A few days ago Morgan asked a great question over in this combox. She wanted to know…
“Does anyone else struggle with wanting to look nice vs not being vain? Or is it just the perfectionist in me that thinks it’s impossible to do both?
For some reason this is a hard one for me. If I am dressing so that my body looks nice, am I inherently being vain?”
While I don’t believe one necessarily follows the other, I do recognize that vanity can be a temptation for many women, myself included. We’re women! We like to look lovely! It’s in our nature! Could it be that we occasionally indulge ourselves a bit too much, though?
When I was first wrestling with this question I thought it important to ask myself two things:
1) What are my primary reasons for wanting to look nice?
2) If I do detect some level of vanity does that mean I should stop caring about my appearance?
I thought about it a bit and determined that my reasons for wanting to look nice are threefold:
First, I want my husband to know that more than a decade after we first started dating I still like to look pretty for him. I think that’s a perfectly innocent way for me to express my affection.
Second, I think it’s important to show my children that this vocation of mine is worthy of respect and that I value it. I want them to know how much I love being a wife and mother.
And third, I hope to witness to the culture effectively. I aim to convey to the world that I love my life and am thriving.
(Somewhat related is my goal of becoming more physically fit. I pursue this not to have a hot body–not primarily, anyway–but rather because I want to be as healthy as possible.)
So, those are good, honorable reasons, right? I think so, but–if I’m going to be honest–are those my only reasons for wanting to look nice? Probably not. There have been plenty of times when I’ve been tempted by less virtuous motives.
What’s a gal supposed to do? Do I stop wearing nice clothes? Should I jettison my make-up and stop cutting my hair? Do I let my already out of shape figure become even more so?
After some reflection, I realized my philosophy on this subject can be summed up by borrowing the words of the late, great G. K. Chesterton:
“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”
My motives aren’t always impeccable, no, but I feel certain that making an attempt to look nice is a thing worth doing, even though I may do it badly. After all, who would suffer if I gave up the pursuit of a lovelier me?
Well, I would (for a variety of reasons) but so would my family. No one wants to be around a woman who feels badly about herself. Who would I bless by being too tired or overweight to tend to my duties? What message would I be sending to my children? How effectively could I witness to the culture if I dragged my disheveled self around here, there and everywhere? And how would my husband feel if I never made an effort to dress up a bit for him?
Having said all that, I’m certainly committed to ridding myself of the vice of vanity, I’d just rather not throw the baby out with the bathwater, you know?
What are your thoughts on this? Is vanity something that you struggle with? What are some things we can do to combat vanity while still making an effort to look attractive for the benefit of those around us? And here’s an interesting question…where does our God-given feminine nature (the one that causes us to delight in loveliness) end and vanity begin?
I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
Take care, girls!