute to confident humility. The most dangerous (and stinking) result of such a situation is very subtle. Unlike other emotions, this one fails to recognise itself and save the world from its own evil. Vanity is considered to be Satan’s ‘favorite sin’, after all. Embarrassingly, it is the most prevalent one, too. Perhaps the reason is because people don’t wish to expose their actual level of confidence. Show of confidence is unfortunately equated with lack of humility.

I’d like to see people admitting very difficult things like “I do not know” “Yes, I made a mistake” “He/She is a great/beautiful/deserving person” “Yes, I do need to change this attitude”. It is a long list. The people breaching its importance are as many as there are. And most of these suffer from a superiority complex morphed out from an inferiority complex.

Satan must be a happy guy.



7 thoughts on “Only vanity”

  1. I think you nailed it with those two words: confident humility. It’s a beautiful balance when it exists, but as you said so well, that is very rare. To be completely humble all the time about everything, I think, would render a person useless; what would be the point of trying to do anything? At the other end, having too much vanity gets the person into trouble, because their skills cannot keep up with their words. I remember those phrases, superiority complex and inferiority complex. Where did they go? Both, it seems, are good ways to indicate a lack of balance, and a warning sign to watch out!

    Great post, once again. Your ability to dig deeply is refreshing. You made me think, and admit “I do not know.” Thank you.

  2. Thank you, Charles. You always encourage.
    I am beginning to believe that there is so much suffering in the world not because there is no God (!), but because we destroyed the concept with our own doings much before it could do us any good. God was supposed to be a concept which propounded two very important aspects of life:
    1. There is a force much greater than human creations (be it the material ones or now worn-out concepts). It always balances all that it encompasses.
    2. God is self-check. It is never perfect, because nothing ever is.
    True to our nature that loves all kinds of excesses, we have made a hash of it, and our balances in the various strata of our lives. We’ll learn. I sincerely hope.

  3. There you said it Priya, “ego-coddling is a global pastime”.. Seems like everyone is too self-absorbed leaving very few minutes to concentrate on any other worldly activities.. Talk about our Facebook Generation, there is very little left to our imagination about people’s private lives.. 🙂
    Nice observations you penned down here, there are a lot of things that are getting extinct in the human rat race, and that definitely includes humility..
    Hope to read more!

    1. I visited your blog, Rachana. It is so well laid out. Read that you do poems, too! Will certainly return back to read them.

      A college friend was talking of how good he looks. Laughed at by us, he said, “Modesty is dead.” I liked his honesty. (There are saving graces everywhere, aren’t there?! 😉 )

      Thank you very much for visiting, and appreciating. I hope to see you more often.


  4. Interesting post, Priya.

    ‘Satan’ is at this moment, doubtless, parading in front of a big mirror. A mirror of his own making. That’s my definition of vanity.

    I did a painting called ‘Vanity’ (in my blog) of a woman who is brilliantly patterned as are her surroundings and all she is concerned with, is her hair! Vanity seems to me, to be an attention to one specific thing with the exclusion of all else. Pride comes into it but I like to think of pride as being a positive rather than a negative. An exampe: I have agoraphobia and one time I managed to get to my parents-in-law’s house with my husband (by car, but a very long distance) and my MIL said, “I’m proud of you”. Now, to me, that’s a positive. Pride seems to be regarded as a sin, but why?

    1. We tend to misuse words often. Pride is a regular victim. I feel anything in excess is bound to set the ball rolling towards discomfort. And pride is no exception. Like everything moderate, moderate pride is quite necessary to make a person a person with individuality!

      Travelling long-distance in a car, and being an agoraphobic, too?! That is indeed a matter of pride for you and your friends and family.

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