Stature is the ability to help others. We are attracted to people we believe
have high stature because of the possibility of receiving a reward. Pride is the
emotion related to increased stature, while
shame is the emotion related to decreased stature. The
terms “one up” and “one down” refer to relative status in a
relationship. Insults are an attack on stature
or status that often provoke
humiliation and anger.
- Your contribution.
- Possessing assets that are potentially helpful to others.
- Endowed with valuable assets.
- Power derived from the potential for constructive
actions. Contrast with Dominance.
- Power based on a resource that cannot be taken by
force, also known as leverage.
- Level of achievement attained.
While dignity is intrinsic value, stature is acquired value,
status is relative value, image is
attributed value, and class is assumed value.
Origins and Importance of Stature
High stature provides increased opportunities to mate with high stature partners. This increases the survival potential and social contributions of your
descendents. This establishes your genetic legacy forever. What
could be more important?
Image allows us to estimate the stature and dominance of others quickly and easily, but
images can be counterfeit. Therefore it is important to learn the distinctions
between genuine stature and its many counterfeit images. Many terms for
counterfeit forms of pride describe gaps between image
Class—an assumed set of privileges—is not authentic stature; stature is
an authentically earned respect
that accumulates as we help others. Class struggles persist because of the gap
between the privileges that are assumed and the respect that is earned. The
lower class resent the unearned privileges assumed by the upper class. The upper
class struggle to maintain the benefits of those privileges. The upper class
seek to equate class with authentic stature as a way to legitimize their
privilege. The lower class seek to separate class and authentic stature as a way
to gain respect for authentic contributions.
Status describes a relative measure of social rank
or social standing, somewhat
like class, rather than the authentic attained achievements of stature. The criteria used for
ranking depends on the observers and reflects more of their
than your own. Status implies a competition
for position in a zero-sum game within a social hierarchy; for the status of one
person to increase, the status of another has to decrease. Stature acknowledges
abundance and unlimited possibilities while status is based on scarcity and
contention for scarce resources.
We naturally choose to look up to people when we recognize their high
stature. If we have to be told to look up to someone, it is probably because
their status exceeds their stature.
Sources of Stature:
Knowledge, charisma, wit, creativity, beauty, talent, skill, experience,
reputation, strength, fitness, stamina, intelligence, curiosity, sensitivity,
humility, judgment, courage,
kindness, empathy, companionship, admired DNA, fertility, youth,
wisdom, veracity, integrity, emotional competency,
positive influence, patience, self-restraint, altruism,
compassion, developing your strengths, and applying
These are all authentic sources of stature, pride,
self-esteem. A person's stature can increase indefinitely and does not depend in any
way on decreasing or diminishing the stature of others.
- Earning a Nobel Prize
- Earning an Olympic medal
- Being a good parent
- Conserving or preserving natural resources or other unique and useful
- Creating a story, book, music, photograph, painting, invention,
entertainment, or other
new contribution that is useful to others.
- Courageous or selfless actions that help others.
- Innovative, creative, or persistent actions that help others.
- Acting from empathy and
- Genuine philanthropy,
- Sharing your assets such as: your money, talent, companionship,
influence, expertise, wisdom, wit, insights, information, praise, or sexual access.
- Completing an education program,
- Increasing the stature of another person.
- Solving problems to enable more constructive solutions.
Image is not stature
Image is another's estimate of your stature, not your actual stature. The
estimate can be very wrong; none-the-less, many people spend too much time in
counterfeit attempts to increase image rather than stature.
Self-image is your
estimate of your stature. Self-esteem is your judgment and evaluation of your
stature (based, of course, on your self-image). This evaluation is often based on a comparison of your actual
achievements with expectations you hold of yourself. These expectations may rely
too much on comparison of your actual achievements with the images
you hold of your colleagues.
But we find great comfort in the approval of others; perhaps because of the
difficulty of maintaining confidence in ourselves without the reinforcement we get
from the respect of others. Our self-image is estimated
based on some blending of our actual stature, our public image,
and the public image of others that we choose to compare ourselves to, generally
our colleagues. Our pubic image depends on both our actual stature and our
Decide for yourself; the only opinion of yourself that matters is your own.
Evaluating stature, and especially image, is difficult and depends on our
values. Consider this example:
does living in a mansion or living in a tiny, energy efficient house reflect
the higher stature? Which choice helps others more? The tiny, energy efficient
home requires fewer of the earth's resources and is therefore more helpful to
others. So less is more.
Money and stature
The relationship between money and stature is complex. Consider Dr. Paul Farmer
dedicated his career to fighting tuberculosis in third world countries. He is
one of the most talented, hard working, and helpful people in the world, yet he
receives little or no payment for the immense help he so generously provides. He
is a financially poor man of great stature. There are many other examples of
people who have lots of money but little stature. These includes lucky but
selfish lottery winners, CEOs of large corporations who were well paid before
being sentenced to jail for cheating, defrauding, embezzling, or stealing;
people who inherit great fortunes only to squander their lives, and many others
who obtain money through luck or misdeed.
But when money is a measure of personal merit, then money is also measure of
stature. Hard work, talent, courage, intelligence, creativity, and stamina all
help earn money. These are also characteristics of genuine stature.
When using money to judge stature, consider how the money was obtained and how
it is used to help others. Judge the person, not their money.
