Like I mentioned before, I’ve been writing a lot about compassion because it’s been heavy on my mind. It’s become a big part of me becoming who I am without chastising myself to an excessive degree, and it’s been a big part of me letting go of the “I’m going to judge you for not being as [insert description] as me.” Compassion means a lot to me.

For a long time, I criticized the fact that people would say they didn’t need to “lose weight” because they already looked good, because since people are often conflating “losing weight” with “health,” it’s safe to assume they’re saying they don’t want to address their health because they don’t want to change the way they look. I mean, I don’t take that criticism back – I still mean every word of it – but I wonder.

When I let go of that mentality, I also let go of my desire to be vain in regards to my looks. When I have some place to be, I make sure that I’m respectably presentable, but I changed my mentality. I kind of fell to the background – instead of trying to be the always present, unavoidable, funny “big girl” – and really, with good reason. Losing 50, 100, 150lbs can play a big strange role in regards to comfort. Let’s just say that it does a number on how you see yourself, and a lot of the things we think of ourselves change immediately, because our bodies change… sometimes, immediately. I can’t be proud of the fact that I’ve got racks on racks on racks if my boobs are gone. I can’t love all on my “thick thighs” if they’re shrinking. You just have to change the way you see yourself, and for me, it was best to do that out of the spotlight.

I also had to think about the vain people I know, and what I think of when I think of “vain people.” Honestly, I think of jerks who down other people in order to make themselves feel better. I think of people so entranced by their own image that they don’t see you standing next to them. I think of a lot of extremes, but I ignored the nuances to vanity.

Here is how vanity is defined:

Vanity: [n.] excessive pride in one’s appearance, abilities, qualities or achievements. Character or quality of being vain; conceited.

Excessive pride in one’s appearance? Hmmm.

I mean, I’m not going to lie. Am I proud of what I’ve accomplished? Absolutely. Excessively proud? Yes. I’m also excessively proud of the child I’ve raised, the community I’ve built around this blog and my cooking skills. Oh, my cooking is awesome.

In other words, I question whether the pride is the problem instead of the problem being how that pride manifests itself in how we treat others. I think I’m awesome, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t awesome as well… and my thinking I’m awesome shouldn’t come at the expense of your self-esteem in the process. This goes in reverse, too. I shouldn’t take offense to someone else feeling good about themselves… unless they’re highlighting an insecurity within me that makes me uncomfortable, and even then, that has everything to do with me. Not them.

That may be more important than I think it is, though. Think about it – if I can be vain about my hair, my shoes, and my clothes… why can’t I be vain about my body? It’s taken as an affront to mankind if I praise my abs, my hips or my arms. Immediately, someone would feel compelled to take it upon themselves to sling arrows and throw insults if I started to praise my arm work. “You’re about to look like a man in a minute.” “Girl, men don’t want an ass like that. They want one like this!”

These experiences have taught me that the “problem” with vanity, so to speak, is expressing it publicly. I can be proud of myself – excessively proud, even – without verbalizing it to everyone else, especially people who may not understand. I believe that’s where compassion comes into play. When we talk about our bodies and realize that not everyone has had their “come to fitness” moment, some people may feel like talking about your changing body openly is a form of chastising them or making them feel less than… especially since we are a society where we’re always comparing ourselves to someone else [unnecessarily]. A little sensitivity might be hard to muster when we’re so excited, but then again, no one said compassion was an easy concept to master.

Really, this is where I rest with it. I’m just as vain about my body as I am about anything else. I’m proud of it – what it tolerates, what I put it through, and how it grows and changes because of it. I don’t need to be vainglorious about it and hold it up in your face, though. My pride shines through in how I care for myself. I don’t need to compound it by constantly talking about it, too.

I know that my opinion differs greatly from others on this, so I’d like to know what you think. What role do you think vanity plays in a weight loss journey? Is there a place for vanity? Is there a point where it’s no longer vanity and simply narcissism… or are the two the same for you? Let’s hear it!

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