A Different Perspective on Scarcity Mindset and Responding to a Culture of Never Enough

Scarcitymindset

Note: This adapted post was first posted on the Darling Magazine blog summer of 2016. 

WHAT IS SCARCITY MINDSET?

Down to our DNA, we crave connection, adventure and a life of meaning and purpose. If you are living from a narrative fueled by scarcity mindset, the world can quickly become small, lonely and scary, shrouded in judgement and entrenched in the never-ending hustle for safety.

When we don’t believe we are enough – that we are doing enough, or that there is enough opportunity in the world for us – then a scarcity mindset is in the driver’s seat where you belong. Scarcity mindset is a cocktail of shame; it’s obsessive comparison and competition, and a disengagement from taking risks which may result in failure, being misunderstood or being seen as flawed. Living from a scarcity mindset leads to emotional exhaustion and constant distrust.

The following are warning signs that scarcity mindset is impacting your confidence. You…

Are in a constant state of comparison.
Find yourself wishing others do not succeed and are consumed by competition.
Find your worth and identity are externally motivated.
Feel worse about yourself after an interaction with someone in person or on social media.
Are constantly anxious but do not know why.
Are clinging to perfection as the ideal way of being/doing.

Becoming a wise consumer of information is crucial in our culture of ‘never enough.’ Relentless messages about whether you are enough, there is enough or your are doing enough takes a toll on the brain and the body. Scarcity mindset can hijack your confidence, your trust and confuse what you value by using the fear of disconnection and rejection as your guide on how to think and act. Marketers, advertisers and others desiring to get you to buy, vote, share, or believe are attuned to the psychology of human behavior, and are aware that a scarcity mindset is a powerful force of influence that allows fear and shame to be the leading emotions driving your decision making process.

Scarcity mindset can hijack your confidence, your trust and confuse what you value by using the fear of disconnection and rejection as your guide.

At the root of scarcity mindset is fear. Fear is an important and protective emotion, but too much fear can leave the nervous system in a constant state of hyper-vigilance, seeking immediate relief and comfort. This intense, emotional state chips away at the resilience needed to tolerate sitting in the space of suffering and struggle, and finding ways to grow from it.

Choosing to invest in relationships and dreams leaves all of us vulnerable to a scarcity mindset. Left unchecked, it infects our ability to trust and stay grounded in knowing that things will be okay, even when the outcome is uncertain. When self-worth becomes intertwined with what you do, look like or have, confidence disappears and the chase for the approval of others becomes the norm. Claiming the power and agency given to all of us is a crucial practice and a powerful resource in response to the messages of scarcity.

A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON SCARCITY MINDSET

Here is the curve ball on scarcity mindset: It has a noble cause. It’s trying to protect you from failure, rejection, being separated from needed connection. Scarcity mindset is actually a protective part of your inner world and is not to be loathed, fixed, or banished. It is one of the brain’s many ways of trying to keep you safe.

Most of the threats we experience these days are to our sense of self — keeping our nervous system on high alert. This is exhausting and can have a detrimental impact on your physical and emotional well-being. Scarcity mindset gets you to turn on yourself in an attempt to get safe.

When you develop confidence in the face of uncertainty, fear has a way of cleansing and clarifying – you become powerful instead of paralyzed. 

One question will help you get clarity and to the heart of how scarcity mindset is impacting your life today: What are you afraid of?

This self-awareness is crucial. When you take the time to be honest about your fears, you are then able begin the work to re-wire your brain’s responses to these threats. When you develop confidence in the face of uncertainty, fear has a way of cleansing and clarifying – you become powerful instead of paralyzed.

Scarcity mindset gets you to turn on yourself in an attempt to get safe. In her book, Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, Amy Cuddy, Ph.D. writes about the importance of claiming our personal power to stay grounded in our self-confidence:

“Personal Power is characterized by freedom from dominance of others. It is infinite, as opposed to zero-sum – it’s about access to and control of limitless inner resources, such as our skills and abilities, our deeply held values, our true personalities, our boldest selves…Personal power makes us more open, optimistic, and risk tolerant and therefore more likely to notice and take advantage of opportunities.”

HOW TO RESPOND TO SCARCITY MINDSET

It’s easy to over-identify with the pain and suffering we see around us. Approach the scarcity mindset part of you with curiosity and compassion. Confidence combined with the lens of common humanity — we are in this human journey together — reminds you to stay grounded in the truth that your imperfections, failures, mistakes and difficult life experiences are what unites us all. It is a part of being human.

Respond to self-critical thoughts with compassion and curiosity. Instead of viewing these thoughts at the enemy and something to be eliminated, recognize this part of your inner life is trying to protect you and serves a purpose.

