Status anxiety is a worry about our standing in the world, whether we’re going up or down, whether we’re winners or losers. We care about our status for a simple reason: because most people tend to be nice to us according to the amount of status we have. If they hear we’ve been promoted, there’ll be a little more energy in their smile. If we are sacked, they’ll pretend not to have seen us.
Ultimately, we worry about having no status because we’re not good at remaining confident about ourselves if other people don’t seem to like or respect us very much. Our ‘ego’ or self-conception could be pictured as a leaking balloon, forever requiring external love to remain inflated and vulnerable to the smallest pinpricks of neglect. We rely on signs of respect from the world to feel acceptable to ourselves.