While discussing the importance of personal development with a friend, I was told “Only vain people want to improve themselves, I’m to down to earth for that.”  I was speechless, OK only for a moment, but nevertheless it was an unexpected answer.  Initially, I felt sad that my friend was limiting themselves because of their belief system.  However, upon reflection, I decided to see if there was any truth to this belief.
Vanity is one of the oldest issues and sins of all time.  It has troubled the human race for as long as we know.  Well at least that’s what our documented history provides.  How can we as a society steer away from it?  We simply can’t.  It’s not in our nature.  As much as we try to preach the importance of content over appearance, it just never changes.  Vanity is a part of our society and lives, and there isn’t any getting rid of it.

When you hear the word “vanity,” you may think of fashion models or Hollywood.  It’s a term that rides right along side the media.  Why is this view such an inescapable part of our everyday lives?  I believe it is because we all want to look good.  Many of us will go to extraordinary lengths to look the absolute best we can at all times.  This does not necessarily mean putting in lots of personal effort into a mind-numbing regime.  It may only consist of spending a lot of money on plastic surgery and spas.

Vanity is everywhere.  Our society and media thrive on it.  No matter what anyone says, It has been proven that your looks will get you far in life.  Many times the workforce proves this over and over.  Just walk into a nice restaurant or bar.  Chances are, the management did their best to hire only attractive servers.  But do not misconstrue what I’m saying.  This dilemma and prejudice does not come from business owners as much as it does from the public as a whole.  We, the public, prefer an attractive person to wait on us or work with us in any fashion.  This is rather clear if you look at Hollywood.  The tinsel town is filled with a deluge of pretty faces.  It is a fact that the majority of our society, whether they admit it or not, prefer to watch an attractive leading man or woman.  Again, vanity is an issue here as well.  Being a film geek, I can tell you that most viewers when watching a movie, live vicariously to some extent through a character they relate with.  This is an unconscious, but nevertheless, valid act for many.

As long as we dwell upon the importance of being tall, thin and beautiful, vanity will remain a major concern for the human race.  The innate attraction we all feel toward symmetry and finding an ideal mate is almost impossible to battle.  Therefore, unless we can change our physical DNA, vanity, in reference to image, will continue to remain a paramount concern amongst our beauty-obsessed society.

Since we can not change our DNA, what do we do if we are not tall or thin or outwardly beautiful?  Should we hide?  Should we just give up and be content with a mediocre life?  I believe we should stop dwelling on what we can not change, and focus on what we can and want to change.  Is that not what the word ‘personal’ in personal development means?  Personal development is not about improvement for others, it is about improvement of you.  Personal development to impress others is vain.  Personal development to improve yourself is smart.