…….. You probably think this blog is about you
For those unaware of the titled words (shame on you); You’re So Vain is a classic song written and performed by Carly Simon back in 1972 about a self absorbed lover. This song has always somehow, subconsciously, informed my thinking about vanity and what it means.
To me, vanity always had a negative connotation, as it is often used along the lines of “you’re always looking in the mirror, you’re so vain”, with a tut and a sneer. But what does it really mean, and why is there such negativity attached to it?
Vanity, according to the Oxford English dictionary, is the “excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements”. As I wondered what is wrong with being proud of one’s own appearance or achievements, I realised quickly that actually there is nothing wrong with that.
The key lies in how this pride is portrayed. Therefore the negative connotation towards vanity should be attributed to those who show excessive pride in their appearance or achievements. Surely if you don’t show it, there’s nothing to be ashamed about. You can be proud of yourself, and for yourself only, without having to prance around like a peacock.
Throughout my various attempts to work with personal trainers, whenever they asked me what my goals were, the answer was always “to stay fit”. Which I now know is pretty much a meaningless statement. Those personal trainers should have known better.
Fitness goals and aspirations need to be more precise. Sure a long term goal can be “to stay fit, healthy and live longer”, but there has to be more substance to drive those goals. To live longer and see your grandchildren is highly admirable, but it is hard for that goal to sustain you for longer periods if you do not feel any improvements, or see any differences in the mirror.
Therefore up until recently, my reason to exercise was to stay fit and not return to being fat like I was in my twenties and early thirties. It never crossed my mind that I should exercise to look better, because this for me was a negative association. I aligned looking better with vanity, and vanity with self absorption.
Then something dawned on me; if I was exercising regularly and eating relatively healthily, why did my body shape still look the same? It frustrated me, and drove me to find the answers.
That’s when my shift in thinking began. My long term goals were still to live healthy and live longer so I could be active with my grandchildren. But I added shorter term goals to improve my appearance and body composition. Once that shift happened the direction of my research changed, which led me to find Michael Matthews book Bigger Leaner Stronger and his excellent podcasts.
This was a paradigm shift in my mentality, a shift which changed my training, nutrition, and how I viewed vanity. The realisation that there is a direct connection between muscularity and a healthy active longevity was mind blowing. Up until that point I always believed we would age, whither, wrinkle and die. Once that connection was discovered and I realised that is not the way life needs to end, there is another way to thrive into old age and always be able to stay active, my whole attitude towards myself and my body changed.
My short term goal shifted to build muscle and look good with my shirt off at 50. It was only my attitude towards the negative connection attached to vanity which stopped me looking into that direction and saying those words out loud.
So now, yes I do have excessive pride in my own appearance and achievements, and I am not ashamed to feel that. I have worked hard to get to where I am and there is no reason to not be proud. If that is vanity, I can now say “guilty as charged”. But as long as that vanity is coupled with humility, and to always remember where I came from, there is no longer any reason to be ashamed of vanity.
Now at the age of 51, I look better than ever and have taken the vanity model of looking at myself to a whole new level. I stretch and squat and walk in front of the mirror continuously looking at myself to ensure I am aligned and moving with correct posture. This added mirror posing has massively increased the connection to my own body, which continuously reminds me wherever I am how to stand up straight and walk correctly.
Judy at Posture Plus was the first to point out to me in 2015 the disconnect between how we think we look and move, to how we actually do look and move. It totally shocked me and has informed my body correctional journey ever since. The most simple human practice such as walking upright using the correct posture takes a huge amount of effort for me, so if I do not monitor myself by using the mirror, it’s easy to forget how that feels and slouch back into a more comfortable pose.
If you’ve been working hard to achieve your best body ever, you can be proud, be vain, and use that image as a goal to keep driving you forward so you can thrive in old age. Just always be sure to keep that pride to yourself and remain humble, because you do not want Carly singing in your ears with her venomous spite about a man who loves himself too much.