Here’s sharing this perceptive video about status anxiety. It presents very well the case of status anxiety that is prevalent in today’s democratic societies such as in America (and I would add countries in Asia that have been westernised or americanised) that are supposedly meritocratic due to the mindset that anyone can become successful, compared to the colonial European feudal or aristocratic societies based on hierarchal class system. As Alain de Botton noted, the idea of success is relative and flimsy as it is dependent on an ever changing perception of material wealth and level of expectation. Even though generally people have more riches than their ancestors or those in aristocratic societies, they tend to compare their lot with their neighbours and friends, in terms of whose house is bigger and whose jobs are better paid, and so on, and the constant propaganda from advertisements, motivational speakers, performance-based religion and government fuels and perpetuates status anxiety and general dissatisfaction with their own lives. He also noted that the system is not as meritocratic as it seems because not everyone rises to the top by hard work and talent alone as there are discrimination and favouritism involved in the system. Besides, the system fails to be compassionate enough to those whose lives have been met with unfortunate incidents, such as those who lost their family members who are breadwinners.
I agree with his views what truly matters in life is spiritual values such as loving one’s neighbours, as demonstrated by Mother Teresa. As one book reviewer also noted:
“Finally, envy can be cured by realizing that anyone’s achievements seem insignificant in the context of the millennia and the expansive wonders of nature. Also, we should always keep in mind that at the end of one’s days, the value of love, true friends, and charity will outweigh the quest for power, wealth, status and glory.”
(From a review of “Status Anxiety”)
Recently, I also reflected that status anxiety in a performance-based society (and religion) can result in self-loathing in people who are conditioned by the competitive and materialistic mindset.
This mindset tends to result in self-loathing because those who subscribe to this competitive mindset inevitably judge their own self-worth based on their performance and accomplishments, and they tend to blame or hate themselves for not being good enough, or not being successful enough, especially when they compare themselves to their competitors, and are always grappling with insecurity as they are thinking how to out-do others in order to prove that they are worthy or successful in the eyes of the society. This mindset may also result in the competition-oriented people becoming cold, callous, inhumane and cruel towards others who are seen as less successful than themselves. This is especially so when they have been trying to suppress their own feelings of weakness and brokenness in themselves, and end up being insensitive towards others who happen to display the very same feelings of weakness and brokenness that they hate in themselves. It is like what Peter Rollins said about people who have not learnt to accept and embrace the otherness in themselves will not be able to accept and embrace the otherness they see in other people.
I think status anxiety pervades human societies throughout history. Perhaps one reason Jesus came then is to renew people’s minds – to change their minds regarding what truly matters in life – to listen to the voice within our true self that affirms our innate intrinsic worth and value instead of listening to external voices of the performance-based societies that threaten to devalue and dehumanise us. Like what this quote by Alain says:
“Our minds are susceptible to the influence of external voices telling us what we require to be satisfied, voices that may drown out the faint sounds emitted by our souls and distract us from the careful, arduous task of accurately naming our priorities.”
― Alain de Botton, Status Anxiety
- Why people in patriarchal societies and Abrahamic religions despise weakness and are addicted to power and success (themysteryofchrist.wordpress.com)
- What Is Living Authentically? (magentafrog.wordpress.com)
- repost of blog 1/ Status Anxiety (soc331.wordpress.com)
- The Dignity In Poverty (theindividualandhisjourney.wordpress.com)
- Impromtu #2 2010 Question 3 (ata2bps.wordpress.com)
- Status Anxiety Factors – This Psychology Speech by Alain de Botton Examines Social Interactions (TrendHunter.com) (trendhunter.com)