I like myself

Despite being so very very old, I feel like I am only beginning to understand myself.

I have been reading Alain de Botton’s book Status Anxiety, which I found at just the right time for me. It explains so much of the difficulties I have been facing.

I have always thought of myself as someone who doesn’t like the limelight. I do have my close friends of course but, unlike some people, I’ve never had the desire to be popular.

For example, I know a number of people who have always wanted to be “somebody”. I’ve never understood this at all. The thought of being famous horrifies me.

However in recent years I have found it surprising how much it upsets me to be written off at a glance by strangers. I really am surprised how much it bothers me. I thought I was above worrying about the opinions of strangers. Maybe all this time I have taken being treated well for granted? Maybe I’m only noticing it now that it is going away?

This book has helped me to understand the reason why it hurts. I don’t want to be “somebody” but I, like everyone, have an innate need to be treated with basic kindness. That is, that people pay attention to me – not all the time but when necessary. That my opinion matters. That I matter. Basic stuff.

This book argues that underneath it all, status anxiety is about wanting to be treated like you have value.

The impact of low status should not be read in material terms alone….It lies, also, and even primarily, in the challenge that low status poses to a sense of self-respect. Discomfort can be endured without complaint for long periods when it is unaccompanied by humiliation…

So when people show off their success, it should be seen as a misguided attempt to prove that they are worthwhile as people. Even though the reality is that human worth is not, or at least should not, be based upon external trappings.

What really sums up my life for me at the moment is this equation:

In order to feel OK, I either have to lower my idea of what it means to be acceptable (“pretensions”) or work harder to meet my beliefs as to what acceptable looks like (“success”).

Accepting that I can’t do much in the weeks after an operation, reducing my pretensions, helps me feel better about myself. Stopping pressuring myself to do more, improves my self esteem.

The book also talks about how our “pretensions” are based upon our peer group. Which explains why not looking at friends posting overseas holiday pics on Facebook helps me feel better (by allowing me to reduce my pretensions).

However our “pretensions” are less affected by people who we see as being too far above us. So billionaire lifestyles do not impact my pretensions as much as the family down the road.

This equation just explains it so much.