Status Anxiety: When Does Status Anxiety Kick In? (2003)
While it would be unusual to be status-anxious in a famine, history shows that as soon as societies go any way beyond basic subsistence, status anxieties quickly kick in. In the modern world, status anxiety starts when we compare our achievements with those of other people we consider to be our equals.
We might worry about our status when we come across an enthusiastic newspaper profile of an acquaintance (it can destroy the morning), when a close friend reveals a piece of what they naively – or plain sadistically – call “good” news (they have been promoted, they are getting married, they have reached the bestseller list) or when we are asked what we “do” at a party by someone with a firm handshake who has recently floated their own start-up company.