On the hard days, give yourself permission to:

– Unfollow
– Unplug
– Reach out and connect with someone, in person
– Practice choosing respect, which may feel awkward and inauthentic at first
– Rest
– Move
– Get outside

Caution against seeing abundance as the opposite of scarcity – which is a common message in response to scarcity. As Brené Brown notes in Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, “The counter approach to living in scarcity is not about abundance. In fact, I think abundance and scarcity are two sides of the same coin.” Chasing abundance only fuels scarcity mindset and the feelings of never enough.

Does a scarcity mindset sound familiar to you? What is is one way you can challenge yourself to live outside of fear?

Scarcity mindset is not going anywhere, especially in our information age where so much money is to be made by seeking quick fixes to the distress of not feeling enough. Fight to claim your power and confidence in this culture of never enough and know the space you create will be contagious. The world needs you to show up and be seen.

With gratitude –

Rebecca

 

Living and Loving in a Culture of Never Enough

 

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Preparing for my talk at Flood Church this weekend on “Parenting in a Culture of Never Enough”, I wrote this slide inspired by a week that stretched me with my own children.

Whether you are parenting your children, caring for your pets, or anyone in your charge – it hurts when your loved ones hurt.

Becoming a parent was not a life-long dream for me. I was wary at best. Then I met my husband and I took the dive into this role knowing he was a voice of reason and strength at my side. Now I am all in with two little people who expanded my heart and continue to stretch me in ways I did not know I could be stretched.

My husband and I found new edges in our relationship when our first child was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. While the diagnosis gave us a framework to understand her brain and nervous system, she was her own unique person who did not fit into any mold.

There is a saying within the autism community: If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.

Parenting a child on the autism spectrum may not be very different than parenting any other kid  – there are good days, hard days and days you can barely breathe.

However we get there, I believe we all can relate to the roller coaster of emotions involved in being responsible for a loved one.

This week took me to the ‘barely breathe’ edge as my daughter’s nervous system made wearing clothes, smelling certain smells, seeing anything she deemed “gross”, hearing sounds at a certain volume unbearable.

Everything hurt. What feels like a tap to you and me felt like a punch on her skin. Noises we barely notice were causing her to cringe.

And when that kind of assault on a nervous system is going on, she responds like most of us – fight and flight, but mostly fight. My girl can scream and turn on herself in an instant. It can be dizzying.

And when her brain goes into limbic mode, she has her own shame spiral to reckon with as she hates feeling different and doing things that may not respect herself or others.

It takes a lot of energy to hold space in these moments.

When those I care about hurt, I hurt.

Their hurts + my hurts intersect and in a millisecond my brain decides whether to let the feelings wash over me or go into fight, flight, freeze or numb out.

I love my passionate, deep, brilliant, brave daughter.

My love does not waver but I sure want to shrink from it when others give witness to her pain, my pain.

There is nothing cool, smooth, elegant about a public meltdown.

In a culture that says you are not: enough, doing enough, strong enough, Christian enough, calm enough, professional enough, wealthy enough, cool enough, skinny or fit enough, have-it-all together enough – the pressure can feel like something fierce.

It hurts to see my daughter misunderstood. I know it hurts her, too.

And my own stories of feeling misunderstood, ashamed and alone get activated during these times too – whether I know it in the moment or not.

Both of our nervous systems were hot messes this week.

My colleague Bobbi Hannah, an occupational therapist here in San Diego, sent me this chart after we recently were geeking out talking about the nervous system. She shared how the impact of too many “dings” on our nervous system can lead to us feeling flooded, shut down or taking measures to defend ourselves from more triggers.  I gave her an ‘amen’ as I see this so much in my daughter, myself and many of my clients.

This metaphor also fits with all I have learning in my EMDR training and other trainings + readings from people like Bessel van der Kolk, Dan Siegel, Richard Schwartz and more.

Dings

When we get enough dings on our nervous system, our hearts, our souls – we start to engage in protective choices which may not be aligned with our core values. Shame creeps in and we may begin to believe the lies of scarcity mindset which is a cocktail of shame, comparison, competition, fear and loneliness.

In those moments of feeling exposed, confused and helpless – it is a nervous system overload.

The shoulds, the supposed to’s, the rules, the plans – they can get all jumbled up between your loved one’s pain and your pain.

The default is to stop the pain of your loved one so you stop hurting – and sometimes we attempt to shut down this pain in ways that lead to some serious empathic failure.

Making the choice to stay calm, respectful and patient happens. But not as often as I would like. Frustration, fatigue and vulnerability can get the best of me during these times.

I suspect you can relate.

We all mess it up and want do overs.

But that is the awesome thing about grace and failure – we get to teach how to fall and fail well – and rise again after those moments where all we know to be true and right goes out the window as we jump to shut down the pain in ways that make everyone feel crappy.

How we handle struggle – our struggles and the struggles of those we love –  can potentially be powerful medicine for our relationships and communities if we dare to be vulnerable.

The pressure to never fail, mess up and make a mistake can be immense. Perfection says if you are not perfect, you are letting your loved one down.

But one of the biggest gifts we can do is show how we recover when we mess up.

THIS is the space of courage, grace, learning, inspiration and connection.

Yes, falls and failures invite the naysayers, the shoulders and the I-told-you-so voices.

Digging in and dealing with past and present hurts is ground zero for responding differently when the hurts of our loved ones collide with our hurts.

All of us on the Potentia team are honored to support people who desire to respond to differently to discomfort, pain and shame so not hurt themselves or others. Sometimes this work is nuanced and takes time. And sometimes it just takes a period of getting outside your head and finding out you are not alone in your struggles.

It is brave work loving people and navigating the messiness of real, honest, meaningful relationships. And when the dings get too much, remember you are not meant to struggle alone.

Daring to reach out and ask for help is a powerful example to model to those you care about. Keep showing up. The dark emotions are part of being human. And never forget we are all on this deeply human journey together.

With gratitude –

Rebecca

Scarcity and the Cracks in the Road

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On our walk to my daughter’s school this morning, we ran into a couple of power-walkers from the neighborhood.

One of the power-walkers stopped and asked us to weigh in on a bet between the of them.

“These newly paved roads – how long do you think it will take until they start showing cracks? One month or two months?”

The roads still had a pretty strong smell of tar emanating from them and they also seemed a bit delicate as the tar was still soft and settling. I shrugged, “I do not know… maybe even sooner?”

The woman did not like my reply and huffed off. The suggestion the perfectly paved roads were not going to last was simply. not. ok.

I hollered after my power-walking neighbor in all of my nerdy therapist glory:

“Hey! There is nothing wrong with a few cracks in the road.”

The woman stopped, turned around and took off her rather large sun hat, setting her stern eyes on me while placing her hands on her hips as she said,

“I once had a contractor tell me if you have a crack and you can fit a dime in it, you are in some deep trouble.”

Turning on her heels, off she went to finish her morning power walk.

Ugh.

I started getting all defensive for the poor cracks in the road. And the pressure the newly paved road had on it to stay…perfect.

And so began a conversation in my head with the power-walking neighbor telling her the cracks are just a reflection of:

  • how hard the road works
  • how much pressure the road tolerates day in and day out
  • how the road has been neglected and not cared for well. The road is just doing what it is made to do and cracks are inevitable.

Conversations in my head and feeling defensive for an inanimate object were good clues a nerve had been touched.

I took a deep breathe and checked the source of my vulnerability.

Walking home, I found myself looking at the cracks in the road that had not been repaved yet. Some were small and others could hold a roll of dimes.

And I could not shake the heaviness I was feeling about the neighborhood walking buddies already betting on when the newly paved road was going to “fail” to be “perfect”.

Wow.

The pressure to be perfect and meet all of the various standards of those who see us when we show up in life is truly intense at times.

We devote a lot of time, effort and resources to covering up or trying to get rid of our own imperfections.

Scarcity fuels critics like my two power walking neighbors.

Scarcity shows up ever where.

Bathing suit season, finals, tax time, finding a job or changing careers, relationships, parenting, creativity – you name it – there are a whole host of triggers these days that make chasing the perfection carrot a daily grind.

Seeing the messy, the cracked as beautiful is hard when your lens on life is in defend/perfect mode.

Cover Up. Protect. Do Not Be Seen. 

The critics are here to stay. As long as there are products to be sold and love to be desired, the critics will be present.

I do my best to push back on the power and influence of critics in the world and in my head.

But one of the most effective, sustaining and rewarding resources to managing the relentless critics has been developing my own life-long shame resilience practice.

Doing this work involved me getting clear on:

  • my personal shame triggers. Shame work is trauma work and trauma work is shame work.
  • how I respond when my shame is triggered.
  • what vulnerability is,  is not and how vulnerability is the pathway to living the life I am called to live.
  • who my go-to support team is in my life. And how sometimes my support team shifts depending on the season and the issue.
  • who I thought I was striving to be and who God is calling me to be
  • how best to care for, rest and feed my body and my soul
  • what values guide my decisions personally and professionally
  • the importance of maintaining good boundaries so I do not overextend, live in regret or resentment
  • how to move away from unhealthy perfection and towards healthy striving.

My shame resilience practice has helped me understand – in action, not just intellectually – the concept of wholehearted living:

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left is undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” – The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown Ph.D. LMSW

Cracks and all, we need to dare to show up and be seen.

If you are ready to develop your own shame resilience practice, please join us at one of our upcoming (re) Define Courage workshops. This work is life-giving soul work that helps you take insight to sustained change so you can (re) define the cracks in your life.

How do you feel about the cracks in your story? Do they allow shame to drive your choices or do they inspire you?

Cheering you on and respecting the cracks in the road –

Rebecca