Reader T. M. writes:

I have been accused lately of being too vain. What can I do to stop this?

Dear T.M.:

I have several suggestions on curbing vanity. While none of these things will actually help with the vanity inherent in your personality, it may strike a blow or two to your ego, or at least convince you to care about other things for a while. Self-absorption tends to be the issue people have with vain folks, so focusing your attention outside your own looks is your best bet.

so vain.

Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Being vain isn’t necessarily the worst flaw in the world, either. While it is associated with being cocky or self-centered, vanity tends to make people take care of themselves. And people who take care of themselves can be rather nice to look at, if nothing else.

Nevertheless, if you feel as though you need to change, then I have a few ideas.

Some of these suggestions are things over which you will have no control. I’ll start with the ones you DO have control over:

Get a really bad haircut. If you’re a young woman, shave your head, or just cut it really short. If you’re a guy… just get something awful. Not stylish-awful like a mullet. I mean like a bowl cut.

Do something you’re really bad at as a hobby. Bad at languages? Take a class in something that doesn’t use the Roman alphabet — like Greek or Chinese or Russian. Not sporty? Join a sports league. If you are sporty, join a volleyball or softball team that always loses. Bad singer? Start going to karaoke religiously. Sing in front of strangers til they boo you off the stage.

Start riding your bike everywhere. You’ll be sweaty and gross all the time. You won’t be able to wear cute clothes or shoes, and bike gear is always ugly. Plus, if you’re new to it, you’ll be falling down in front of people. A lot.

Get rid of all the mirrors in your house. You don’t have to throw them out or sell them, but hide them. Try going a week without looking at yourself. (This is extremely difficult — there are mirrors everywhere.)

Do some seriously gritty charity work. I don’t mean charity fundraising or walking the dogs at the animal shelter. I mean the ugly, hard work — cleaning toilets, cleaning out the cages at the animal shelter, picking up trash on the freeway, painting over graffiti. The stuff that doesn’t get you accolades. The stuff that’s really difficult and messy that no one else wants to do.

– Apply to jobs that are just out of your qualification zone and ask for too much money. They’ll turn you down, and they won’t say it was because of the money. You can just assume it’s because they found you lacking in every aspect of your existence.

Really pay attention to how people react to you. Your friend that accused you of being too vain may not be the only person who finds your behavior annoying.

Things over which you have little to no control:

Get hives. Big ones. Big itchy ones that you can’t stop scratching. Not only will you be terribly uncomfortable, but people will think you’re probably contagious. If you know what you’re allergic to, roll around in it. Otherwise, just wait for the plague to strike.

Get acne. Same thing as hives, only less itchy. Just uncomfortable. You can probably achieve this by not washing your face very often.

Get turned down in several romantic opportunities. Sure, this is unpredictable, but you can have a part in it. Make advances on people you know are way out of your league, especially if it’s intellectually or based on appearances. When they turn you down, ask them why, and hope they actually bother to let you know.

Come down with a really serious illness. I’m talking the kind that puts you in the hospital for weeks and leaves you all skin and bones. Obviously, this will make you realign your priorities.

Okay, you probably don’t have to go to such extremes to conquer vanity. Simply being aware of your vanity can help you at least get it under control. But if you want to go all out, do a combination of any of the above and see where your head’s out a few months later.


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