No one thinks that brushing one’s teeth is vain. It’s just good hygiene. Most agree that braces would also be an acceptable thing to do in our culture today. Some people think elective surgery is vain unless someone is recovering from breast cancer. Yet, working out isn’t seen as vain unless you are building your muscles excessively large. Then again, if you are an athlete, culturally speaking, you get a pass.
Vain has funky standards. An invisible line we draw. And yet…
Vanity is something that happens in our heads. If we do something to feed our obsessive high opinion of ourselves, clearly that is vain. We assume people are vain because of the story we are telling ourselves. Because we can never actually know what is going in, what the voice in their head is saying.
All we know is what we assume.