Daring Greatly - Chapter 1 - Scarcity: Looking Inside Our Culture of “Never Enough”
Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona
March 19, 2020
One thing we probably all have in common is that we’re sick of feeling afraid. We want to dare greatly.
We’re tired of the national conversation centering on “What should we fear?” and “Who should we blame?” We all want to be brave.
Labeling the problem in a way that makes it about who people are rather than the choices they’re making, let's all of us off the hook.
It is far more helpful, and even transformative, to look at the patterns of behaviors through the lens of vulnerability. (I’ll admit that is not a word I would use to describe myself before now. Let the world see who I really am? No thank you. I will keep this imposter disguise on as long as I can!)
Sometimes the simple act of humanizing problems sheds an important light on them, a light that often goes out the minute a stigmatizing label is applied.
Our cultural messaging everywhere that says that an ordinary life is a meaningless life. I see how kids (all of us?) that experience a steady diet of reality television, celebrity culture, and social media can absorb this messaging and develop a completely skewed sense of the world. I am only as good as the number of “likes” I get on Facebook or Instagram.
Grandiosity, entitlement, and admiration-seeking feel like just the right balm to soothe the ache of being ordinary and inadequate. (I am sensitive that this blog can be interpreted as attention seeking by me. I really appreciate your comments but I don’t feel I need them. I hope what I share here is informative and entertaining at times. It is my way of documenting both a physical and emotional journey that I am on. If I over-share at times, I apologize.)
We need to examine these issues through the lens of vulnerability. Something can always be learned when we consider these questions:
- What are the messages and expectations that define our culture and how does culture influence our behaviors?
- How are our struggles and behaviors related to protecting ourselves?
- How are our behaviors, thoughts, and emotions related to vulnerability and the need for a strong sense of worthiness?
The greatest cultural influence of our time -- the environment that not only explains what everyone is calling a narcissism epidemic, but also provides a panoramic view of the thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that are changing who we are and how we live, love, work, lead, parent, govern, teach, and connect with one another. This environment is our culture of scarcity – our culture of never enough.
It only takes a few seconds before people fill in the blanks with their own tapes:
- Never good enough
- Never perfect enough
- Never thin enough
- Never powerful enough
- Never successful enough
- Never smart enough
- Never certain enough
- Never safe enough
- Never extraordinary enough
We get scarcity because we live it.
For many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of “not enough” occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of.…
Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day.
We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack .…
This internal condition of scarcity, this mindset of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life ….
Scarcity is the “never enough” problem.
Scarcity thrives in a culture where everyone is hyperaware of “lack.” Everything from safety and love to money and resources feels restricted or lacking. We spend inordinate amounts of time calculating how much we have, want, and don’t have, and how much everyone else (appears) to have, to need and to want.
What makes this constant assessing and comparing so self-defeating is that we are often comparing our lives, our marriages, our families, and our communities to unattainable, media-driven visions of perfection, or we’re holding up our reality against our own fictional account of how great someone else has it. (“Everyday should feel this good.” No, it shouldn’t.)
Worrying about scarcity - about not being enough - is our culture’s version of PTSD
When we’ve been through too much, and rather than coming together to heal (which requires vulnerability), we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats.
The three components of scarcity – shame, comparison and disengagement. Scarcity bubbles up from these conditions and perpetuates them.
Ask yourself these questions in the culture that you are part of:
Is fear of ridicule and belittling used to manage people and / or to keep people in line?
Is self-worth tied to achievement, productivity, or compliance?
Are blaming and finger-pointing norms?
Are put-downs and name-calling rampant ?
What about favoritism? Is perfectionism an issue?
Healthy competition is beneficial, but is there constant overt or covert comparing and ranking?
Has creativity been suffocated?
Are people held to one narrow standard rather than acknowledged for their unique gifts and contributions?
Is there an ideal way of being or one form of talent that is used as measurement of everyone else’s worth?
Are people afraid to take risks or try new things?
Is it easier to stay quiet than to share stories, experiences, and ideas?
Does it feel as if no one is really paying attention or listening?
Is everyone struggling to be seen and heard?
The operative word is “overcome” because to grow a relationship or raise a family or create an organizational culture or run a school or nurture a faith community, all in a way that is fundamentally opposite to the cultural norms driven by scarcity, it takes awareness, commitment, and work … every single day.
The larger culture is always applying pressure, and unless we’re willing to push back and fight for what we believe in, the default becomes a state of scarcity. We’re called to “dare greatly” every time we make choices that challenge the social climate of never enough.
The opposite of “never enough” isn’t abundance or “more than you could ever imagine.”
The opposite of scarcity is enough, or what I call Wholeheartedness .
There are many tenets of Wholeheartedness, but at its very core are vulnerability and worthiness: facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks, and knowing that I am enough.
If you go back to the three sets of questions about scarcity and ask yourself if you’d be willing to be vulnerable or to dare greatly in any setting defined by these values, the answer for most of us is a resounding no. If you ask yourself if these are conditions conducive to cultivating worthiness, the answer is again no.
The greatest casualties of a scarcity culture are our willingness to own our vulnerabilities and our ability to engage with the world from a place of worthiness.
Are you sick of feeling afraid?
In Chapter 2, we’ll talk about the vulnerability myths that fuel scarcity and how courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.