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Sunday, 5 April 2009

Overcoming Status Anxiety

I have just watched episode one of Status Anxiety on Youtube. The first 10 minutes of the documentary is below. I have also provided links further below of the rest of the first episode as well as the next two episodes (episode two and episode three).

As the title suggests, the documentary is about how many people are so preoccupied with their status in society. The documentary claims that the average American does not compare himself to people like Bill Gates. Rather, they compare themselves to people like them or near them, e.g. neighbors, friends, relatives, etc. If they are doing better than people like them, they feel successful.

How successful we feel depends on what our expectations are. If we compared ourselves to Bill Gates, we will probably never be satisfied. On the other extreme, if we compare ourselves to the most unfortunate people in the world, e.g. people who live in poverty with disabilities, then the average person can always feel satisfied. Too much satisfaction can lead to gluttony and inaction. There needs to be a nice balance between the two extremes.

I do admit that when I interacting with other people in society, I too feel some status anxiety, and I suspect it's a normal human emotion. When I tell other people that sometimes I feel status anxiety, they tell me things like, "Don't worry what other people think about you." Many other people tend to believe that what others think is trivial, but many people also try hard to look good in the eyes of others, so that seems like a contradiction. Instead of downplaying the magnitude of your own vanity, I think the first step to curing status anxiety is to admit that you feel it and that you are vulnerable to it.

My expectations are fairly low. I think that all you really need in life is about A$100,000. This amount of money should be enough to cover your food and accommodation needs. I get status anxiety when I am around other people. The two areas where I am in contact with others is mainly at work and at home. At work there are those people who earn more than me, and I don't get along too well with them. I merely do what they tell me to do because they are in a more senior position. But I do get along well with people who are paid my salary. These people tend to be just like me, that is, they are in their twenties, recently graduated from university, etc.

Once I am able to save up $100,000 then this should cover my food and rent. I will then be able to live without going to work and without living with my parents. In other words, I will be independent. Being independent and having the freedom to not be around other people means that other people cannot look down upon me. Many people think that by moving away from their parents they are becoming independent. However, many of these people have jobs and because they move away from their parents to buy their own homes, they usually have mortgages they have to pay to the bank, which means that they must keep working to be able to afford these mortgage repayments. Hence by moving away from parents they are not independent but rather they have become dependent on their employment. At their place of employment they are exposed to co-workers who can then give them status anxiety.

Overcoming status anxiety then requires true independence from all social circles. You must have the ability to pull out when you notice that the social environment is giving you anxiety. I don't think that pulling out of all social circles is a good idea because social isolation can lead to other forms of anxiety.



Status Anxiety Part 1 (1 of 5) [Above]
Status Anxiety Part 1 (2 of 5)
Status Anxiety Part 1 (3 of 5)
Status Anxiety Part 1 (4 of 5)
Status Anxiety Part 1 (5 of 5)

Status Anxiety Part 2 (1 of 5)
Status Anxiety Part 2 (2 of 5)
Status Anxiety Part 2 (3 of 5)
Status Anxiety Part 2 (4 of 5)
Status Anxiety Part 2 (5 of 5)

Status Anxiety Part 3 (1 of 6)
Status Anxiety Part 3 (2 of 6)
Status Anxiety Part 3 (3 of 6)
Status Anxiety Part 3 (4 of 6)
Status Anxiety Part 3 (5 of 6)
Status Anxiety Part 3 (6 of 6)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have pretty interesting posts. I do share your thoughts about financial independence. Thanks for sharing them.

Jake