© Sofia Sforza - Unsplash

I had a friend once who drove a Lamborghini. There was no smoking allowed and it was quite difficult getting in and out of the car –in spite of whatever yoga classes you’d had.

The Lamborghini, the ultimate symbol of speed, luxury, and wealth, gave my friend everything he longed for: to be admired, valued, respected, and most of all to be treated with dignity. He loved his car, and the world loved him.

According to the British philosopher, Alain de Botton, most of us are driven by the hunger for status –our value and importance in the eyes of the world.
High status will change us into interesting, worthwhile people, we think. High status will make us happy…

Status Anxiety

The popular Swiss-born philosopher wrote about this phenomenon in his book: ‘Status Anxiety’ (2004), where he points out how high status is being considered ‘one of the finest of earthly goods’.
Apparently, many of us are convinced it will bring us everything we long for: resources, freedom, comfort, a sense of being cared for, and best of all, to be thought important and valuable.

In order to maintain this divine state, we forever require the acceptance of others as some kind of ‘helium of external love,’ according to De Botton. Plus we are ever vulnerable to ‘the smallest pinpricks of neglect’.

I’m not sure I agree with this concept of myself and everybody else as a leaking balloon…

In the footsteps of fellow philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who considered the competition for status as the principal cause of our unhappiness, De Botton underlines how we compare ourselves continuously to others, hoping to appear what we’re not! We want to be so much more than we are…

At the same time, what most of us want is not what Bill Gates has, nor Mark Zuckerberg; we seem to want what our neighbours have. Or our friends, our family.

True Or False?

I’ll admit since my sister became a judge, I have wished to be one too. Absolutely! As soon as it’s understood what she does, a cloud of awe and respect wraps itself around her -who wouldn’t like that?

And I would love to be a mathematician, just like my boyfriend. Of course! Nobody ever considers him stupid. He’s always seen as totally clever and smart, even when he doesn’t say a word! Wouldn’t you like that?

Then there is this former friend from long ago who’d turned into a University Law Professor… With a series of books on her name and public appearances, talks, papers, the whole shebang…

De Botton’s book was an immediate bestseller.

Don’t think, though, we’re all aiming for a life of happiness and joy. Some people consider happiness a shallow, vapid emotion. And there are those who have an aversion to happiness. They fear it; they’re afraid too much happiness might backfire and bring them sorrow.

Could I be one of them? Could you?

© Sofia Sforza – Unsplash

Negative feelings about happiness are strongest in East Asia and other cultures in which one tends to value the group over the individual. India, Pakistan, Japan, all score high on the fear of happiness. As in Islamic cultures in general, where sadness is often valued over happiness because sad people are seen as serious and connected to God…

Big Business

In most parts of the world, happiness is big business. Apart from a never-ending stream of books and blogs, thousands of studies have been carried out into happiness, and new ones are conducted every day.

So far, it seems to come down to a number of specifics:

-Enjoy small pleasures
-Live in the moment
-Build your enthusiasm
-Be curious
-Connect with nature
-Practice compassion
-Find meaning in everything you do

All really clever, I think. And it does make sense: your days filled with tiny pleasures, huge enthusiasm, and abundant passion, while there is meaning in everything you do. Imagine…!

Except, how do you make it happen? And what about our status? And things like dignity and respect?

We are all expected to succeed -but what if you don’t? What if you are unable to convince the world of your value -or you don’t want to?

(To be continued)







5 Comments, RSS

  1. Ekaterina 04-10-2017 @ 17:34

    Very interesting and informative post, as usual. I really like, how while talking about things important to you, you also present new and very interesting material as well, such as your findings on different cultures and how they view status and happiness.

    • Alexa Khan 05-10-2017 @ 19:02

      Thank you very much for your reaction, Katerina! And your wonderful compliments, much appreciated…


  2. Elizabeth 04-10-2017 @ 19:45

    Lots of food for thought, as always!
    It makes me wonder, all these ideas to reach this state of happiness, like living in the moment, building your enthusiasm, connecting with nature etc…. indeed it is what you read about in magazines, hear about from your friends or your hairdresser, see in commercials.
    It comes down to constant pressure to BE HAPPY AND SUCCESSFUL, and all this happiness and success will bring you status, and that will get you more happiness and success. Besides this you need to look the part, and you need to possess the right house, car, books, art, clothes, that’s all in the game.
    But most of this lies in the eyes of the beholder, doesn’t it, who’s watching?
    I believe that it does not amount to much, the happiness, the success, the status, as long as you are not part of a community, no matter how small, be it family, friends, etc, as long as someone is watching.
    They say it takes a village to raise a child, may be it takes a village to have some happiness, some dignity and respect?
    I don’t know, but I do believe one should not try to convince the world of one’s value or status, and by the way, which world is that? There are so many different ones…
    I also believe we have to show some kindness and empathy, for ourselves and for those around us, babysteps… for now… who knows, happiness might follow.
    Like I said, lots of food for thought, your blog post! Do carry on please!
    Take care of yourself,

    • Ekaterina 04-10-2017 @ 19:55

      Dear Elizabeth, I just read your comment, and it shares exactly what I think about this blog. It comes from a person with deep heart and empathy, and this blog does help me personally in my own life. I love reading it, not only for the fact that it helps me to think positively, but also because of massive amount of information which helps me as an academic.

    • Alexa Khan 05-10-2017 @ 19:08

      Thanks so much for your interesting comment, Elizabeth! As well as your thoughts on the subject… It’s quite complex, right!


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