What is the definition of vanity?

By Kelly Hockenberry, Columnist, The Times

I was standing in line at CVS the other day and witnessed something interesting. A woman and her pre-teen daughter (probably 12?) were ahead of me to check out. While we waited for the cashier, the young girl picked up a lip-gloss from the aisle display. Her mother’s response? “Put that down! Don’t be so vain. You do not need lip gloss.”

Obviously embarrassed, the girl sheepishly replaced it without comment. Important side-note: the mother was not wearing a lick of make-up. As I stood behind them with my carefully applied mascara, bronzer, and lipstick (standard) I felt oddly exposed.

Am I vain?

Because if wearing lip gloss is the litmus test for vanity, I’m in serious trouble. I mean, it’s the title of this column, for pete’s sake! Hmmmm.

However, now that I am coming to the end of my graduate studies in psychology, I have learned a lot regarding human nature and here’s something I am confident about…

Everyone wants to feel good.

I don’t mean metaphorically speaking…I mean, literally.

But, how do you know when you’ve crossed the line? According to Webster, the definition of vanity is “excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.”

Therefore, I am going to boldly assert that I do not think that lip gloss is the gateway to narcissism.

In fact, there are plenty of research studies to suggest that wearing make-up can have a positive effect on mental health. From a cognitive behavioral approach, the time spent getting ready in the morning can be a motivating force to get out of bed and a dedicated few minutes to devote to self care. These are particularly important tasks if you are battling depression.

And, like it or not, our appearance says a lot about who we are without us having to utter a word. Lately, I feel that there has been a backlash against beauty in the name of #girlpower. If you are a female concerned about your appearance you are “vain” and people (namely men, I suppose) won’t take you seriously. But why can’t you be interested in the latest color palette by L’Oreal AND want to be an astrophysicist? Why are the two concepts mutually exclusive?

Trust me, I understand not wanting your daughter to look like Tammy Faye Baker in the third grade.

I get it.

BUT, wearing a pale pink gloss in 7th grade is not wrong. And, it’s NOT vain.

That’s a pretty heavy internal monologue for a drug store waiting line, wouldn’t you say?

P.s…I didn’t interrupt with my opinion. I am hopeful that maybe that mother is reading this article right now.

What do YOU think? Please share in the comment section below.

Happy Weekend.

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