I felt it placed upon my heart to write this post a few months ago, and it stirred up a lot of anxiety within me. A LOT. Like I started panicking about dying on a daily basis. The ground beneath me – mentally and emotionally – began to quake.
I awoke the beast.
So like I do with most things I dread/fear, I procrastinated. I’ll write this later. I’ve got other stuff to do.
You know, stuff like scroll through Instagram and Reddit over and over again every thirty minutes, bite my nails, find things to bitch at John about then pick fights over it, talk shit about people I don’t like (especially our current president and his administration), look at clothes I want to buy then whine because I don’t have the extra money to buy them, eat junk food, worry about my weight and almost start a new diet out of old habits die hard, and every other thing you do when you don’t want to face your bullshit head on.
In mid-January, this very clear voice that resounded through my whole being, a voice I heard 10 years ago when it told me to move to Atlanta, told me, Something bad is about to happen. It may have added, to you, but I can’t remember exactly. I thought, “Okay, anxiety, yes, of course, something bad will happen to me, that’s life. It’s like sitting outside and saying a gray Camry is going to drive by. It will eventually because those are very popular cars.”
But then, my best friend’s fiance of five years went AWOL for a week before it was determined it was all because he was too chickenshit to break up with her. Devastating for her though because he’d acted as if everything was fine just the day before he walked out the door and disappeared.
And now, we are in the midst of a global pandemic, I’m currently not working (but thankfully getting paid through April 6th), everything non-essential is shut down (well, 95% of it), and people everywhere are hoarding toilet paper, masks, hand sanitizer, and Clorox wipes.
I guess now I should probably write about the scarcity mentality because I’m feeling it even more acutely than ever and so is the rest of the world, or at least the greater Atlanta metro area.
Generally, the scarcity mentality is the feeling of never enough. Never having enough, being enough, doing enough, making enough, etc. Never enough.
It is ingrained in the American society for sure. Just watch TV for 30 minutes or scroll through Instagram and suddenly, you’re not thin enough, pretty enough, feminine or masculine enough, curvy enough, muscular enough, your hair isn’t shiny or long enough, you don’t make enough money, you’re not traveling enough, you’re not living enough, you’re not smart enough, blah blah blah. You need this diet, that hair treatment, this job, that dress, this amount of income, that amount of exercise, this bra size, those measurements, etc.
For me, the scarcity mentality thrived in various areas of my life growing up.
Money: I grew up somewhere along the middle-class income line. Not in the extreme poverty my dad was raised in, but also not wealthy by most American standards. Just right in the middle. We had the basics – shelter, food, clothing – and then a few luxuries thanks to my grandmother June – Nintendos and other game systems. We went to either the beach or the Smoky Mountains on vacation. My dad worked as a surgical equipment assembler and my mom worked as a labor and delivery registered nurse. Pretty average American middle-class family, financially.
But the scarcity mentality around money ran deep throughout my family growing up. Everyone had credit card debt (though that was and is pretty much “normal” in this country) at first, but then it grew out of control and soon, several family members, including my mom, had to file for bankruptcy. My dad’s home after he and my mom divorced was nearly foreclosed several times because he could barely make the mortgage payment on his own.
No one knew how to be responsible with their money because, like most families, there seemed to be this need for “just a little more” to feel safe and secure. Plus, they thought things like, If I just have [that car, house, outfit, amount of food, etc.], I will be satisfied. My dad’s upbringing in extreme, extreme poverty led him to blow his money left and right as soon as he started making any. I can remember many Fridays where he just cashed his paycheck and spent it while leaving my mom to pay all of their bills with her paycheck, which was considerably more than his but barely enough to cover everything.
Saving money was really unheard of in my family. I never heard anyone even mention having a savings account. It just seemed expected to have credit card debt, a mortgage, car payment, and owe money to someone for the rest of your life. Both of my parents cashed out their retirements to pay off debt, leaving very little for however many years they have left.
This deep-seated scarcity mindset around money has given me so much fear of debt, which has led me to budget down to the freaking wire whenever I’ve had a job in an attempt to just get out of debt because I don’t want to owe others for the rest of my life. I am probably one of the most frugal people most of my friends know. This has helped me in that I’ve paid off nearly $5K in credit card debt since January 2019 despite being either unemployed or underemployed, but I have stressed myself out to the point of chronic anxiety about money. Where I used to think, When I’m thin, life will be so much easier, I now often catch myself thinking, Omg, I will feel so much better once I’m no longer in debt. In either case, I tend to unconsciously put my life on hold until the goal is met, it isn’t met, and I feel resentful and envious and find myself violently swirling in the comparison cycle. That’s when the “woe is me” mentality kicks in and I feel like I can’t live the life I want because I can’t afford it.
