The trouble with lusting after status

Thu, 2018-02-01

Status is a constant in human life, although much of the time we don’t think about it because it’s everywhere and takes so many forms.

It’s been said that “if it doesn’t happen on YouTube, it didn’t happen.” But are those messages helping or hindering? Are we unintentionally inviting individuals to seek their moments of fame at the expense of building community and demonstrating civility with others?

Riches, strength, height, slenderness, muscularity. Being the best at something. Being the worst. Being the funniest. The rudest. The most beautiful. The most intelligent. The most aggressive. The most notorious.  Being top dog or official. Wearing the latest clothes or uniform. Owning the most land. Having the most attractive or dominant partner. A bigger house. The best vacations. Knowing the right people. Knowing the most people.

Status isn’t about being these things. Yet so many get drawn into the illusion.

We fight (some of us more than others) to rise in hierarchy, in whatever form it may take. Employees sacrifice one another for attention from those who can promote them. Feuding ex-lovers exaggerate truths in order to gain support from friends or the judiciary process. Bystanders take video of a scenario rather than leaping into action to help someone in danger. We cry foul against former bosses, politicians, religious leaders, business owners and neighbours.

Why?

Because, sadly, outrage captures more attention (and thus status) than civility-based behaviours.

It’s inherently human to want to be significant in some capacity.

It’s natural to want to feel more control and influence over the progression of our lives.

You see it in infants striving for independence. One of my earliest memories (I think it’s real one) was of feeling outraged at being stuck in my crib when I wanted to be free. Together with my twin sister, we bounced the mattress up and down until we could climb out. The drive to walk, feed oneself and talk are all about having more influence over our situation.

When we feel recognized, appreciated and respected, we feel like our lives are better. Feeling valued and admired for who or what we are goes a long way to repelling feelings of helplessness and uncertainty.