When the Avoidance of Pride Leads to Vanity
"Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity to what we would have others think of us." - Mary, Pride and Prejudice
I have always avoided being proud.
For most of my life, I understood pride to be a bad quality. It was pitted against the virtue of humility. Being humble was good, being proud was bad.
I used to look down upon people who seemed prideful. This, I realize now, is rather ironic. The more I observe myself, the more I'm discovering that my avoidance of pride was actually one of the most insidious forms of pride.
Or, more accurately, vanity.
I didn't want to be perceived as proud, even when deep down I felt pride. In an attempt to maintain a self-image, I repressed my pride and tried to keep up appearances of indifference.
My disgust for pride drove me to vanity and apathy, all the while I was thinking myself humble.
You know how there are a lot of people who make fun of hipsters? If my suspicions are correct, many of these critics are just as vane or more so than the hipsters they regularly chide. I say this from personal experience.
I'm learning that if you're that concerned with other peoples' possible vanity and pride, the odds are you're the one with the real problem.
In college, I wrestled a lot with my feelings of pride and vanity. It seemed like I was always the most knowledgeable and skilled in many of the classes I took. There were times where I even taught some of my teachers things about the subject that they didn't know.
I wanted to let myself feel proud of my accomplishments and knowledge in college, but I didn't want it to go to my head. And I definitely didn't want other people to know that I was proud.
When I wrote my first book, I was proud. But I tried to not let that pride be seen.
Pride was not who I was. Or, as I realize now, pride was not what I wanted others to see in me.
For most of my life, pride has been completely wrapped up in vanity. In my pursuit of humility and forsaking of pride, I have actually ended up farther away from the mark than I could have possibly imagined.
Instead of true humility, I have achieved low self-esteem, a lack of confidence in myself, and an acute state of vanity.
We typically think of vanity as being tied together with pride and lofty feelings of oneself, but it goes the other direction just as easily.
So, I find myself needing to allow pride in my life. I find myself needing to instill some confidence into my work.
I know this is true because I constantly feel insecure about everything I do. I always find myself concerned with what other people might think of me. And so, the only cure I see available to me at the moment is to start stepping out and not concerning myself with maintaining a certain appearance.
If I do not do this, I won't be moving in the right direction. I know this because my work and my creativity has suffered immensely from self-doubt and ego-control. I've hesitated and not created certain things because I don't want people to think of me "like that".
I don't want people to think of me as pretentious or naive, and so I end up shoving myself downward. The opposite of pretension is just as toxic as pretension, though.
The common thread through all of this is me waking up to all the ways my ego and self-concept have limited and held me back.
I even hesitated in writing this because my ego tells me it doesn't want people to think of me as a yet-to-be-fully-realized human being. I don't want people knowing that I'm in the process. That's not respectable.
But, on a deeper level, my true being reminds me that I'm not so different from everyone else. We all are letting our egos and self-concepts run our lives.
We're rooting our identities in what we want other people to see as our identity.
Learning to let go of this is difficult. We want to have something we can hold on to as "me".
This is me, this isn't me.
I'm not like that. I'm like this.
Perhaps the greatest act of vanity we all are consumed with is the multitude of ways we try to keep up appearances with our self.
Maybe the next step we need to take requires us to stop caring what our self thinks about us.