Scarcity, scarcity, scarcity. I can’t be or do enough because I don’t have enough money.
Affection: This is a scarcity I didn’t realize I have until probably a few years into my relationship with John. Touch-starved is another name for it. My family wasn’t very affectionate and made being affectionate sound like a disorder and to want affectionate as being needy or too much.
I initiated a lot of the affection with my grandmother June, my parents, and my brothers. My dad is very solid and strong so it turned into me squeezing him as hard as I can because I can. My mom is very petite and feels so fragile that sometimes I feel like I’m going to break her if I hug her. She wasn’t very into hugs when I was a kid or older. My brother Adam is more like her about hugs, not so much into them, but Ben and Caleb are both very affectionate men. Our mom used to ask them if they wished I had a boyfriend so I’d stop hugging them so much, which made me feel bad, but because I was so affectionate with them, they are open emotionally and love to hug and be hugged unlike most of the men in our family and, really, our society. Including my husband.
Even though I had a friend in college who was very affectionate and loosened me up to being hugged by and hugging other people outside of my family, I still remained touch-starved throughout my twenties. I lived alone the majority of the time. Pretty much just went to work and came home. I saw my family probably once every two or three months after I moved to Georgia.
So when I met John in July 2011 and he was so affectionate with me for the first year of our relationship, it overwhelmed me. I’d never had someone want to touch me so much and not just sexually. He was forever touching my hair and face and holding my hand and hugging me. It was so far on the other end of the spectrum from the near lifetime of barely being touched or hugged that it frightened me in a way. But then it started to die down as the novelty of me wore off for him. Then I grieved that for a long time. I still do sometimes.
And now, with his night shift schedule of the past four years, the affection is less, but he still pulls me to him at night before he falls asleep, he kisses me before he goes to work, and holds my hand when we go to the grocery store and walk from the car to the store. Last night, he was lying on one end of the couch with me on the other and our dog Missy was behind his butt and next to me. When he tried to reach for her, my hand was in the way so he grabbed my hand. I said, “Aww, you’re holding my hand,” and he held onto it for a second, which made me feel warm and loved, then let go to pet Missy. Sometimes I really miss the guy who used to straddle me on the couch to make out with me or rub my hair and tell me how pretty he thinks I am.
At least we have our dogs now. They both love hugs and run to me to be picked up and hugged whenever I get home from work and love when I hold them and dance with them in my arms. That has been really nice and sometimes I want them to stop touching me, haha. So I guess I’m not touch-starved when it comes to dogs, just humans.
I sometimes feel like I never get held or touched enough.
Food: I am southern so the supply of food was never limited for me growing up. Someone, mostly my great-grandmother Lib, was always cooking something. However, my access to food was limited because everyone was so concerned about my weight as a child, especially as a female child. It was always so back and forth. My mom didn’t want me to eat dessert so she hid them and I found and snuck them. With her family, they were offended if I didn’t get seconds at dinner but then said “You’re getting too fat, don’t eat seconds” if I did, and always offered me candy, ice cream, and/or banana pudding for dessert. If I went on a diet, they were offended or ignored me. If I wasn’t, they criticized me. I couldn’t win.
In their act of trying to prevent me from eating sweets out of their fear of me getting fat, I learned to sneak and binge food. In doing this, I forgot how to eat intuitively (if I ever really knew how), could not slow down and enjoy food, and no matter what I ate, it never felt like enough. This food access scarcity created a lot of shame within me around food and my feelings of being out of control around it. Binge eating was an act of rebellion and anger towards my family for being so critical of my body and weight and telling me that I was a failure to them in their eyes and expectations. It became a coping method in my teens, and that was when I actually finally was fat after years of them projecting that fear onto me.
I never felt freedom with food. Never really felt allowed to enjoy food because being fat to my family meant I already “enjoyed” it too much. My body filled out but my insides were hollow and aching. Without affection or affirmation or permission to be wholly myself, I was numb inside. I lashed out at myself. I did not give myself what I was not given because I thought if others couldn’t give it to me, I did not deserve it. I could not give what I did not think I had.
