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Status Anxiety: Can Our Status Ideals Be Changed? (2004)
Status anxiety is certainly worse than ever, because the possibilities for achievement (sexual, financial, professional) seem to be greater than ever. There are so many more things we expect if we’re not to judge ourselves “losers.” We are constantly surrounded by stories of people who have made it.
For most of history, an opposite assumption held sway: low expectations were viewed as both normal and wise. Only a very few ever aspired to wealth and fulfillment. The majority knew well enough that they were condemned to exploitation and resignation. Of course, it remains highly unlikely that we will today ever reach the pinnacle of society. It is perhaps as unlikely that we could rival the success of Bill Gates as we could in the 17th century have become as powerful as Louis XIV.
Unfortunately though, it no longer feels unlikely – depending on the magazines one reads – and can in fact seem absurd that one hasn’t already managed to have it all. How to free ourselves?