A Sweep of Vanity: How To Burst Your Own Bubble

By: Maya Talisman Frost

"Hoy-day! What a sweep of vanity comes this way!"
William Shakespeare, "The Life of Timon of Athens"

If there's one characteristic we hope we don't have,
it's vanity. We'd rather be considered aggressive,
driven, petty, even mean than have others feel that we
think too much of ourselves.

Isn't that hilarious?

We're all vain. The world appears to revolve around us
because we literally can't see it any other way. Our
reality is constructed entirely of our perceptions of
how everyone and everything responds to us. It's
impossible to remove ourselves from the center of our
own universe.

That's our starting point, anyway. We want to veer
toward selflessness, but no matter how hard we try,
we remain rooted to the idea that how others see us
really matters.

Oh, sure, we can pretend we're beyond that. We can
say that we don't give a hoot about what others think
of us. But even that is a bit of a conundrum--it's more
likely that we care that others think we don't care
what they think! See what I mean?

"Vanity is so secure in the heart of men that everyone
wants to be admired; even I who write this, and you
who read this."
Blaise Pascal, French mathematician & writer

It certainly doesn't escape me that it takes a hefty
amount of vanity to think that others will be interested
in reading what I write. I struggle with the concept of
vanity on several levels--as a 43-year-old woman in
America trying to deal with aging and the expectations
of our society, as a writer sending out articles every
week, as a mind masseuse helping clients. That's all
about me when you get down to it.

Plenty of vanity in
this picture.

Like most people, I want to do good work, and I want
to feel validated by others for that work. Is that so
wrong?

Well, no. We all engage in activities throughout the
day for our own benefit, and we hope that what we do
will end up helping other people. Confidence and self-
interest are essential in any work and in all service to
others. Pride can move us toward having a more
powerful and positive impact on the world.

How do we keep vanity in check?

"The only cure for vanity is laughter, and the only fault
that's laughable is vanity."
Henri Bergon, French philosopher and Nobel prize winner

That's right. Laugh! The most important step you can
take to make sure you aren't headed down that vanity
path is to recognize that you ARE. And the greatest
way to spin around and head toward humility is to laugh
at yourself.

There's plenty to laugh about. What makes you care
so much about how you look to others, anyway? Isn't
it silly how much time and effort you put into making a
good impression? Isn't it hilarious to recognize that
everybody else is earnestly working to make a good
impression, too? What if we all just relaxed and had a
big belly laugh over how ridiculous we are? We'd get
more done, and we'd have more fun doing it.

We take ourselves far too seriously. We should seize
every opportunity to poke fun at our affectations.
When we break down that facade we've so carefully
crafted, we invite everyone else to join us. It's the
most effective way to connect with others and
encourage a more lighthearted focus on what's really
important.

One way to stay real about yourself is to intentionally
select a goofy title. Forget the traditional chief-of-
operations, vice-president-of-marketing, sales-division-
manager options. I choose to call myself a "mind
masseuse" because it sounds silly. The image of
someone poking their fingers into your brain is wacky.
It makes people smile. (Okay, so it's vain to care about
what others think. At least I can laugh about it!)

My husband owns his own business. Most people would
refer to him as a CEO or president. Not him. He
orchestrates the distribution of Bodylinx magnetic
jewelry, so he refers to himself as a "magnetic
conductor". He adds this title to every email and
letter he sends, and people appreciate his humorous
approach.

Why not have a little fun with your description of your
work? Fancy titles are laughable in their vanity. Even
if your work requires you to maintain a certain level of
decorum, come up with your own title for yourself that
makes you smile. It'll keep you from getting too puffed
up.

"A man who is not a fool can rid himself of every folly
except vanity."
Jean Jacques Rousseau, another French philosopher

Next time you find yourself studiously protecting your
image, just grin. You're human. Vanity is a natural
tendency, and one you're bound to hang on to despite
your best efforts. Recognize it, laugh at itFree Web Content, and don't
be shy about sharing that realization with others.

It will make you a more excellent human where it
matters most--in the eyes of those you love.

Motivation
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