Back then, I did not know then that validation must come from within and that I can’t rely on it from others. That took growing up and getting away from my family to realize. It is something I still remind myself of constantly.
Scarcity leads to insecurity which leads to fear, which leads to the need for control. And for me, with food, it caused me to rebel and often harm my own body in that act of rebellion. Like the whole thing about how holding anger towards others is like holding a hot rock in your hand. You’re the one who gets hurt/burned.
Autonomy: “You are not your own, you were bought at a price.” Growing up in the midst of the True Love Waits movement in the 1990s, I heard this constantly. I am not my own. My body is not my own. My thoughts are not my own. My heart is deceitful. I am not trustworthy. My body and heart are not trustworthy. To trust in myself was to be arrogant and believe I knew more than God. To defiantly eat from that Tree of Knowledge so that I could be on level with God. To question was to sin. I am nothing without God. Love does not exist outside of God. Freedom doesn’t exist outside of God. Separation from God equals imprisonment in the chains of sin and self-righteousness. I cannot belong to myself. I cannot trust myself. That intuition is God, not me.
This is the stuff I learned growing up in church and in my family. If you want a lifetime of feeling inadequate, evangelical Christianity is where it’s at. I did not know what grace meant growing up. I did not understand compassion or forgiveness or mercy either until I was older. Love was very conditional in my family and it was taught to me that the same applied with God, and I never measured up.
When there is a scarcity of autonomy, you are primed for toxic, abusive, and dysfunctional relationships and codependency issues. You take everyone else’s word about you over your own. You allow yourself to belong to everyone but yourself, and this is especially true in romantic relationships. You look to everyone else to tell you who you are, your worth, and who you’re meant to be, and trying to look inward for these answers leaves you feeling empty, ashamed, and broken. This is how abuse happens in the church, especially among male pastors and women and children in the church.
Also, self-accountability goes out the window. How can you hold yourself responsible when you’ve been told there is a constant war of good and evil going on inside of your body that is for your eternal soul? Your wins are really god’s wins, but your fuck ups…well, those are between you and the devil. God has nothing to do with that.
I often feel like I lived the first 30 years of my life outside of my body or maybe just inhabiting a small corner of my body or just inside of my head. Everything from the neck down was numb. I constantly prayed for forgiveness for when my body wanted things I was told were wrong to have, like sex or sexual thoughts, feelings, or behaviors outside of marriage. I felt so ashamed for all of my emotions and for being so outspoken with them. For not being quiet and submissive. For being curious and wanting to explore. For wanting to take up space. For wanting to experience joy and pleasure outloud. For not wanting to be told what to do. For just being fucking alive.
I know I seem really cynical about religion now. In a lot of ways, I am. Most of all though, I’m angry because being raised in it taught me that who I am in this body doesn’t really matter, that this life doesn’t matter (“we’re not home yet” is a popular saying in Christian pop culture), that love is a bargaining chip and manipulation tool. I was indoctrinated, taught a bunch of lies. My anger is not directed towards my family, but towards the institution of organized religion, specifically evangelical Christianity. But again, the hot rock in my hand is only burning me and I have to drop it or risk permanent damage.
I don’t believe I am alone in these feelings of scarcity and inadequacy. Like I said, it is a cancer in our society. It makes a few companies, religious institutions, and people a lot of money to keep us on this scarcity mindset train. If you don’t feel like something is missing, you have no reason to buy whatever bullshit society is selling. You are not the targeted audience. I wish we all were no longer the targeted audience because being alive and on a planet like ours is a fucking miracle. Rarest of rare. You could almost say our time is scarce, but that adds to the rush and inadequacies. No, we have an abundance of time and life, exactly enough.
When it comes to my scarcity issues with money, I try to think about all I “get to” have and do, not what I don’t have or can’t do. I get to have a nice apartment, hot water, food, a comfortable bed, electricity, internet, security, and safety. John and I have learned a lot of fun things to do without having a lot of money. Our relationship is what it is not because we’ve bought each other expensive gifts or go on fancy vacations together, but from taking long walks and cooking at home and finding fun, simple ways to entertain ourselves and each other, like YouTube videos, funny memes, card games, or just talking to each other. Even now, being home more often due to the Coronavirus, life isn’t that much different. We read, watch TV, play with the dogs, go for walks, and etc. We still have such an abundance even as health and money seem scarce all around us.
