The right amount of vanity. It is healthy to love yourself, but in excess, that love no longer becomes effective and can turn into a never-ending quest for the approval of others.
Abelardo Muñoz González Psychiatrist, practitioner Coomeva Private Healthcare
The line between self-esteem and excessive vanity is thin and there are few who react quick enough once they fall into this vicious cycle.
Compulsive buying, a multitude of plastic surgeries and exaggerated diets are some of the habits that are part of trying to reach the one objective of looking good for others when in reality, they are not very happy with themselves. These actions are generally inspired by models and prototypes that impose a minute by minute industry of consumption. Having the perfect measurements, clothes from the best brands, out-of-control spending and extreme thinness is the central daily focus of a vain individual. This world is one that is no longer exclusive to women, where it tends to have its greatest hold.
“Today, we are hyper-connected in real time. We see how everything moves along in a frenzy. While in old times, people wanted to look like nobility, now these stereotypes change month after month. This is a huge industry that constantly reinvents itself in order to survive so that people throw out what they have and quickly move on to a new model of shoes or accessories, for example,” psychologist Carlos Naranjo states.
Differences and changes
Psychiatrist Abelardo Muñoz González explains it is one thing to get ready in the morning to go out, go to work or to an appointment and it is another, very different thing to live thinking about how to please one’s social circle to feel admired and popular. “When vanity gets out of control, it can even cause personality disorders, anxiety or eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia in which the individual has a lack of self-esteem and an unstable emotional state. This is how what used to be a character trait ends up being a dysfunction,” Muñoz González shares.
Nutritionist Amida Carvajal adds that abrupt changes in one’s diet are often the consequence of the influence this world has on people, as many decide to modify their nutritional behavior in order to fit into smaller and more standard sizes. “If what you want is to gain or lose weight, it is best get the advice of an expert. Health risks due to changes in the diet and eating disorders can be very serious and lead to long-term deficiencies. It is best to not get carried away by fashion, take care of your health properly, be realistic and accept your body,” the nutritionist states.
The question here is how to acquire self-esteem and confidence when the outlook seems so grim. Muñoz González adds to this by saying, “It is essential for parents to be educated, to teach their children to love themselves, to take care of themselves, to not follow the standards that society places on them. Passing on values such as love, respect, trust, tolerance and bravery are determining factors when it comes to facing varying concepts of beauty.”
According to clinical psychologist Alberto Montero, it is difficult for someone who is vain to seek professional help due to the fact that they cannot recognize their own condition. “Since we’re dealing with people that need a lot of attention, they develop this vanity to an extreme in order to hide their feelings of insecurity. This is what motivates them to continue doing the things that raise their self-esteem; it won’t be easy for them to address the issue.” Some common personality traits among these types of people include being intolerant to frustration, being obsessive, being impulsive and being a perfectionist. These individuals go to specialists to find solutions, but for their stress, panic, work or relationship issues, among others.
The reality is that it is never too late to learn to accept and value yourself unconditionally, acknowledging your successes and your failures without comparing yourself to others or depending on the approval of society. The key is to take responsibility for your own life, find other interests, and learn to discover other sources of happiness, success and acknowledgement.
In conclusion, vanity has always existed. According to the definition provided by the Royal Spanish Academy, it is manifested through, “arrogance, presumptuousness or conceit,” or more accordingly, as an impulse to strengthen the ego and foster creativity. What makes it an issue or not, lies in the limits that it is given.
There is a part of vanity that we refer to as self-esteem, which protects us and makes us take care of ourselves, but when this virtue becomes distorted, it can turn into a vice.
People fall into a world of vanity without realizing it until their family members, friends or social group inform them with force that they have gone too far.
Psychiatrist Lucrecia Ramírez Restrepo explains that being vain about our bodies in our society is a synonym of femininity. This is what make women make alterations to their bodies, search for tutorials about how to put on makeup and is why they want to be in fashion, from which this ever-evolving industry makes a profit. Lucrecia defines the current model of beauty has having three main characteristics, which in her opinion, are difficult to fulfill. “It’s impossible,” she says. They include the following:
Being thin: not having curves
Being toned: doing exercise all the time
Being Sexy: characterized by having curves
“Meeting this standard is what makes women get surgery and spend a lot of money to try and fit the prototype of beauty and its rigid parameters,” the specialist concludes.
Keep in mind
Social institutions such as family, schools and churches play important roles in constructing the beauty standards of an individual.
A person with good self-esteem has the following characteristics. They:
- Feel good about themselves
- Express their opinions in front of others
- Are not scared to talk with others
- Know how to identify and express their emotions to others
- Like and do not fear challenges
- Take interest in others without trying to serve a personal interest
- Are creative and original
- Fight for getting what they want
- Enjoy life
- Share their feelings with others
- Are aware of their own qualities and try to overcome their flaws
- Are responsible for their actions
- Are natural leaders that collaborate and do not impose upon others