“It’s better to be overdressed at a party rather than underdressed” is a rule of thumb a lot of people invoke when they need to pass judgment on what they should wear. Instead of being the emperor without any clothes, it’s better to be the homeless bum wrapped in five coats who watches the parade pass from his sleeping bag. People usually like to have more information rather than less of it; they would rather have too much food over too little; and even though Biggie argued that the amount of problems you have correlates to the amount of money you’ve amassed, it’s pretty easy to argue that having more money is a lot more fun than having less of it.
And yet, sometimes you find yourself naked and broke and hungry. Sometimes, you’re underdressed. Sometimes, you’re surrounded with people far beyond your league, and you become horrendously aware that you don’t measure up. Sometimes, mere circumstance sticks a silver spoon in your mouth, and if you weren’t born with one in your mouth, you may not know what to do with it.
It’s simple enough to accept the luck you’re handed when airlines upgrade your ticket to first class for no reason at all, or when the bartender decides to make your drink on the house, or when you find some designer bag at Goodwill in great condition for next to nothing. But while the world generally accepts the Trustifarians who slum it in college dorms when their parents could afford to bankroll swanky apartments and the Olsen twins and every other socialite who dresses straight off the Derelicte runway, when people trade up, they’re regarded as shams. Just as new money is always looked at as gloriously trashy in a Real Housewives of… kind of way, no-money-amongst-any-money is downright shunned. And it is so easy to retaliate and become bitter, to lash out against those from whom you feel ostrasized.
But whatever your circumstances, you have to remember that you never have to measure up to these people, the ones who have no right to judge you to begin with, just as you can’t judge them for all of the things they have. Their bags and their diamonds and their vacations don’t make them any better than you, though it might seem as if these things make their lives easier. That might or might not be true. Maybe they share your work ethic, your drive, your resourcefulness. Maybe that’s how they’ve made their own fortunes. Maybe they once remember what it’s like to have come from very little. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they’ll never understand how proud you can be of your own optimism when you’re feeding it on canned soup and frozen vegetables.
The world will always be a terrible clash between the haves and the have nots. The current political climate is a stunning example of that. And if you don’t belong to the top tax bracket, it isn’t that you aren’t applying yourself. If you aren’t truly struggling — if you’re actually managing to get by with relative comfort — you are not a horrible person who should sacrifice more. It is okay to be somewhere in the middle, and it is okay to sometimes find yourself in a situation above whatever proverbial caste to which you may belong.
And if you find yourself in a situation where you feel naked, just remember that everyone else probably feels naked, too. And everyone trips up, even the people who were born into the world Vanity Fair writes about. Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle. And even emperors sometimes forget their clothes.