With affection, I am learning to ask for what I want or need. I ask John to give me a hug. I reach for his hand. I hug him from behind like I want him to hug me. I remind myself that hugging my dogs does count as affection and thankfully they love to be hugged and held. When/if John and I have children, I get to give them what I did not get growing up, which I read recently is a product of grace.
Re: food, this is an ongoing thing, but I’ve made so much progress in the past two years. I’m learning that my body is going to be exactly what it wants and needs to be and very little is within my control. It has done so much without much help from me, really. I’ve done a lot to harm it out of feelings of shame and inadequacy, and yet, it has never stopped working to keep me alive and as strong and healthy as it can. Since I have given myself permission to eat what I want and taken away the access scarcity, my way of eating has become more stabilized. I have slowed down. Listened to my cravings and honored instead of criticized them. The only time I feel rushed to eat something is if John is acting out of food scarcity and tries to eat something as quickly as we’ve bought it or I’ve made it, but even then, I have to remind myself, There is plenty more where that came from.
And as far as autonomy goes, I am still learning that the voice inside of me is my own. It is my guide, my intuition, a gift to me for this life, and it is trustworthy. My body is mine. I am accountable to me. My decisions are mine, as are the consequences of them. It is scary to realize my life is up to me in a large part – which is not the same as saying I am in control of everything – but it is also freeing. I am slowly inhabiting more and more of my body, which feels like a warmth or lights being turned on room by room in a large house. I feel more grounded. I value my life more because I realize this is likely all I’m going to have and it is sufficient. My body is trustworthy and always has been. Love is not about control but about freedom, and I have freedom in acknowledging the abundance of my autonomy.
With abundance comes responsibility. I can’t say, “I don’t have enough so I can’t be enough” anymore because this isn’t true and it never was. I have always had exactly enough to be enough, regardless of the circumstances in my life. I, like everyone else who feels this way, was sold a bunch of lies because scarcity is profitable and powerful to those who convince us that it is the truth.
And that’s where I am now. Learning the truth. Accepting my responsibilities. Owning up to my shit and the shit that was handed to me by people who had it handed to them. Learning that grace is giving myself space to find the freedom in acknowledging the abundance all around me and detangle myself from the limits and constraints of the scarcity mindset. Forgiveness is knowing this is not a one-and-done project, but a constant shifting of perception and awareness.
Aside from that clear as day voice I heard back in January that told me something bad is going to happen, my whole being has vibrated lately with the knowledge that everything as we’ve known it is ending or has ended. We can’t go back to life before this pandemic, just as I imagine the people who survived the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic – as well as countless others before and since then – could not. A massive shift/transformation is taking place.
Don’t let the scarcity mindset kick in though. Nothing you need is being taken from you in the long run. This is showing so many areas that need to be demolished and removed. Some of us have the privilege to rest during this time where we have been caught up in the capitalistic rat race our whole lives. This is slowing us down, holding us up to a mirror, and giving us the opportunity to address so many things we haven’t had the extra time or solitude to address.
This is a time for healing.
I am personally being reminded that there isn’t much we can be certain or in control of in life, but that is okay. It is also okay to be afraid right now or a whole slew of other emotions. It is okay to even numb out for now because the news is so overwhelming.
It is also a good reminder that fear and scarcity sell, just as I mentioned above. Don’t buy in when you can help it. Turn off the TV. Stop reading Reddit (note to self). Find something else to talk about, think about, look at, and do. Remember that even in seasons of death and despair, there is still so much life all around and within us.
Scarcity mindset gives you black and white thinking. Thinking from a perspective of abundance opens you up to the in-between. Both are filled with uncertainty and vulnerability, but shifting to a perspective of abundance opens you up to so much possibility and growth.
Don’t allow scarcity mindset to limit your vision of yourself and your life or cause you to throw away your money, time, life, love, talents, and independence.
We are enough and we are loved…just as we are.
Some of us are more privileged than others when it comes to food, money, health, housing, work, and freedom – there are real scarcities in those areas in many, too many, people’s lives. Scarcity mindset though teaches us every person for themselves, there’s not enough for me much less anyone else. Abundance – and I think we will see this happen more often in the near future – teaches many of us to give to others what we are privileged to have so much of because we see there is plenty more where that came from.
A new chapter in my life is starting, and I have a feeling this doesn’t just pertain to my own story. We are all shifting. Breaking up with the old scarcity mindset ways of thinking is so hard to do, but so necessary, and if we’ve ever needed hard evidence of why, it is sweeping across our globe as I write this.