46. Nietzsche on Vanity, Conformity, and Passion
In his book Daybreak (Cambridge, translated by R.J. Hollingdale), Friedrich Nietzsche writes something remarkable about vanity:
“Vanity is the fear of appearing original: it is thus a lack of pride, but not necessarily a lack of originality.” (aphorism # 365)
Could this be right? Could it be that vain people think about their appearance and reputation so much because they are afraid of appearing original? The more one thinks about it, the more intriguing this thesis is. Far from being obsessed with their own self, the vain cover that self up so they can fit in, gain approval, etc. To this end, they must continually engage in complex maintenance. Nietzsche elaborates in # 385:
“The Vain.- We are like shop windows in which we are continually arranging, concealing or illuminating the supposed qualities others ascribe to us – in order to deceive ourselves.”
Note the use of the word ‘we’…we all are, presumably, vain to some extent. Is there any way to escape vanity according to Nietzsche? Yes:
“Without Vanity. – Passionate people think little of what others are thinking: the condition they are in raises them above vanity.” (#394).