How To Feel Rich, Safe & Content—No Matter What

SMART Living 365.comLet me state right up front that this article is not about getting rich or making money.  It is also not about the latest in security technology or the suggestion that you should be happy just the way you are.  Instead, I want to explore the biggest obstacle to why most of us don’t really feel rich, safe or content regardless of how much money we have in the bank, the circumstances surrounding us, or how great things might be at any point.  That big “elephant in the room” is an underlying, all-pervasive and largely unconscious belief in scarcity and lack.  In fact, whether you are on the path to a simple or minimalist lifestyle—or just trying to get by as you are—I’m convinced that discovering what I mean by that, growing ever more aware of it, and taking steps to counteract it are some of the most important steps we can ever take to increase our individual well being.  Interested?

The insidious nature of a scarcity mindset was recently brought back to my attention by author Brene Brown in her book, Daring Greatly.   While I had previously been aware of ideas of scarcity from a financial perspective, Brown suggested that a major component of most of the problems in the entire world stem from this all-encompassing fear-based mentality of “never enough.”  As Brown says, “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 has, needs and wants.”    Unfortunately, that constant focus on not-enough challenges our sense of vulnerability and triggers our shame.  That is largely why Brown is convinced that scarcity is at the root of all of our feelings of shame, comparison and disengagement.  And that of course is why most of us don’t feel rich, safe or content in spite of how good our lives are.

Of course Brown isn’t the first person to speak out about the problems of scarcity or lack thinking.  Author Lynne Twist in her book, The Soul of Money offers this classic explanation of the issue:

For me, and 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 mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life…

When we think about it from this clarity it is easy to see that scarcity has most of us in its grip—not to mention entire countries and their leaders.  While it is easy to point fingers at those in our world who are  acting from fear or greed, an awareness of how deep a consciousness of scarcity goes in each of us is apparent.  Anytime I compare myself unfavorably to anyone else, anytime I believe someone else is both capable or even interested in taking away my good, every time I am fearful of anything, anytime I’m worried about something—at the core of every one of those situations I am putting my faith and belief in an idea of scarcity.   And when I do, how can I ever be enough, how could I ever have enough—to feel rich, safe and content?

I find Brene Brown’s perspective on scarcity so compelling because, as she says, “Worrying about scarcity is our culture’s version of post traumatic stress…and rather than coming together to heal (which requires vulnerability), we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats.”  Brown is convinced that this climate of scarcity influences our culture in three major ways.  Those ways are:

  1.  Shame.  We ridicule and belittle others as a way to control or keep people in line. We control ourselves by tying our self-worth to achievement, productivity, compliance and even perfectionism.
  2. Comparison: We constantly compare and rank others and ourselves, holding each to a narrow standard or ideal. Creativity is stifled and ignored.
  3. Disengagement:  We all disconnect to avoid judgment or to remain unseen. We refuse to listen or pay attention and feel no one is listening or paying attention to us.  We avoid trying anything new or taking risks.

So what’s the solution?  According to Brown it begins by saying, “The opposite of ‘never enough’ isn’t abundance or ‘more than you could ever imagine.’ The opposite of scarcity is (simply) enough…”  She believes that the way to overcome such thinking is to cultivate what she calls “Wholeheartedness.”  A wholehearted person is someone who lives their life courageously, “facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks” all the time holding a deep belief that they are enough and the world itself is enough, exactly as it is.

What suggestions does Lynn Twist offer?  Twist says, “You have to recognize that you’re swimming in the lie. Because when you’re chasing more so obsessively, you can’t see ‘enough’ – it doesn’t even exist for you. You’re too focused on what’s not there, to see what is there. The radical truth is there is enough right now, right this minute, but you have to let go of trying to get more to see ‘enough.’ When you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need, which is what most of us are scrambling to get more of, it frees up oceans of energy to pay attention to and make a difference with what you already have.  I like to say, ‘What you appreciate appreciates.’ What you already have grows in the nourishment of your attention and intention.”

Twist goes on to say that this “enoughness” is actually an awareness of “sufficiency.”   But she is also clear that sufficiency isn’t “two steps up from poverty or one step short of abundance.”  Instead, sufficiency isn’t an amount at all.  “It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing there is enough, and that we are enough.”  Twist is similar to what Brown says when she explains that, “Sufficiency is a context we bring forth from within that reminds us that if we look around us, and within ourselves, we find what we need.  There is always enough…”

I agree with both Twist and Brown when they say that we must counteract the consciousness of scarcity with an ongoing awareness and internal work to turn such thinking around.  Brown says that she and her husband work every single day to overcome “the cultural norms driven by scarcity.”   She believes it takes courage and vulnerability “every time we make choices that challenge the social climate of scarcity.”  But only when we embrace sufficiency consciousness as opposed to scarcity consciousness can we count ourselves among the wholehearted.

