Vanity is preoccupation with appearance. It is an obsessive-like frame of mind that’s focused on how people appear to others, putting more effort into looks than substance. Overtime, this progressively leads to conceited, hollow personality traits.

Many aspects of life can be overlooked due to a continuous preoccupation with appearance. This is often represented by a person who has little interest in other people and their concerns. Except when the interest of others is associated with his or her appearance, and then large amounts of time may be spent focusing on intricate facades. Such bias of attention leads to a growing neglect of other issues, so an underdeveloped personality gradually takes root. It’s the preoccupation that leads to the neglect of other aspects of life and not the interest in physical appearance alone. Vanity is the empty shell syndrome. As there’s too much focus upon the external shell, the vain person increasingly possesses an inner cavity. Lack of inward attention makes people empty. This of course is not what the external shell is made to represent. The outside world is denied such unflattering representation, so vanity is therefore a progressively dishonest condition. It is a frame of mind that becomes set on taking credit for the appearance of things.
The product of vanity when successful is attention and esteem from the approval of others. All the effort or cost of maintaining the physical appearances is to this attention-seeking aim. It’s considered a bad investment, for it’s like throwing money into a fruitless venture – a vanity project. Originally, the meaning of vanity only described fruitless behaviour, but now it has a distinct sense of narcissism (excessive interest or admiration for one’s self).

Vanity’s preoccupation with the external things in life can be motivated by different things, yet attracting the admiration of others is highly associated with the condition. Having an addiction to admiration is one way of viewing the experience for some people. This can be very crippling as time goes by. The mechanisms of physical appearance that were employed to gain the admiration of others are seen as a means to an end, and the admiration itself is taken as validation of greatness, so a conceited personality slowly manifests. The conceit can be very difficult to tackle as it’s held in place by real perceptions of admiration from others. The quality of that admiration is highly questionable though, for the people who display it have bought in to the surface image that has been presented, and the vain know this in their heart. This gives the condition its notably subtle, yet self-delusive, impact on any psychological makeup. In this respect, vanity is concerned with receiving admiration for admirations sake. It may not matter how questionable the admiration is, only that it’s received.
To be preoccupied with anything is to focus on that thing above and beyond other issues. This is a useful ability to have in the short-term when people are dealing with immediate issues. If it continues for any length of time, the preoccupation will be at the expense of other issues. This is true for any issue, and not only appearance.
If the problem is left to develop unchallenged, neglect to other aspects of their life is not the only problem. People can become absorbed into the preoccupation of their appearance as it becomes established as their way of receiving positive attention. This means the vain increasingly use skin-deep judgements, criticise, and discipline others according to their shallow field of vision, asserting their beliefs with convictions based on the approval they have received from others.

The main point is that it’s the preoccupation that’s the important focus. A healthy mentality cares about appearance as many aspects of reality show themselves in physical characteristics. To pay attention to appearance is important, but vanity’s obsession does this at the cost of everything else.


Latin. Vanus = fruitless, empty, to leave, abandon, give out.

Latin. Vacare = to be empty.

1. Given to or indulging in personal vanity; having an excessively high opinion of one’s own appearance, attainments, qualities, possessions, etc.; delighting in, or desirous of attracting, the admiration of others; conceited.

2. Devoid of real value, worth, or significance; idle, unprofitable, useless, worthless; of no effect, force, or power; fruitless, futile, unavailing.

3. Of persons: devoid of sense or wisdom; foolish, silly, thoughtless; of an idle or futile nature or disposition.