How do you conquer vanity?
How Do We Overcome Vanity?
Overcoming vanity, like any sin, takes time, effort, perseverance, and of course, the grace of God. But I’ve found these three habits helpful in my fight against this sin:
For me going to confession routinely is really helpful. Confession puts me back at the feet of the cross, reminds me of the amazing mercy of God, and in receiving that unceasing mercy and love I am humbled. And let me tell you–opportunities to be humbled are key to overcoming vanity.
Full disclosure: About one week before I was asked to write this blog post, I was kneeling in the confessional, confessing…. you named it…. vanity. (The irony that I was asked to write about this very topic–why it is a sin and how to overcome it–was not lost on me. God really does have a way of answering our prayers in the most unexpected ways.)
For my penance, the priest told me to pray Psalm 8. As I read, I was struck by verses 4-6:
“When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place—What is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god,crowned him with glory and honor.”
How true are these words. One of my favorite things to do during the summer is to lie on the beach at night–with the vast ocean crashing before me, the millions of grains of sand beneath me, and the trillions of stars above me–I am reminded just how small I am in the midst of all of God’s glorious creation, and there is such peace and comfort in that smallness. And then I marvel that our God, who created the oceans and the stars and the earth, has created each of us– you and me–in His image–and I am practically brought to my knees.
Be in constant dialogue with God. He knows all of your thoughts already, so you might as well be honest with Him! If you are struggling with body image, or what other people think of you, turn it over to God in prayer. Ask Him for the grace to grow in the virtue of humility…and be prepared to be humbled! Pray to be free from the fears of judgement, free from the bonds of perfectionism, free from the fear of other people’s opinions of you.
We can best overcome vanity by understanding why it is that we are vain and filling that need inside ourselves.
Ask yourself first, why am I vain? Why do I want to feel proud about myself? My guess is that you want to feel good about yourself, but that you don’t. Or at least a part of you doesn’t, not deep down.
If this is the case, I think that the best way to counter this is to make you feel good about yourself in more satisfying ways. If vanity isn’t satisfying your need, consider what would. Think about things that might make you happy. Don’t just try to think of large ones, think of small ones as well. Would looking at pictures of cute kittens help you? Then do that. Would getting a soda make you feel better? Then do that. The key is to be kind to yourself. Do the things that make you feel good about yourself and you’ll increase your love yourself. I believe that only when you truly love yourself can you be fully happy. I also believe that being willing to like yourself at least a little is the first step. Doing things for yourself lets you like yourself more. Be a friend to yourself. Do nice things for yourself and protect yourself from things that are bad for you.
What you’re calling “vanity” is what I call “the craving for validation of conceptual self”. Conceptual self refers to a kind of identity that is based on the past – ideas, images, and narratives which the mind believes are “myself”, and which are stored as static memories – as opposed to a kind of self-recognition which is rich and alive in the moment.
This is a critical distinction in understanding the resolution of your question: true self cannot be stored in memory, it has to come alive in the moment. But we often don’t understand this – we want to take our “best self from memory” and pile up evidence that it’s permanent, real, and authentic.
That attempt to pile up such evidence is the mind struggling to validate something which is now stored in a flat, 2-dimensional, and “deceased” form… it’s like trying to pour water onto a dried plant, thinking it can come back to life.
So that is always an inauthentic effort, and when you sense “vanity”, that’s what you’re sensing – the confusion of trying to prove that a past-based concept of self is “who I really am”.
It’s a very anxiety-laden effort, because at a deeper level, the mind suspects that it’s own efforts at this are somehow missing the point or pretentious, and does not want to confront that concern… that produces anxiety, and so the individual builds up a sort of social and cognitive “wall” intended to keep that secret: “I suspect that I don’t really know who I am, but I’m trying to resuscitate and prove my best moments from the past so that others will validate them and I’ll feel like I know my true self”.
For me, that’s an EASY one.
I look, and look, and LOOK at GOD!!! That cures my vanity fast!
(In case anyone wonders how I “look at God” … I read the Bible, every day. God is all over it!)
Yes, by the Word of God we can conquer.
For me, one kind of vanity is looking for pleasing people, people’s respecting. By the grace and love of God in Christ , I was healed a lot. When I get to know the truth, who I am, how God look at me, my world view, value was changed. The perspective I look at myself and look at other people was changed. In the unconditional love of God, I was transformed. Amen!