Clearly unless we are willing to challenge our feelings of lack and vulnerability by daring greatly, then we remain jailed by the fear fueled by a scarcity mentality.  Ultimately it doesn’t matter how “minimal” we live, how few pieces of clothing or furniture we own, or whether we live in a tiny house or a mansion.  Regardless if we have a billion bucks in the bank or $10 in our wallet it will never be enough.  As long as we continue to believe in lack and scarcity we will never feel truly rich, safe or content.  Instead, a compassionate, openhearted, courageous awareness of sufficiency is the best antidote we can take.


This post is linked in the SITS Girls Saturday Sharefest on 12/7/13  


Filed under Aware, Meaningful, Sustainable, Thankful

28 Responses to How To Feel Rich, Safe & Content—No Matter What

  1. What a nice post on feeling rich, safe and content Kathy. I read some where, I don’t remember now; that one must practice abundant mentality. Meaning to say that there is enough and more for every one to live happy and content; and the way we perceive richness, safety, contentment is important. As you rightly pointed out that even though we live with minimal requirements, we can still be rich and content. Thank you for sharing !
    G Angela recently posted…Gratitude post for July, 2015My Profile

    • Hi G Angela! Yes! I like that phrase, “practice abundant mentality.” And surely the more we do it the easier it becomes and the more aware we are of all the good in our lives. Thank you for that reminder! ~Kathy

  2. I lived a life of scarcity for way too long, and I am so glad that I have moved to a life of abundance. The follow the crowd life is definitely one of scarcity, and once I started walking my own path, one inspired by great writers and thinkers, it switched to this amazingly abundant life.

    Thanks for an insightful piece of writing.
    Mark Adam Douglass (Minimalist Couple) recently posted…Simplifying Life Together: Hitting the Reset ButtonMy Profile

    • Hi Mark…thanks for stopping by SMART Living and leaving a comment. I’m glad you’ve been able to wake up to the illusion of scarcity and see a new and better way. I DO like what Lynne Twist says that the opposite of scarcity isn’t necessarily abundance–she says that the opposite of abundance is actually sufficiency. I think she is coming from the fact that as long as we are striving for more, more, more (which can happen to many of us with a strong focus on abundance) then we are still caught up in an idea that we aren’t enough and that their isn’t “enough” in our life. When we can really dwell in the idea of “enough-ness” and/or sufficiency then we can be happy and and peace with things EXACTLY in the present moment. And that is a REALLY good and abundant feeling.

      Thanks again for stopping by and for the great encouragement and lessons you offer on your own blog. ~Kathy

  3. Hi Kathy, I am a bit late to the conversation, I have several of your posts saved as I like to read them, sit with them then come back to comment. Unfortunately life has been busy and I haven’t gotten back as often as I would like.

    I can see the scarcity and how it played out in my life. When I was a single mother I wished I could have more for my boys, we lived in a very well-to-do town where they felt outside of things because they didn’t have the same experiences. I also used to joke with a friend that if I had as much money later in life that I had to raise the children I would have a lot. Well, that time came and at the same time the prices of everything rose so high that having the same income things are tighter than when I was raising my children. But instead of looking at what I couldn’t afford and finding ways to increase my income I looked for ways to decrease my expenses and enjoy life.

    I now have more fun than ever before, and don’t notice scarcity in my life. This is the life I chose and it fits who I am. Yes, I am living counter to how my peers live but I’ve long ago given up on keeping up appearances for everyone else.
    Lois recently posted…You want me to buy what?My Profile

    • Hi Lois! You are NEVER late to a conversation because your comments are always so welcome and wise! And I know how difficult it can be to keep up with a active blog and all the comments you are so generous with on blogs all around the web, so I’m never surprised to hear you are busy. I also agree that you are definitely one of the people who practice sufficiency to a high degree compared to the rest of us. I think that comes from maturity and the wisdom you’ve picked up in your life and it is expressed constantly on your blog. I think your authenticity and honesty with everyone, your willingness to share compassionately everything you’ve learned, and showing such generosity with all that you do, is evidence that you’ve been able to put thoughts of scarcity aside and live your life simple and free. Thanks as always for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. ~Kathy

  4. Thank you Kathy for making us all feel richer. There is so little written on this topic. I realized some time ago that I suffered from a scarcity mentality. We all know the symptoms of this ailment. It’s easy to compare our circumstances with everyone else’s or pity ourselves for not having enough or being enough. Our mindset can keep us hostage and we have to work hard to escape the thoughts that make us feel so poor.

