First off, the first edition of Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton was written in 2004. Facebook was founded in 2004 and Twitter was founded in 2006. So, this book is most likely not about what first flashed in your mind (#instagood, #ootd, #bieberbestfans2016). It goes back in time, way back in time, and examines our behaviors around status from the beginning, and it’s actually a fascinating history read.
It explores simpler times when there were three classes: peasants, nobility, and clergy. You were born into one of these three classes and that’s where you stayed. If you were a peasant you didn’t have grandiose dreams to one day become a queen, you accepted who you were and did the damn best you could with the tools you had. You weren’t told “You’re special, Lyndsey. You can grow up to be whatever you want!” like we all are in the 21st century. You were focused on doing well, not getting ahead. Which is something I think we’ve forgotten as a society as of late. We need to get that 1,000th Twitter follower, or reach 10x blog traffic this month, or get promoted in under a year at our new job. But acquiring or reaching those goals will only increase our happiness temporarily… until the novelty wears off and we need to start working toward our next goal to feel successful again.
But I believe a simple awareness of this loop can lead you to live a more mindful and happy day-to-day.
Luckily, Seth Godin agrees with me and I don’t have to write a separate blog post on status anxiety in 2015. 😉 Comparing ourselves to one another and wanting more for the sake of “getting ahead” is a really quick way to do the opposite - it'll stagnate our growth while sending us several steps back.
We can learn an invaluable amount from history about ourselves, who we are today, and where we’re going. It’s funny how history tends to repeat itself… Maybe all of the knowledge and lessons are actually out there in universe, just waiting for us to stumble upon them and learn something.
Take a second to think. When was the last time you wanted something for the sake of moving “up"? Perhaps a promotion to manager? Or surpassing 100 likes on your last Instagram photo?
And when was the last time you sat down and thought “Will I be a good manager? How do I contribute best to this company?” “Why is this photo special to me? What will I gain if it reaches 100 likes?"
"Man is rich in proportion to the things he can live without." - Henry David Thoreau