The phone rings. It’s a friend of yours who just booked a recurring role on a big television series. She is ecstatic; her voice sings and screams in a high pitched excitement. She is so grateful to share her moment with you. Despite your genuine desire to be happy for your friend’s good news, a pang of anxiety erupts in the pit of your stomach. Your heart begins to race, your breath becomes shallow, your face burns red, you even feel like crying. Worst of all you feel shame at your inability to enjoy your friend’s success.
When you have a visceral, full bodied response to hearing of another’s achievement, it can be indicative of a deep psycho-spiritual conditioning known as the scarcity mentality. The scarcity mentality is a worldview rooted in the belief that there is not enough. There is not enough success, not enough wealth, not enough love for everyone. The dictum of the scarcity mentality is that someone must lose in order for you to win.
This mentality is often encoded early in life. If we experienced childhoods where there was in fact “not enough”, where our physical, emotional, or spiritual needs went unmet, scarcity can easily become the lens through which we see the world. This worldview often motivates tremendous drive, but also leaves us hyper vigilant, incessantly comparing and competing with those around us, and rendering us fundamentally distrustful of life.
The opposite of a scarcity mentality is an abundance mentality. An abundance paradigm views the world in terms of boundless potential, where there is the possibility of enough for everyone. If you identify with a scarcity mentality you may view the previous sentence with skepticism and dismissal, or equate an abundance perspective with a deluded utopian vision. Yet rather than a Pollyannaish denial of injustice, an abundance mentality views the inequities of the world as stemming from scarcity consciousness on an individual and collective level. World hunger is not a result from a dearth of food, it’s a product of national and global policies rooted in greed and scarcity. While there may be a finite amount of oil on earth, there is an abundance of alternative energy available.
An abundance mentality rests on the spiritual principle of interconnectedness. Abundance allows us to experience ourselves as more than separate animals at war with one another for the last scrap of food, but as part of a collective where everyone has a vital role to fill, and we are in this together. While competition still plays a natural role in daily life, when an expectation is disappointed— when someone else gets the job, the sting is not so immense that your core is shaken. It does not become a herculean task to wish someone well because you have an innate trust that you too will be taken care of.
What is so pernicious about a scarcity mentality is it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you see the world as scarce and perceive the success of others as threatening, you project an air of desperation that is off-putting towards opportunity. The old adage of “don’t network, make friends” comes to mind. When you enter a situation from a scarcity mentality, all you see is what others can do for you. This agenda is transparent and usually makes people run! When you can rest in a place of abundance you open yourself to be of service. You are able to authentically connect with others and you radiate an attractive, positive energy. Wisdom traditions throughout the ages reiterate that you only get what you give away. This does not mean martyrdom, nor does it mean feigning philanthropy, or repressing jealousy or shadow. It means doing the internal work of dismantling scarcity conditioning, and re- aligning yourself with an abundance mentality which can foster inspiration and generosity for yourself and others. Ultimately, it’s a much easier way to live.
Copyright Meredith Hines MA 2011