It’s certainly true that the way something looks has an impact on how we feel about it. This applies to people (including ourselves), material things, food, the weather, etc. We like to deny this because if we admit it, this might mean that we are judging something or someone on a superficial level. The truth is that we can’t (and shouldn’t) deny that being influenced by appearance is important to a degree. We just have to be balanced about how and how much we are impacted by it.
A few years ago, I did a short stint as a volunteer EMT in a small town ambulance corps (p.s. the task of working there was awfully unmatched with my personality and I didn’t stick with it, even though I knew my grandpa really wanted me to). There was a wide variety of people volunteering, and one guy in particular sticks in my memory. He was probably in his early 40’s and everyone viewed him as a cocky jerk who talked too much. I didn’t know him well at all, but it was easy to see where this judgment came from by the way he acted. Interestingly, he and I had a conversation one day that really made me think.
He was talking about vehicles (and of course I’m now applying it to wellness!), and how it’s important for people to have a certain level of vanity. Like anything else, finding balance between being too vain and not vain enough is key. If you didn’t care at all about how you appeared to the world, you probably wouldn’t make too much effort to choose healthier options (aside from the small things we’d do based on our abstract desires to improve our health). If we didn’t care what people thought about us at all, no one would ever care what kind of car they drove or what brand of jeans they wore. No one would blow-dry their hair or make their homes look nice. People would probably be messier, and industries like spray tanning and jewelry stores would go out of business. Ultimately, it’s only about how much we weigh or if we have the newest version of the iPhone if that’s what we value—and it’s ok to value things as long as we use it correctly and don’t judge what other people value.
Our experiences lead us to having certain priorities when it comes to vanity. For example, I don’t wear jewelry at all. I have no idea why, but it just isn’t something I care about. On the other hand, I color my hair to cover up my premature grays and I like shopping for and wearing premium denim. It makes me feel good when I do these things—so I don’t question whether or not I should. You might place priority on different things regarding your appearance, and for all sorts of reasons, but we all have our points of vanity.
This guy I had the conversation with made me think about how important vanity really is. It usually has a negative connotation, but I think it can be a positive thing. First, if you get enjoyment out of making yourself or your belongings look attractive, then go for it! Second, if you feel more confident and self-assured because you take pride in your appearance, then it can be a great thing.
I was speaking to a woman at RIT this summer who has a few extra pounds (that she’d love to lose, but hasn’t), and she is always dressed well and looks great. She wears clothes that flatter her figure and make her feel good. I’m guessing she also has great furniture and a meticulous yard, just by her personality! She isn’t thrilled about her few extra pounds, but she maximizes her positivity by enhancing the assets she has and doing the so-called vain things that make her feel good and satisfied regardless of the extra weight.
I think we can apply the same concept to food. Make it pretty! Make a big production of using attractive utensils and dishes (i.e. don’t eat out of any cartons!). Present your meal to yourself in a way that makes you visually satisfied by it. Human beings are very visually oriented, so if we can satisfy this, we can probably help ourselves be more satisfied by a meal as a whole. What do you think? Have you done this? If you try it, let me know how it goes.