How we appear in the world provides an opportunity for self expression to convey a personal sense of style. People enjoy being admired and acknowledged as unique individuals. In this way we’re not unlike the animals who display their colours and beauty at certain times, particularly when courting a mate. It’s when the natural movement to look one’s best becomes an emotional fixation that an unbecoming vanity takes hold.
Vanity arises with the experience of relationships, which engender feelings of either acceptance or rejection within the developing child. When the worldly value of physical beauty is seen to be advantageous, excessive pride in the appearance becomes, for some, a dominant personality trait. In time, the attachment to positive recognition by others creates an opposite negative effect as a fear of rejection. When this becomes an obsessive behavioural trait, the narcissistic element of the human condition is invoked and, with, it the total absorption of the incestuous love of self.
For woman, whose nature is love, there’s a natural inclination to present herself in a way that is consonant with her true feminine essence. Vanity is not of the female principle but of the experience gathered in the world. A woman who is obsessively attached to her appearance harbours deep insecurities, which are kept at an emotional distance through the emotional pay-off she receives from the controlling aspect of the self.
In a man, vanity is based on excessive pride, which arises as a need to prove his worthiness to exist in the world. The essence of the male principle is pure authority which is his power to love woman, his beloved, in existence. Vanity encroaches on a man’s virtue, depleting his finest energies and making him fearful of rejection or failure in the eyes of the world. It’s the fear to love that drives the billionaire to establish his empire or the explorer to climb the highest peaks. When a man discovers his true purpose, which is to restore woman to her original nature of love, vanity is transcended as any need to project his mirror image into the world as before.
In our times, the obsession with maintaining a youthful appearance to offset the natural ageing process is rapidly becoming a mainstay, not only for those in the public arena but in all walks of life. Botox, fillers and plastic surgery smooth the outer appearance while inwardly the frustration and conflict rages on, concealed by the smiling faces of those hanging onto the world like grim death. The attachment to the body forms a bridge between the feeling inner self and the objective outer world; this creates the vanities to which everyone is susceptible in one way or another. To detach from the identification with the physical image, and the indulgence in vanity, it’s a good practice to only look in the mirror when necessary, such as to comb the hair or to check something specific on the skin. It’s also a good idea to resist the temptation to look at your own reflection in shop windows or any other mirror image. And for someone who takes endless ‘selfies’ – try putting the camera away until it’s appropriate to take a snap!
Vanity, pride and conceit are noticeably absent in the proximity to death or any life threatening situation. There’s no trace of vanity when unconscious or in dreamless sleep. Vanity relies on the sensory world and judgemental mind to be affirmed. Self-confidence is not dependent on the image or a flawless complexion, but on being connected to something more dependable as the foundation of the being in existence. The universal conceit of the world and unsuspecting vanity of humanity is free will. Free will is a vanity of the mind through which human beings exercise an autonomy of choice – to go it alone in defiance of any higher intelligence or surrender to the inner mystery. Until the significance of this is realised, and then lived, whatever is accomplished is meaningless beyond the actuality of doing what we all must do in our time here on earth.