Status anxiety is one of the most pernicious, wide spread of all diseases. It can ruin large sections of our lives, and a good approach to life means having a philosophy that can help us deal with it and recognise the problem for what it is.
As soon as you finish college, what starts to matter is what you do in life. The first question people ask is, “what do you do?”. According to how you answer that question, people are either incredibly pleased to see you, or make a run for it. In other words, how clever, nice, friendly and sympathetic you are ceases to matter in most social occasions. We live in a world surrounded by snobs.
But what is a snob? A snob is someone who takes a small part of you, and uses that to judge the whole of you. Our dominant snobbery today is job snobbery. What’s on your business card determines your identity. This is a deeply frightening vision for most of us. Partly, it’s frightening because most of us are unable to bring our true richness of character and personality in line with our business card. We are being judged, we feel, in a humiliating way. We feel that there is so much in us, that has not got an expression in capitalism.
Capitalism is a machine that recognises outward, financial, external achievement, and most of us carry all kinds of richness which we are unable to translate into that language. There are very few of us, who’s full complexity of character has been brought out on their business card. For most of us, to understand what is special about us requires love and imagination. It requires someone to say, “even though that person looks a bit boring, uninteresting, unimportant or dull, actually that’s because I’m only looking at them in the first 30 seconds. They need more time.”
The cruelty of the modern world, and the cruelty of the city, means that people give you not much longer than 30 seconds of their time before they judge you. That’s very challenging and effects people deeply. So, when meeting others, give them time to show their true colours and you may just be surprised.
Watch philosopher Alain de Botton present his thought for the day below, on Big Think.