The Difference Between Self Love and Vanity

Ever heard of the story of Narcissus?

Narcissus was avidly known for being handsome and he was quite proud of his physical appearance. Narcissus was so infatuated with his good looks, that when he saw his reflection in the water, he fell in love with it and fell in the water!

There’s definitely some speculation about what happened to Narcissus after he fell in the water, but what we learned from him was the risk involved with this particular “love of your physical self”. There is a big difference between feeling yourself, like Narcissus did, and obtaining self-love in your relationship with yourself.

man carrying mirror

Photo by Matheus Augusto on

When we think of what it means to be vain, we sometimes refer to Narcissus’ experience, as to be inflated pride in oneself or one’s appearance (Merriam-Webster). It is the emphasis on ‘inflated‘ that we want to focus on in looking at the difference between vanity and self-love.

While loving your physical self is part of being self-loving, only focusing on your looks is a surface-level acceptance of self. Vanity is connected to ego and perfectionism, concepts that can limit our ability to love our whole selves.

When someone only exercises vanity, they may lose out of the rich and fulfilling self-connection that self-love can bring.

On the other hand, self-love is the deep care, acceptance, admiration and appreciation that you have in your relationship with yourself. Unlike vanity, self-love is recognizing the internal and external parts of yourself and having love for them. When we think of self-love, we also think of having:

  • Self-compassion for yourself
  • Patience for your growing edges
  • Appreciation for your strengths and your challenges
  • Awareness of yourself and what your needs are
  • Understanding that physical looks are only one component of who you are
    photo of woman looking up while laughing

    Photo by Luis Fernandes on

Simply put, vanity is the shallow appreciation of self. Vanity is “skin-deep” and in only recognizing your physical looks, you miss out on having a deeper connection with yourself.

Self-love is not vanity: it is taking in the whole you and loving the whole you from the inside-out.

What do you believe the differences are between vanity and self-love?


  1. Easter Brown says

    Sharing this with my GatorGirls and other young girls at my school who are struggling to find the balance during this social media age. Thank you Michelle!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: