Who gets the most respect and who gets the least?
Who do we want to associate with and who do we shy away from?
Who gets to eat first and who gets to eat last?
Which company do we want to work for?
It turns out that answers to these questions all point to one social function: Status.
We respect people because of the status we attach to them, either because they are popular, wealthy, good looking, appear on TV, etc.
But this is nothing new, historically status has been used to separate common people from the monarch.
Common folks wore common clothes, and monarch wore expensive and extravagant clothes.
Status has its roots in ancient society where every person had a “place” in the social hierarchy.
Historically, this place was attained either through birth [e.g., born into nobility or an upper class in the caste system[ or by ordainment [e.g., knighted by the king].
This changed during the Age of Enlightenment [roughly the beginning of the 18th century] as a man’s worth began to be judged according to his achievements, which frequently brought great wealth.
A reliable connection was made between merit and worldly success, well-paid jobs were secured primarily through intelligence and ability.
The rich were not just wealthier, they were “better.”
They merited their success, and as such, affluence increasingly became a marker of social status.
Wealth and social status have been inextricably linked ever since.
In his classic treatise The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen argued that the accumulation of wealth is not really what confers status.
Rather, what confers status is the evidence of wealth, which requires its wasteful exhibition, behavior he described as conspicuous consumption.
As examples, Veblen noted the leisure class used silverware, hand-painted china, and high-priced table linens at meals when less expensive substitutes could work as well or better.
People buy fine silverware, Veblen wrote, not to convey food into their mouths but to display that they can afford such things.
I guess is where the phrase “born with a silver spoon in your mouth” comes from when we talk about those who come from affluence.
Veblen noted that the examples he put forth, including manicured lawns, the latest fashions, and exotic dog breeds, confer prestige to owners due to their lofty price tags.
Contemporary research in marketing recognises the symbolic role of possessions in consumers’ lives.
It is widely accepted that people make inferences about others based on their possessions.
Those inferences can reflect others’ success, measured by the things someone owns.
Marketers have used status as a way to get people to buy things.
Even today, marketers sell status as a for people to purchase things.
The thing is status is not real.
Status is in our heads.
Status is the story we tell ourselves and the more we tell it, we believe it and it becomes a self-fulling prophesy.
Status symbols are medals you buy yourself.
Your true worth is not based on your status in society.
When you realise this you will realize that all along we have been duped.
We have been sold a lie by marketers to make us believe that our worth is based on owning an iPhone 8.
We don’t have to use things for people to admire us.
Our happiness is not reliant on continuously buying conspicuous things.
Retail therapy as a way to happiness is a trap, it is meant to increase sales.
The truth is, you can skip the pursuit of happiness altogether and just be happy.
Your value lies not in status or title, but in the roots of your character and depth of your compassion.
You deserve to be free.