The psychology of prestige: why we play the social status game and what to do when growth isn't happening


Hatched by Glasp

Jul 03, 2023

4 min read


The psychology of prestige: why we play the social status game and what to do when growth isn't happening

In our society, social status has always played a significant role. Historically, having a high social status meant better protection and longevity, increasing the likelihood of reproduction. As a result, people have always strived to achieve higher status, using various symbols to maintain social hierarchies.

However, in today's world, where survival is not solely dependent on social status, pursuing goals solely based on the assumed prestige our success will bring can be detrimental. When we focus too much on how successful we appear to others, we can experience status anxiety, fearing that we won't be valued by society. This anxiety can lead to making harmful long-term decisions, turning down more suitable opportunities in the pursuit of appearing prestigious.

Philosopher Alain de Botton, in his book "Status Anxiety," emphasizes that the fear of what others think of us and the desire to be seen as successful can lead us to make self-defeating decisions or lower our sense of self-worth. It is crucial to reflect on long-term goals and consider whether our pursuit of status aligns with our values and personal growth.

To avoid falling into the trap of status-seeking behaviors, we can replace them with healthier alternatives. One way is to practice metacognition, which involves reflecting on our thoughts and goals. By constantly evaluating our motivations, we can ensure that our actions are driven by intrinsic value rather than the aimless collection of status symbols.

Another approach is to surround ourselves with explorers, both online and in real life. Connecting with individuals who are not solely focused on playing the status game can provide a fresh perspective and inspire us to explore unconventional paths. By learning from those who have achieved their dreams by following their own path rather than striving for wealth or status, we can find fulfillment in pursuing what truly matters to us.

Additionally, focusing on learning new skills can be a game-changer. Instead of solely aiming for external validation, we can shift our focus to personal growth and acquiring knowledge. By continuously expanding our skill set, we open ourselves up to new opportunities and experiences that can lead to greater overall satisfaction.

Now, let's shift our attention to what to do when growth isn't happening. Many businesses and individuals face the challenge of stagnation, where efforts to grow seem to yield diminishing returns. There are a few common reasons why growth stalls and how to address them.

One reason is building on shaky foundations. If too much of the growth process is manual and unscalable, it limits resources and hinders further expansion. It is essential to evaluate the scalability of the growth strategy and ensure that the necessary systems and infrastructure are in place to support growth.

Another common issue is the lack of product/market fit. While initial customers may have been acquired, scaling the product becomes challenging if the fit between the product and the market isn't right. It is crucial to keep engaging with customers and non-customers to gather feedback and insights that can guide improvements and adaptations.

Additionally, getting stuck in optimization mode can hinder growth. Instead of focusing on big bets and taking calculated risks, excessive optimization can lead to hitting a ceiling where further conversions and scaling become difficult. It is important to balance optimization efforts with experimentation and innovation to break through growth barriers.

When addressing growth challenges, it is important to take a holistic approach. Rather than solely blaming marketing or looking for new channels, it is crucial to assess different areas that contribute to growth. This includes evaluating the suitability of marketing channels for the product, as well as identifying the right channels to match the target market. By considering these multiple matches, it becomes possible to identify where the growth strategy may be falling short and make necessary adjustments.

In conclusion, both the psychology of prestige and the challenges of stagnant growth require a shift in perspective. Instead of solely pursuing external validation and status, it is important to find sustainable incentives for success that align with our values and personal growth. Similarly, when growth isn't happening, it is crucial to evaluate the foundations, product-market fit, and overall growth strategy, taking a holistic approach to identify areas for improvement. By reflecting on our motivations and exploring new paths, as well as continuously learning and adapting, we can overcome the pitfalls of the social status game and achieve sustainable growth.

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