Vanity vs Narcissism?

June 2, 2013

G Photos You

Vanity vs Narcissism

Always checking the mirror at yourself?  Having a hard time getting past a reflection of yourself?   Can’t stop stressing your appearance?  Think you’re the hottest thing around?  Yeah, well you just may be dealing with vanity.  Vanity can be defined as a great admiration in one’s success or looks.  But, does your vanity necessarily mean you’re narcissistic?

The Greek myth of Narcissus tells of a young man who falls in love with his own image that is reflected in a pool of water.  Sigmund Freud differentiates narcissism from vanity by stating that while both conditions feature an obsession with appearance, a narcissistic person is characterized by an incapacity for love for anyone but themselves.

So, do you fall into one of these categories?  If Vanity is you, then basically you just think you’re the coolest thing around.  This, however sets you up for a huge let down because a lot of who you are is based on what you think others feel about you.  Once while I was in Golds Gym, Venice, CA, I watched a woman walk up to a body builder (he had so little body fat that you could count the muscle fibers in his arms, legs and everywhere else) and pinched a tiny bit of skin near his waist while teasing, “Fatso.”  He looked at her with major shock, turned and stared at his obliques in the mirror, then proceeded to get on the treadmill for the next 90 minutes!  Was he vain or narcissistic?  Well, if he was, then he probably would’ve redirected her joke onto her attempting to destroy her self-confidence (why she teased him is another story.)

Vanity is a symptom of narcissism but not its only trait. Psychology Today defines narcissism as “extreme selfishness with a grandiose view of ones own talents and a craving for admiration”. It’s obsession with all aspects of the self.  Also includes arrogance, a sense of entitlement, materialism and anti-social behavior. These aspects of narcissism lead to relationship troubles and other social issues which is why narcissism can be a serious condition.  Vanity, well, it can be productive because it at least can get folks to to take care of themselves, and although a vain person may seem self-absorbed, he or she should still be able to care about others and make positive choices.  Be careful you vain ones, that you’re not at that point where you lose a sense of connection to anything outside of yourself.  If it’s all about you, it’s time you step back and reconnect.  How?

Meditation.  Compassion.  Respect.

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