06/12/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

My Musings On Vanity

Mirror, mirror, on the wall! Who's the vainest of them all?

Yesterday, while doing something decidedly un-vain, my thoughts happened to stumble upon Vanity as a topic for this column. A pretty relevant topic, considering yesterday's post, in which i subjected myself to the most unflattering "makeover" known to man, took photos, and posted them on the Huffington Post for all the world to see.

And in doing so, I patted myself on the back and felt a congratulatory smugness -- because, you see, you can't post such ridiculously unflattering images of yourself and be vain! And then it occurred to me that the fact that I was so hyper-aware of said fact may, in fact, be a sign of my vanity! Yikes! And so I found myself in a bit of a conundrum.

What was vanity? Was I vain? Why was vanity such a bad thing?

(Oh, and I should clarify here that I'm talking Vanity as Pride and therefore as one of the Seven Deadly Sins - the old ones, not the new ones - hence the Capitalization. Also - you can probably expect a post on each of the other six deadly sins at some point in the future. Be prepared.)

The definition of vanity is to "take excessive pride in one's appearance, qualities, abilities, [or] achievements." The operative word here is excessive. I think the problem with pride and/or vanity happens when it overshadows whatever good qualities you had to be proud of in the first place. Because then you just look like a jerk and that sucks.

But I think a healthy dose of pride - perhaps a solid awareness of with a pinch of confidence - in your abilities and/or acheivements is great! I think most people would agree. But it's pride in one's appearance with which people seem to have the most problem. Is it because appearance is (for the most part) a genetic thing? Is it because it's not begat of effort, hard work, and determination but of a lucky combination of chromosomes? But don't most skills and laudable talents come from an inherent (perhaps even genetic) ability?

I bemoan yesterday's photo essay as "decidedly unflattering" but I know that's relative. I have enough confidence in my appearance that I don't mind posting unattractive photos of myself. Is that confidence such a bad thing?

I think false humility is a far worse sin than pride - though, to be fair, perhaps false humility is a form of pride. I just think it's the worst kind. I'd rather know someone who takes pride (even an excessive amount) in their attributes, than someone who "aw, shucks!"-es their way through a conversation. It's a weaker and more insecure form of vanity - one in which a person is aware of how fantastically amazing they are, and yet they still feels the need to fish for more compliments than they can even give themselves. Now that's a real jerk.

But that's just my opinion.

How do you define vanity? Where do you draw the line between pride and excessive pride? False humility is clearly not cool, but do you think it pays to be humble in other ways? Would you consider yourself vain? I'm curious - let's discuss. Tell me your thoughts below!

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