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When Vanity Hurts

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We can all be vain at times. But sometimes our vanities get in the way of common sense, good health practices. For me, the big health-hindering vanity is shoes—the more impractical the better. Since it's almost summertime, I've stocked up on foot constricting—yet terribly stylish—sandals. Would my podiatrist approve? No. Do I know he wouldn't approve? Yes. Is this stopping me from buying the shoes I love? Well, not really. Which means my feet end up having white dry spots and pink blisters all over them. But I'm not alone. Some people hate the way they look in glasses so much that they walk around blind. Other people squeeze themselves into uncomfortable pants because they don't want to move a size up. Are we all suffering from some strange form of self-abusing narcissism? Maybe.

I catch colds because I insist upon wearing new short-sleeved sweaters on still-frigid April days. I throw my back out of whack from lugging around a too-heavy designer bag—which when fully stocked with all my magazines, books, cell phone, wallet, notepads, and planners weighs a good 8 pounds. And I refuse to wear a more ergonomically correct—yet hopelessly geeky—backpack that would perhaps save my back.

I know how foolish this is, and I can hear you sighing at my stupidity. But can you honestly say that you don't employ all sorts of silly tricks to make yourself seem more attractive—even if it means compromising your health?

On the other hand, vanity is what keeps us from walking around in pajamas all day, and moves some of us to go for a run or head to the gym. So a little egotism is a good thing after all. The problem comes when the price you pay against your health is too high.

The health price I pay to satisfy my vanities seems token—heck, I can still walk, right? But that's not true for everyone. A good friend of mine has taken unhealthy vanities to the extreme. Her sole satisfaction in life comes from looking skinny. She feels proud of herself when she doesn't eat and disgusted with herself if she doesn't work out.

The saddest part of it this is that my friend realizes her vanity is making her miserable, depressed, and probably sick. Yet she continues in her destructive quest. That's when vanity becomes insanity. Unfortunately, few of us know when we're about to cross the line from swollen feet in the name of fabulous shoes to pure self-abuse. To steer clear of that slippery slope, maybe I'll try to put my health first, perhaps by switching to comfy shoes. After all, they do make some pretty stylish sneakers these days, right?

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