Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Status Game

Status is a primary and universal human motive and a very powerful contributor to social success. Research has shown for example, that women are more attracted to men they perceive as having high status. Status is also linked to financial success. It’s powerful and ubiquitous.

The need for status is a game that largely drives society and can lead to a never ending greed spiral of status anxiety and misery. The more status a person has, the more they want. Uncontrolled, the Status Game is not life enhancing, but instead is a life denying and insidious enemy to human happiness.

Comparing yourself - controlling your comparisons

While status awareness is a biologically driven function, supported and reinforced by societal moirĂ©s and learnings, at its heart it’s mediated by the processes of who and what reference groups you compare yourself with. While it can be challenging to suppress status awareness entirely, it is much easier to control it by carefully selecting your focus for comparison.

Comparing your self to those who are richer, more attractive by today’s current societal standards or to those who are more privileged will inevitably lead to status anxiety. Comparing yourself to those who are less fortunate will lead to positive feelings of higher status.

As psychology professor Peter Salovey suggests, figure out what's really important to you and mentally withdraw from status competitions that aren't close to your heart. You can also draw upon memories and references in other domains in which you are successful to buffer against envy and status anxiety in a challenging domain.

The key is to realise that you need to and can control how you play the Status game and make sure that it is you who is controlling your perception of status and not someone else. The desire for status can be a greed pattern that drives materialism and undermines your self esteem and happiness. If at all possible, refuse to play the status game, and at the very least, watch for the comparisons you are making unconsciously and as you do, interrupt them and control them.

Recognise and control your focus of comparison and refuse to play show-off games of greed. Your happiness and life enhancing peace of mind depend on it.

life enhancing smiles


  1. Grant, you've covered yet another important topic! I've always refused to play the status game. While holding certain positions over the years, others have expressed amazement at how "low-key" I am and how I should "work it" for all it's worth. Status means so very little to me. I neither compare myself to those with more (and so feel "less") nor to those with less (and so feel "more"). Wanting the best for everyone saves us from these meaningless comparisons.

  2. Thanks so much Jean, I love your idea "Wanting the best for everyone saves us from these meaningless comparisons"!!!! That's so so true. What a powerful way to filter and move through the world. By doing kindness, compassion and heartfelt caring for everyone - what the Buddhists call 'loving kindness' means that you will transcend the status game. Truly life enhancing!

    smiles and great wishes


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