Deconstructing Conflict, Part 3: Vanity

Vanity is not only expected, our me-first culture encourages it. What steps can we take to make sure that it doesn’t consume us? 

How does vanity integrate with conflict?

Vanity might conflict’s most important element. It’s great and awful. It’s 2017. We are vain. It’s not our fault. We must use vanity to get where we want to go. Our friend Merriam-Webster defines vanity as “inflated pride in oneself or one’s appearance.” In a job market where creating a personal brand is an important achievement, it is no wonder that vanity is so prevalent. Similarly, because of social media’s ubiquity, it’s easier than ever to be vain. 


The Big 4. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter. Vanity, vanity, vanity, vanity. Instagram’s purpose? To share personal pictures. Snapchat? To share personal pictures. Facebook and Twitter? To share personal pictures, with context. These services thrive because of and are worth billions due to vanity. How does vanity impact conflict?

Vanity in Conflict

On the surface, vanity and conflict are separate. When we imagine conflict, we think of conflicts between people. It is not clear how vanity and conflict connect. Let’s explore. A big reason that we conflict is because we are vain. Think about it. How many of your life’s conflicts arise because someone offends you. Someone questions what you’re eating, how you dress, what you did with your hair, how you manage your pets, how you raise your children, your political views? None of these conflicts would exist if we did not have “inflated pride in oneself.”

On a personal note, I struggle with my appearance. Constantly, I read articles on how to dress more stylishly or how to create my personal style. I won’t ever be a GQ model, and I won’t have the discipline to have a Steve Jobs or a Mark Zuckerberg uniform. I will always fall somewhere in the middle, and I must accept that. But that doesn’t mean that when I buy a new piece of clothing and wear it out that I don’t get super excited and explanatory when someone compliments me. We all do it.

You: “Oh my gosh, those are great shoes.”

Me: “Yes, I got them for $40 dollars through Amazon. They are great! Thanks!”

That very normal exchange exists because of vanity. But is it bad?

Vanity is not THAT bad

To thrive in our competitive society, we become vain. Vanity helped us become more aware of our health, appearance, and lifestyle. We must find balance; it always exists. Moderation is key. Do we need to post so much on social media? Probably not. Can our vanity through social media create conflict? Yes. We’ve all read the stories about that person who “spoke their mind” on social media, only to get fired the next day. Or the person who “called in sick” but was actually on vacation. Don’t be dumb. Your friends, family, and followers enjoy seeing your face and hearing your thoughts. Just remember that too much of anything is bad.

Remember, you’re important. You’re important to a lot of people, whether you know it or not. And even though you’re important, when you’re doing all these vain things, you might be creating conflict. It might be a conflict between you and another person, but it might lead to someone else’s conflict. Your post about anything remotely divisive might lead to a conflict between two people you don’t even know. Why? Because person #1 might agree with you and person #2 might not.

Further, these vain posts can lead to conflict within. Especially proud of your newest accomplishment? Great! Ever posted about that accomplishment only to have someone disagree, or worse, demonize your accomplishment to the point where you no longer feel the same way about it? Yikes. There are always consequences to actions, so stay mindful about what you post, but more importantly remain aware of your why.

Learning from Vanity

Learning is key here. Ever post something that results in negative attention? Hopefully we’ve learned to avoid posting things like that in the future. The problem and the solution are one in the same. Life is an experiment, and we have to work to improve everyday. It’s great to read about personal success stories, but we rarely learn what happened next. It would be great to learn that one success led to more successes. Often, we don’t.

This also applies to vanity. Share to your close friends, your family, your followers. Engage with your audience. Just remember to try to take something away from every post, like, comment, and follow-up.

Approaching Conflict without Vanity

The key to approaching conflict without vanity is to listen. Listen. Often, when we conflict, we wait to say what we need to say. We don’t listen to the other person. We bide our time so we can say what’s on our mind. But, when we listen, really listen, we can avoid further conflict. Listening leads to mutual understanding. Mutual understanding leads to less conflict.

So, let’s try to keep vanity out of conflict, just for a few days, and see if anything changes. I’m willing to bet that it will have a bigger impact than you think.

Next week: Practice Reframing

Next time, I will take a look back at reframing, using examples of how to reframe certain phrases and ideas to see if it changes how we think about them. See you then!

I will work with you to help you overcome any issues you have resolving conflicts in your life. Start reframing today.