“A man may have a great suite of attendants, a beautiful palace, great
influence, and a large income. All that may surround him, but it is not
in him...Measure his height with his stilts off: let him lay aside his
wealth and his decorations and show himself to us naked...What sort of soul does
he have?” - Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-1592)
Dominance and stature
Often dominance is confused with stature. There
are several reasons for this. One reason is that they are both components of
power. When we witness power we may not always analyze
its sources correctly. We may correctly associate dominance with power, then
incorrectly associate that dominance with stature. Another reason is that
historically the ability to protect, defend, and feed a community is an
important source of stature. This often required skilled hunters to feed and warriors to
protect. Clearly fighting ability—the ability to harm—is an essential trait of
both hunters and warriors. Although fighting ability is a dominance trait, the
ability to feed and protect are stature traits. The stature of hunters and warriors
comes from using their dominance traits to help others.
Pleasing may not be Helping
You can please someone by assisting them in satisfying an impulse. But you
may be indulging them rather than helping them. To help someone you have to
assist them in acting consistently with their values.
That may be much more difficult. This is the distinction between short-term
pleasure and long-term gratification. Stature is the ability to help others,
which may not be the same as pleasing them.
Stature is not Zero-Sum
A prevalent myth is that stature is a “zero-sum” game and your loss of
stature can somehow contribute to my gain in stature. This is the dangerous and
mistaken belief that I can enhance myself if I diminish you. This leads to wanting to be
“number one”, gloating, envy; and many forms of sabotage
including cheating in a wide variety of
contests such as sports, business, social situations, dirty tricks; and
“leveling”—disparaging others in an attempt to increase your own stature.
This myth confuses stature—the ability to help, with social rank—your
position in some class hierarchy as perceived by people you consider influential, also
known as status. Since
your ability to help is not enhanced by your peer's misfortunes, this myth is
Futile Stature Seeking
With more than
billion other people on this planet, the chances against you becoming number
one are astronomical. Focus your energy and talents toward authentic
constructive contributions, not toward futile status or stature seeking. None of these are
authentic sources of pride.
Car ownership provides a fertile arena for status seeking. If you can't
afford to buy the most expensive car, you can get the biggest, the most popular,
the safest, the lease expensive, the one with the best gas mileage, the one with
the most horsepower, the fastest, the loudest, the worst gas mileage, the most
fashionable, the most extreme, the most historic, or anything else you can claim
to be unique. But how will any of this improve your rank? Since none of this
enhances your ability to help others, it does not increase your stature, and is
not an authentic source of stature, prestege, or pride.
Name dropping, shaking hands with celebrities, fifteen minutes of fame, or
collecting autographs will not increase your stature.
Being the first on your block to try a new fad, wear the latest fashions, or
buy the newest toy will not increase your stature.
Disgusting Attempts to Attain Stature
While seeking to distinguish themselves as unique, these people seem to have
lost sight of the helpful aspect of stature. We don't recommend any of this:
- Becoming the biggest freak, including having the most (disgusting)
Emotions Related to Stature
Several emotions reflect stature changes:
- Pride reflects your pleasure with an increase in
your stature. It is a reward for
doing your best.
- Shame also encourages us to do our best. It reflects your displeasure with a decrease in
your stature. It may result from humiliation.
- Guilt encourages us to help others and not to
harm others. It encourages our compassion.
- Envy reflects your displeasure from an increase in
an acquaintance's stature.
- Gloating reflects your pleasure from a decrease in an
stature. This may also make you feel a bit guilty.
- Contempt is your assessment that another's
stature does not measure up to your own.
- Fear is often based on a potential
- Anxiety can arise from concern over
inadequate stature, especially in comparison to colleagues.
- Hate is an attempt to isolate and remove people—the
harmful others—suspected of low stature or of lowering yours.
Also, assigning blame for your
loss is an effort to
sustain your stature as you resolve your grief.
Humiliation is an insult that diminishes your
image and may evoke powerful emotions such as anger.
Each of these emotions are very powerful perhaps because
stature is so important for procreation and survival and in prehistoric times.
- “Only that which is both damning and true should be permitted to
shatter our esteem.” ~ Alain de Botton
- “People feel incomparably more alarmed by a threat to the psyche or the soul
or the self than they are by a threat to the body.” ~ James Gilligan.
- “Denigrating my stature will not elevate yours.” ~ Leland R. Beaumont
- “There are certain times when public opinion is the worst of all opinions.”
~ Nicholas Chamfort (1741 - 1794)
- “Man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can do without.” ~
Henry D. Thoreau
- “High status groups may give help to members of lower status groups not
only out of caring and concern but also to maintain their social advantage.” ~ Arie Nadler
Beyond Dominance: the importance of leverage, Rebecca J. Lewis, The
Quarterly Review of Biology, volume 77 (2002), pages 149–164. Published by
the University of Chicago Press
Status Anxiety, by Alain de Botton
Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank, by Robert W.
Class: A Guide Through the American
Status System, by Paul Fussell
Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and Its Causes, by James
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, by Tracy Kidder
Threatened Egotism to Violence and Aggression: The Dark Side of High
Self-Esteem, Psychology Review, 1996, Vol. 103, No. 1, 5-33, by
Roy F. Baumeister, Laura Smart, Joseph M. Boden
The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger,
by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett