America: Land of the Anxious and Home of the Stressed

You'd be excused if you're feeling a bit anxious given today's economic outlook, but worrying has become a popular pastime for many Americans, even in good times.

Taylor Clark, the author of Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool noted that Americans are five times more likely to have anxiety than Nigerians, who face much more basic life-necessities problems.

But why?

In this article over at The Atlantic, Maura Kelly explores the reason why we've become a nation of worrywarts: you can blame our (broken) system of meritocracy!

The meritocratic pressure-cooker

The idea that we can accomplish anything we put our minds to is so pervasive that we often have a lot on our minds. We feel pressure to take on more responsibilities and to make the "right" choices -- and we beat ourselves up when we fail, as Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, the former director of policy planning for the State Department, wrote in this month's Atlantic cover story. "Millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot)," she wrote. And unsurprisingly, perhaps, women suffer from a number of anxiety disorders -- including generalized anxiety and panic attacks -- at a rate twice as high as that for men.

But men feel the heat, too. As McNamee puts it: "A reasonable argument could be made that the race to get ahead in America is particularly stressful. If Americans believe that individuals 'get what they deserve' based on their merit (innate abilities, having the right attitude, working hard, playing by the rules), then distain for the unsuccessful is seen as warranted." Comedian D.L. Hughley makes a similar point in his forthcoming book, I Want You to Shut the F#ck Up: How The Audacity of Dopes is Ruining America: "There's this American idea that we're a meritocracy, that people reach the top through the virtue of hard work and perseverance. But the flipside to that thinking is that the poor ... must be flawed, lazy, stupid, or whatever other terrible adjective you would like to use. They didn't work hard enough in some kind of way but had every opportunity."

Link - via IdeaFeed

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