Whether you feel like you’re on the bottom rung or the top rung of the ladder, we’ve all experienced the social climb at one point or another. Maybe you’ve been stepped on by someone climbing their way to the top or perhaps you yourself have felt the need to associate with those you felt were above you, “elevating” your own self worth. Regardless of your position on the ladder, social climbing is not a strategy that promotes a healthy relationship with ourselves or lends itself deep, long-lasting relationships with others.
To begin, the idea that spending time with a person that you believe will help you feel important or valuable gives others more power than they ought to have. No other human being should be able to determine our worth. Yet, when we feel that we become more worthy by mere association, the words and actions of the other carry more weight than they should. When we find ourselves in this position, we fear a negative interaction having already determined that it means something about who we are. Here, the hurtful action fails to stay with its rightful owner because we have allowed it to mean that there is a defect in us. When this occurs, we are often too quick to prove ourselves to gain approval, creating a codependent relationship.
When we feel the strong need to associate with another to improve our own social status, we are giving ourselves a difficult and dangerous message about our own identity. When we pressure ourselves to become a part of this desired “inner circle,” we are saying, “there are inadequacies in me that need to be filled by someone else” and “I am not enough or acceptable as I am.” When we find ourselves in this unhealthy social climb, we are wise to examine our relationship with ourselves…how are you treating yourself? Are you being the kind of friend to yourself you hope to have in others? Beating ourselves up about who we are will only send us looking for validation in all the wrong places.
Not only is the social climb futile in elevating our own self-worth, but we are also unable to climb up without stepping on someone else, hurting others in the process. When we are focused on chasing after relationships that make us feel important, we sacrifice other relationships. Not only do we risk sacrificing relationships that are truly meaningful, but we also give these people the message that they are not valued enough to spend our attention and time with. Stepping on other people in hurtful ways is not becoming in any way and is hardly a means winning meaningful friendships.
The social climbing habit has implications for our relationship with ourselves as well as our relationships with others. When we make a habit of pursuing relationships with the “right” people at all costs, we are focused on what they can do for us rather than enjoying their uniqueness and the gifts that they truly have to offer. In addition, we are focused on how they can serve us and we miss opportunities to serve them. Friendships should be characterized by give and take and using people to benefit our own social status will hardly grant us the kind of relationships that we all long for.
While social climbing is often a tactic we use to seek a salve for feeling inadequate, pursuing friendships to make ourselves feel important leave us feeling more empty and alone because we fail to give ourselves a message of value, depending on others to validate our self worth. Further, when we focus on our social status, we miss out true connection that lasting friendships are built upon. So if you are someone who finds yourself pining after particular friends, it might be a good idea to ask yourself why these friendships are important to you and what your motivation might be for pursuing the friendship. If you find yourself climbing the social ladder, perhaps the best place to start is to climb down and work on your relationship with yourself. This investment will not disappoint.