What status symbols do you value most (material or non-material)? Perhaps your job, house, public profile, car or even your moral conduct? And, before you dismiss the question as not being applicable to you, consider that we are all drawn to status by virtue of being human.
Indeed, the archaeological record shows that our Cro-Magnon ice age ancestors too had their own status symbols tens of thousands of years ago. In addition to trading obsidian spear points useful for hunting, they also traded finely finished spear points made of translucent quartz. The likelihood of Cro-Magnons using quartz spears for a hunt is about as likely as a modern human wearing their most expensive designer outfit to do gardening.
Status signalling is also observed amongst other social animals. And, from an evolutionary perspective higher status could have been the difference between getting access to food and mating opportunities in the wild. But, we aren’t in the same wilderness today. It isn’t the case that obsessing over status provides us with a survival advantage. In fact, weaponised by social narratives, status symbols can easily become a source of great anguish and mental suffering when we pin our self-worth to them.
Subtlety of status symbols
Our attachment to status can be very subtle too. It is not only those obvious areas such as wealth and power. Even “goodness” can become a status symbol — just think of modern day virtue signalling, which is probably as rampant as consumerism.
Remember that as long as you are measuring yourself on some status ladder, you are clinging to status symbols. Playing the “I am more generous and righteous than you” game is much the same as playing the “I am more rich and famous than you” game. Both are fuelled by frantic comparison born out of insecurity.
Meditate on it
So, really try and ask yourself what status symbol you most value. Then consider what it would be like to be released from its grip. Completely.
What would that feel like for you?
Remember too that mental freedom isn’t a denial of the practical use of things. Not viewing resources (financial or otherwise) as status symbols does not stop you from making practical use of them. It’s not the same thing. Don’t throw the baby away with the bath water!
Letting go of status symbols is about mental liberation and inner freedom.
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.