    It’s easy to think that we need something more to be happy. Rarely do we ask how much is enough? If we can feel content then we have enough. The mind is such a quagmire though so it simplifies our circumstances to the point that it misleads us. If you’re struggling to pay the bills then you feel poor even if you have a large plot of land in your backyard. Whenever I have more than I need, I find myself helping out to the point where I create my own scarcity. I suppose that’s my baseline. Feeling blessed and seeing promise can be the antidote.

    • Hi Alex, I consider your comment a huge compliment if I was able to remind you of how rich you truly are! I agree that there just doesn’t seem to be much written about this because I personally would benefit by reading and thinking about it every single day….but you know what? Even thinking there isn’t enough written about it is “lack thinking!” 🙂 That mentality is EVERYWHERE! As you say, comparison is a big part of the problem. Hanging out with people who remind us constantly that we are good enough, rich enough, safe enough, content enough, right where we are, as we are is probably the best way to feeling blessed. Let’s all help each other okay? Thanks again for coming by and leaving your comment…. ~Kathy

  5. Kathy D.

    Beautifully said! I have discovered that when I start counting money and worrying about finances, it makes me feel unhappy and nervous. Learning to let go of that is challenging, but is definitely helping me to feel more secure.

    • Hi Kathy D. thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I glad you recognized the core issue with scarcity–that unless we feel like we are enough and have enough we will always be somewhat unhappy & nervous. Nervous that we’ll lose what we have or someone will take it away…unhappy that is just doesn’t feel like there will ever be enough. Like you say, the more we can let go of that the better and the more secure we will feel. Thanks again for taking the time to comment. It is ALWAYS appreciated! ~Kathy

  6. Hello from Croatia Kathy! This post was absolutely inspiring. I work to believe in the idea of ‘enoughness’ and sometimes I get there and it is a peaceful place and other times I get unnecessarily anxious that there is not enough.

    This is especially true since I retired and I do have enough but not as much as before. So when I compare the numbers from then and now, they are so different that sometimes it brings me to a place where I only see scarcity.

    If I pull away from the numbers and just live, then I go back to being enough. Nice post…I love Brene Brown’s perspective too.
    Kelly recently posted…Travel Changes UsMy Profile

    • Hey Kelly! Wow! I don’t think I knew you were going to Croatia! Thom and I were just there in MAY and absolutely loved it! Where are you? How long and all that? Do you post photos on your FB page? I’ll have to check it out…

      And thanks for your input on this article. I agree that it is a work in progress regardless of how far along any of us think we are. And certainly comparison is one of the big things that can trip us up. What’s the saying, we never compare to people at our level or anything–we instead tend to look beyond to see what is different and that is the big problem.

      I agree that putting away the numbers (and the comparison) is a path to feeling enough. Thank you and have an AWESOME time in Croatia!! ~Kathy

  7. Pat

    Good information, Kathy, and thought provoking. I think we each have to get to the core of our beliefs and find ways to make changes that work for us.

    I think in our culture we’ve bought into the hype that more is better and we accumulate all this stuff believing what we’re told — that it will make us happy.

    Changes are hard to make unless you’re able to identify its source and then do your internal work.
    Pat recently posted…Ouch! I Think I Overdid ItMy Profile

    • Hi Pat…thanks for your comment! I agree that the “more” issue is such a subtle part of this entire conversation. All the striving that we do grasping for more–including the happiness and even good–is often driven from this unspoken fear of “not enough.” Any time I read others who suggest that we should “chase happiness” I inwardly cringe a little…because in so many ways that can be seen as just another chase after something you can never catch. I like Lynne Twist’s quote about, “what we appreciate, appreciates.” In other words, what we dwell upon we become. And as you say it is loaded for all sort of inner work. Thanks again! ~Kathy

      • Pat

        So true, Kathy, I agree with chasing happiness when we hear it and I like Lynne Twist’s quote. If we could ever get over instant gratification and chasing what appears solid on the outside and learn to tune in to what is not as obvious but more real on the inside, we’d come to realize our happiness and what we’ve been given. 🙂
        Pat recently posted…Ouch! I Think I Overdid ItMy Profile

        • Hi Pat! You definitely hit the nail on the head by say, “If we could ever get over instant gratification and chasing what appears solid on the outside…” So, so true! Even those of us who know better have to be ever watchful right? I always think of the trickster archetype because it is such a great reminder that if we don’t stay conscious and aware “he” will trick us into believing that all that external stuff is real instead of coming to “realize our happiness and what we’ve been given.” Great reminders! Thanks as always for sharing your thoughts Pat! ~Kathy

  8. This concept even applies to artist…they feel they have only one book or one painting in them. But as they engage in the work, more and more ideas come to them; sometimes to the point that they can do it all. Life is abundance.

