First, we have to see them.
Some people, no matter how fast or slow their friends are walking, always walk a step behind.
Or perhaps you need to live in the nicest house on the block, or drive the fanciest car.
There are people who can’t rest until they know that they’re at the top of their class, or use up their available credit limit, whatever the limit is.
Maybe you need to finish everything on your plate, plus your friend’s. Or maybe you always leave something over.
The thing is that status roles are always local. We compare ourselves to the others in our circle, not everyone on the planet.
If your status narrative isn’t making you happy, you can try to change it–but it’s truly difficult to do so. The get-along person rarely shifts gears and becomes the dominating competitor, or vice versa.
An alternative is to do the hard work (but in a brief window) of choosing your circle and setting your limits.
If you need to live in the biggest, fanciest house, choose a neighborhood where doing that won’t break everything else in your personal life. If you overtrain to be sure you’re going to win, enter races where the overtraining won’t wipe you out.
If you need to avoid the front of the parade, don’t pick an industry or a cultural setting where only the people at the front are treated well.
We choose our boundaries rarely, but we have to live with them every day.