Consider a situation where you are constantly stuck between two conflicting states of life. On one side you have a state of life that you never want to go down to and on the other side, you have your dream life. The constant struggle of not falling down to a certain level and the need to always pursue a life that is above the current level you are in leads to anxiety, stress, and fear of the future. These feelings naturally replace the one emotion that is vital to every human, happiness.
Let us see how the above example affects the Indian middle class:
How does the middle class people lack happiness?
The middle-class people are the only section who are stuck between two conflicting states of life. On one hand, if they do not hold on to a proper job or they start a business and it fails, they would lose money and naturally, there is a risk of them falling down to the lower class. On the other hand, they have a job, a good education, possibly a decent group of friends- with these things going in their favor, they are exposed to better opportunities to improve their life than the average person who is part of the lower class. This desire of moving to the upper-middle-class or even the upper-class section of people prompts the middle class to pursue them.
These desires and what it means was perfectly summed up by Naval Ravikant, he said:
Desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.Naval Ravikant
The other reason why this section of people have the constant need to hold on to a job is to showcase a level of life to your relatives and friends that may or may not reflect the life your current salary can afford.
Need to impress people
There is a constant need to impress people whom you don’t really care about. You buy a car, a home, jewelry, etc to impress your friends or relatives. An average middle-class family does not have enough funds in their bank to pay the full amount for any of the above mentioned things. But the need to impress is always greater than any other emotion, so you take out loans to satisfy this need.
As you keep adding materialistic things in your life to impress people, you go into a debt spiral and you need a regular paying job to help pay off all these debts. You cannot leave your job or slack off at your workplace to pursue your passions because the very idea of losing your job sends shivers down your spine. You cannot take a leap of faith on anything you believe in, because the very thought of people not being impressed by what you believe in makes you paralyzed.
This very need to impress people is one of the main reasons why Tata Nano failed. It branded the automobile as “A poor man’s car”. This did not sit well with people as they only go buy a car because they want to move higher up the social ladder and how can that happen if they own a ‘poor man’s car’? Any person who thinks straight would have bought the 1 lakh car as it would help him with transport and save time and money in the process. But the need to impress is always greater than any emotion, purpose, or belief.
Why doesn’t this affect the lower and upper-class people?
You might think like the same situation also affects the people in the upper class as well. But let me tell you that the upper class’s need to impress is already satisfied as they know that more than 85% of the people they meet are impressed with them. And they are not interested in what the rest 15% of the people have. They already own homes and cars, they are not interested in owning a bigger home or a more expensive car as they know that this will not move their social needle much. They are interested in other opportunities that increase their wealth and not just their material stuff.
Now you might think that the lower class people are surely in a worse state of mind as they are already lower in standard than the middle class. But here is where things get interesting, the very acceptance of their situation prevents the lower class people from getting into a debt spiral. They value different things than the middle class person, they value the regular paying job more than what they can get with that same job, they value the saree they can buy for their mom than the loan they need to buy the bike to impress a bunch of girls.
The lower class does not own a legacy business or a standard of life they need to upkeep. They are at the very bottom already, no leap of faith, or pursuing their passion is going to lower their current state of life. They have a whole host of other problems to overcome, but their feet are not tied. This gives them the most valued asset of all time – freedom. With freedom, they are free to pursue anything, in today’s world all they need is maybe a proper internet connection.
This article does not go into depth about every aspect of why middle-class people lack happiness. It scratches the surface but gives more than a good idea to help us realize the dangerous lives the middle class people are living and how our mindset should change. Here is one risk free way the middle class people can get rich and escape this rat race.