Why I Need Radical Vanity… and Why You Need It Too

Let’s talk about vanity. It’s defined as “excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.” A lot of us think of vanity as synonymous with self-absorption--as in, inconsiderate of others, disinterested in other human beings. But if we take a minute to think about it, the two are completely separate.

Raise your hand if this has ever been you. You hear someone say…

“Girl, you look great in that top!” and respond, “This old thing? It was like a dollar on the clearance rack…”

Or a friend says, “You are working that outfit!” and respond, “OMG, I feel huge, I’ve gained a million pounds…”

Someone comments, “Your eyelashes are so long!” or “You’ve got great shoulders!” and you answer, "Oh, but my hair is frizzy, my nose is crooked, my eyebrows are too thin.” The self-inflicted insults keep on coming.

Stop. Just stop.

Time after time, we hear a compliment and feel compelled to deny, deny, deny. What is that?!

What if every time we told our children, “You are kind, you are smart, I love you…,” they answered by countering that love and attention with an insult against themselves?

Seriously, take a moment and pick any favorite quality in your little one. Imagine telling your child about how much you admire her strength, his bravery, or your baby’s sweet cuddles. Now, imagine they respond by disagreeing and insulting themselves. It’s grotesque.

If your child were to accept the truth in your words, it wouldn't be vanity. It would be power. Self-respect. Love.

Radical vanity, a term and a movement invented by coach and speaker Jessi Kneeland, “is a call for backlash against the idea that a woman should give to others [more] than she gives to herself, and an acknowledgement that only when our needs are fully met can we show up fully to help others.”

It’s a call to believe in our beauty, both outer and inner. To stop apologizing for taking up space, for prioritizing self-care, for being ourselves. As Kneeland puts it, “radical vanity is about starting a movement toward reclaiming our time and energy and attention, and spending it on ourselves first.”


I vow, for at least the next week, to receive compliments, without disagreement, argument, or excuse.

I vow to stop seeing my perceived flaws as defects or failings. To love them and believe they’re a source of power. My broad shoulders are those of an Iron Maiden. My mama hips are a portal for new life. My freckles and moles are constellations God wrote on my skin.

I vow to stop looking for flaws in myself and in others. I vow to focus on the GOOD in my mind, in my heart, in the mirror, in my life.

I vow to take the steps I should for my body, mind, and spirit. To give up the guilt of having my own needs. To show my children that self-care is a sign of self-love. And to stop apologizing about it.

I vow to try silencing the inner critic who rears her ugly head, and ugly words, when these moments arise in my life.

At the end of the day, I’m going to use my children as a litmus test. If a son or daughter of mine were to believe he or she was beautiful, strong, brave, smart, funny, worthwhile, would I believe my child was too vain? No.

I’d celebrate it.

Let’s celebrate it in ourselves. I’m practicing radical vanity. How about you?

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