I drive an old beat-up car. A 2005 Grand Vitara.
It has a few dents, the engine makes a weird noise, and the brakes squeal for whatever reason (they’re newish). My friends make fun of it.
I like it. It works for me. It gets me from point A to point B.
But still can’t feel judged by it when I roll up at work.
In my position, I’m entitled to a company car, but opted not to and instead take the cash. And when I park by my coworkers with their brand new car, including luxury ones, I can’t help but feel lower. Even though I made the choice.
The feeling is worst during company meetings when everyone else rolls in with their new vehicles and smack in the middle is this beat up Vitara.
We as humans crave social status. It drives us.
In a study by The Harvard School of Public Health asked a series of questions. One of the questions asked respondents would they rather have an income of $50,000, where everyone else earned $25,000 or have an income of $100,000, where everyone else earned $200,000, assuming prices of goods and services were constant in both examples, and therefore purchasing power is the same.
It turns out 56% prefered the first option of $50,000 even though they would have earned twice as much in the second case.
This is similar to another study where persons were asked if they would rather live in a $400k house in a neighbourhood where all the others are $100k, or a $1M house in a neighbourhood where all the others are $4M? And again, many chose the first option.
Status is illogical.
It is also hardwired.
And so is inequality.
If others in society see someone doing better while they are not, then a negative response arises. This is seen in toddlers, and capuchin monkeys too.
So it’s interesting that we would have evolved to first seek elevated status, while we also feel contempt for those who have elevated status to us. It’s as though we grew up to succeed for others to drag us down.
Or perhaps we haven’t done evolving yet.
Perhaps our next step is where we evolve to grow upwards, and then pull others up too.
Even so, I’m not there yet.
I feel "unfairness" although I’ve made my choice. And I crave status too, even though I’m better off than the majority of people in my country.
Knowing that this is an inbuilt emotion doesn’t diminish the feeling.