Friday, September 17, 2010

Performance Anxiety

Status anxiety refers to our need to be assured of our status in the eyes of our peers. A status anxiety attack - that panicky feeling that others are looking down at us in contempt or, worse, indifference - may strike at any time, for status anxiety runs like a psychological
fault line through the geology of our sense of self worth. Status anxiety afflicts as many people as the common cold. It is the pernicious fear that we are not living up to the standards of success laid down by our society and that, as a result, that we are on the verge of becoming a nobody. Those who suffer from especially acute cases of status anxiety may feel that they are social
lepers: “Unworthy! unworthy!,” they cry from the cave of their ugly inner child.
Individual Christians and churches too may display
symptoms of status anxiety in the face of a hostile empire, the “empire” not of the ancient Romans but of contemporary global culture (Hardt & Negri, 2000)... It is a terrible thing when one’s sense of identity
“is held captive by the judgments of those we live among” (de Botton, 2004, p. 8)."

(Forming the Performers:
How Christians Can Use Canon Sense to Bring Us to Our (Theodramatic) Senses
by Kevin Vanhoozer, 11)

The way God sees is us is the way we truly are. Worldly status is a game of smoke and mirrors. It’s all about appearance, not reality. In asking us to live a life worthy of the gospel, Paul is asking us to live in a way that corresponds to the way things really are.

(ibid., 14)

In a response to this article, Chuck DeGroat describes some effects of status anxiety as being physically shown in clenched fists, tightness in the back or shoulders or basically anywhere, or even headaches.

Now, I posed this because I tend to tell people that they shouldn't care how they are viewed by others... that it'll only cause them more stress in the long run. But after reading this article and actually thinking about it, I think I am among the ranks of people who suffer from status anxiety. Maybe it isn't completely in the way everyone sees me as it is for other people, but I want to do well in school and when I play sports for the way it makes people view and treat me. When I see myself failing it isn't completely a mental issue, but a social one as well. It is not only a "I didn't live up to my standard" but "I didn't live up to their standard, and now what will they think" as well. The more I think about it the more I think this is something that a lot of us have to give up to Christ, myself included. It is difficult to find my (our) worth in something (or someone) that is unseen, but as Vanhoozer says in his article, saying,

"the gospel responds to the problem of status anxiety with status peace. The gospel is the good news that our status
before God is secure, not because of what we have achieved in this life but because of what Jesus Christ did in his." (Vanhoozer, 14).

I pray that one day sooner rather than later I can truly say that my identity is wholly in Christ and my perceived status before others does not matter, rather it is the reality of my status before God that matters.

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