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Central Standard

You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Article Is About You

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Thousands of us make New Year's resolutions. When the clock marks the start of a new year, it's also a new opportunity for self-improvement. However, many of these resolutions will fall into the trap of being more about the "self" part rather than the "improvement" part.

On Monday's Central Standard, host Bill Anderson and psychologist Bruce Liese observe aspects of vanity and help tweak your New Year's resolutions so they are less about physical appearance and more about giving back to family, friends and community.

Here are three things you may not have known about vanity:

  1. Vanity, in small doses, can actually be very important in life.
    “It’s about being part of the human community,” says Dr. Liese. Without a little bit of vanity, one could miss important opportunities — both in work and in relationships. Caring about the impression you leave on the world does not make you vain, but when you’re making decisions based solely on that impression, it becomes a problem. You just have to be aware of the appropriate expectations around you.
  2. Women tend to focus on themselves and their appearance more than men.
    One study Dr. Liese referenced in the program indicated this is due to women being socialized to pay more attention to their bodies and thus spend more time and effort perfecting them. Meanwhile, men have been taught to focus on careers, wealth, and success. “Vanity is rooted in the way we are socialized, says Dr. Liese. “We are a country that is constantly being reminded about what beautiful or sexy looks like. I guarantee there are other countries who aren’t thinking about tight abs right now.”
  3. Although the word vain immediately brings to mind images primping and preening in front of a mirror, it can also mean ineffectual, empty, and unsuccessful.
    Think of a "vain effort," for example. Because of this, it may not always be just about looks. A vain person could also strive for popularity or success, consumed and seduced by vanity. The difference between narcissism and vanity is that the vain see something lacking, whereas a narcissist already sees perfection.

Bonus: Carly Simon has still yet to reveal who was the subject of her 1972 hit song, "You're So Vain." Guesses have ranged from James Taylor to David Bowie to Warren Beatty to Cat Stevens and Mick Jagger, but it has never been fully divulged.


  • Dr. Bruce Liese, Professor of Family Medicine at KU Medical Center
Central Standard Bruce Liese
Matthew Long-Middleton has been a talk-show producer, community producer, Media Training Manager and now the Community Engagement Manager at KCUR. You can reach him at Matthew@kcur.org, or on Twitter @MLMIndustries.