Status Anxiety

“Our position on the ladder is important to us because our self-image (how we perceive ourselves) is directly related to how others perceive us. With rare exceptions (such as Socrates and Jesus), we all seek and rely on some signs that the world respects us to tolerate ourselves.” -Status Anxiety, Alain de Botton

Feb 11, 2024 - 11:28
Feb 11, 2024 - 20:14
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Status Anxiety
Status Anxiety

The word status comes from Latin, status means "standing position". Status is, in a way, our standing in society. Status brings money, freedom, and success, but perhaps the most important thing that status brings to us is the moments when we are made to feel that we are cared for and valuable.

Status anxiety is one of the phenomena that has been present in people's lives since ancient times. Its history began with agricultural societies and the transition to settled life. As people began to acquire goods and property, the concept of status and then status anxiety began to emerge in parallel. Although status anxiety has changed shape from ancient times to these times, it is fundamentally the same. Status anxiety is shaped through the concepts of loss of power, dysfunction, and failure. Examples such as people working in the same job, life stories published in the newspaper, or our friends achieving greater success than us trigger the concept of status in us. Comparison is one of the most important factors that trigger status anxiety. While in a group of five people, everyone being approximately the same height does not affect the morale of the people in this group, a high height difference in another group may cause people to feel inferior. Status anxiety is the result of all our expectations and comparisons. Studies have shown that instead of comparing ourselves with people in the news who we see as very successful, we compare ourselves with the success of the people around us in daily life and we feel more anxiety about the people around us. The main reason for this comes from the idea that the value our close friends and people around us will give us if we are successful will increase. There are two main reasons why we need approval from others. The first of these is the physical one, which can cause physical discomfort and danger if we are not approved by society. Approval from the majority always makes you feel safer. Secondly, there are psychological reasons for our need for approval from society. If we are not respected by others, our self-confidence may be compromised. However, Schopenhauer's words can enlighten us about the value of respect: "If a musician were told that the audience consisted entirely of deaf people, except for one or two people, would the musician still be proud of the enthusiastic applause of the audience?"

Another important factor in status anxiety is meritocracy. With the spread of the concept of meritocracy, status anxiety has become a more common situation. According to meritocracy, as long as people are successful, they deserve respect and, accordingly, they gain status in society. Although it may seem fair, meritocracy cannot be taken as an effective method of self-evaluation in the long run because it focuses solely on one's achievements and ignores the impact of external factors on success.

There are three most effective ways to deal with status anxiety. First, it can achieve meritocracy by not fully accepting it. We can achieve this by being aware that our failures are not entirely due to ourselves. Second, it can help us to define our definition of success. There is no single path to success. Society's understanding of success limits us in many ways and causes us to worry. But our definitions reduce our anxiety by giving us freedom and flexibility. As a result, we must be aware that our successes are separate from our personalities. Although our many achievements are respected by society, we should not forget that each individual has their unique characteristics.




De Botton, A. (2008). Status anxiety. Vintage.



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Meltem Pazar Odtü Kuzey Kıbrıs Kampüsünde 4.sınıf Psikoloji öğrencisiyim. Sosyal psikoloji, nöropsikoloji ve felsefe ilgi alanlarım arasında. Bu konular üzerine araştırma ve okuma yapmaktan keyif alıyorum. En sevdiğim hobim kitap okumak. Her daim yeni bilgiler edinmeyi ve öğrenmeyi seviyorum.