The Buddha talks about social status in several suttas. At the beginning of MN 96, a Brahmin outlines who is allowed to serve whom, according to the caste system in place at the time. The Buddha replies (in part):
I do not say, brahmin, that one is better because one is from an aristocratic family, nor do I say that one is worse because one is from an aristocratic family. I do not say that one is better because one is of great beauty, nor do I say that one is worse because of great beauty. I do not say that one is better because one is of great wealth, nor do I say that one is worse because one is of great wealth. For one from an aristocratic family may destroy life, take what is not given, engage in sexual misconduct, speak falsely, speak divisively, speak harshly, gossip, be covetous, have a mind of ill will, and hold wrong view. Therefore I do not say that one is better because one is from an aristocratic family. But also one from an aristocratic family may abstain from destroying life, from taking what is not given, from sexual misconduct, from false speech, from divisive speech, from harsh speech, and from idle chatter, and he may be uncovetous, have a benevolent mind, and hold right view. Therefore I do not say that one is worse because one is from an aristocratic family. (translation by Bhikkhu Bodhi)
The Buddha lists a few things that might cause us to feel superior to others: coming from a high-born or well-known family, being more attractive than one’s peers, and being wealthy. There are other reasons we might claim superiority, of course, from the terribly superficial to more substantial identifiers. But the Buddha cuts through any notion that being born into a particular family or with certain attributes secures our place in society. Here and in other suttas, the Buddha asserts that one is high-born if one behaves impeccably, that is, keeps the precepts – not taking life, taking only what is offered, not engaging in sexual misconduct, speaking truthfully, harmoniously, gently, and meaningfully – as well as not envying others, keeping a benevolent attitude and maintaining right view (dukkha, its arising, its ending, and the path to the end of dukkha). Our real status is determined by our ongoing behavior; we can raise or lower ourselves through our actions at any time. This is true whether or not anyone is watching.
Many of us have a habit of imagining ourselves either better than or worse than others. Sometimes we judge others and ourselves without realizing we’re doing it. Our “comparing” responses are unhelpful and can drain our energy. What matters is how we treat each other and ourselves; respect and kindness are the marks of a superior person.