When our ego is threatened, somehow, it’s natural for us to emphasize other achievements in a competitive way. Why is it so, we wonder? A recent study may shed light on the matter and why people look for various forms of validation.

Seeking to restore our standing in another domain when we feel threatened is a maneuver called “status pivoting“, and it’s thought to be a coping mechanism for vulnerability or inadequacy by researchers. Status pivoting can occur in a variety of contexts, including income, morality, and so on. One area the researchers looked into is parenting. Many participants in the research who felt professionally upstaged actively “pivoted” to highlighting their parental abilities. When they brag, they usually highlight specific successes that reflect well on them as a parent: their children’s excellent grades, athletic achievements, and the school they attend. They use their sons’ or daughters’ concrete achievements to demonstrate their own parenting skills. For them, these are principal accomplishments to point to when outshining someone else during a status pivot. “Their children’s performance becomes their own transferred success,” says sociologist and visiting assistant professor Hilary Levey Friedman.

In status-pivoting circumstances, it’s important to remember that there are alternative techniques to fulfill one’s craving to feel successful. We all feel insecure when our ego is bruised, but we should never turn our back on our responsibilities and passions.