    • Hi Christine! I agree. Certainly it applies to artists. What intrigues me is how this idea of scarcity applies to just about EVERYTHING. Any time we are worried about anything at all, it is usually coming from that belief that there isn’t enough–that can be stuff, money, health, intelligence, creativity, friends, food, happiness, pleasure, work, love….on and on and on the list grows. What I’ve been attempting to do since writing the article is to catch how very many ways it creeps into our lives without us being aware. Instead, dwelling in that space of abundance or sufficiency is so much more peaceful and liberating. Thanks for adding to the conversation Christine! ~Kathy

  9. Wow, Kathy! I love articles that make me think this much!

    I had never thought of it from the angle of scarcity before. But that theory really goes a long way to explain why, after someone embraces minimalism on a physical level, they often go on to make rather courageous choices in their life. Understanding that you HAVE enough, can lead to an understanding that you ARE enough. If nothing else, people who have embraced minimalism (as a philosophy and a tool, not as a doctrine or a set of rules), do eventually seem to trust themselves a lot more than the general public.

    Definitely food for thought–thank you!
    Bethany recently posted…3 Things I’ve Learned Not to JudgeMy Profile

    • Hi Bethany….good to hear from you! Isn’t a belief in scarcity such an interesting way of looking at why minimalism is so popular right now? I agree that it does make you realize that the “normal” way of doing things isn’t working and that definitely requires making more courageous choices. And while I agree that understanding you have enough can help you recognize you ARE enough–and that’s the way many of us approach it–it’s still very important to realize that we ARE enough right on the inside regardless of what is going on in the world.

      Of course I’m not really sure that I agree that everyone who has embraced minimalism (even as a philosophy) trust themselves and life in general more than the rest of the general public. Going deep into the awareness of how scarcity shows up in our lives requires a great deal of honesty and introspection. We all have different motivations an only we alone know why.

      Of course with that said, it doesn’t really matter how others are practicing. The real work is on ourselves. As is usually the case, I write what I most need to explore. Thanks again for stopping by and your comments. ~Kathy

  10. Kathy – this one hit me hard! Brilliant post.
    “The radical truth is there is enough right now, right this minute, but you have to let go of trying to get more to see ‘enough.’ When you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need, which is what most of us are scrambling to get more of, it frees up oceans of energy to pay attention to and make a difference with what you already have. ”
    I’ll need to sit and ponder that quote for a while.
    Thank you for sharing this amazing content.
    Nancy recently posted…And speaking of wine…My Profile

    • Hi Nancy! I’m so glad you found this topic as provocative as I did! I agree that quote is brilliant and love how it is all so connected to our willingness…or unwillingness…to be honest, open and vulnerable to each other and the world. If we always have to be so darn careful that we’ll lose the good things in our lives, then we’re always constantly watching one another with worry and suspicion. I also loved the reminder of “what we appreciate, appreciates!”

      Once you ponder it a while please feel free to share some of your insights. I really believe this whole topic is very juicy! Thanks as always for stopping by! ~Kathy

  11. Thank you Kathy for this well written and well thought out article. I’m going to have to read it again this evening and ponder it.

    Dan Garner
    Dan Garner recently posted…Snakes, Sharks, and GhostsMy Profile

    • Hi Dan…Thank you so much for letting me know that you appreciated this post. I welcome any and all comments so once you’ve read it over again, please feel free to share your insights to the discussion. I am convinced that this topic is very deeply connected to us all so I’m sure there is plenty to add. ~Kathy

  12. Lovely. I’ve been listening to Brene Brown via audiobook as well as watching her TED talks and the idea of talking ourselves into a rushed, scarcity mindset is something we DON’T have to do. There really is enough time, enough resources; all gets done, eventually.
    Beverly Diehl recently posted…Being Honest, or Career Suicide? #BookReviewsMy Profile

    • Hi Beverly–yes! Don’t you just love Brene Brown’s work? I watched all of her TED talks and also two of the shows she did on Oprah, read her book Daring Greatly and a bunch of her articles. I think she has such a clear perspective on some of the issues that haunt us women particularly–and so much insight into what is going on psychologically with so many of us here in the west and around the world. I also really, really appreciated how she admitted that she and her husband work on the “scarcity” issue every single day of their lives. It’s one thing to say that we know it’s not true and another (at least for me) thing to live “as” it. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts…they are very much appreciated!–Kathy

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