Keeping up with the Jones’- how’s that working for you? When is enough, enough? Even as we’ve driven miles and miles to attain the measure of success we’ve sought in our careers, we anxiously glance in the rear view mirror to access our safe distance from “lack.” Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly, says, “Scarcity thrives in shame-prone cultures that are deeply steeped in comparison…” (i.e. keeping up with the Jones’).
Brown points to the past, traumatic decade: 9/11, multiple wars, school shootings, natural disasters, the recession (Daring Greatly was written in 2012, four years ago). Our sense of safety has been threatened in a social system formed around the classroom, family, community, and the work place. She notes there are three components of scarcity: “1. Shame: 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 blame and finger-pointing norms? Are put-downs and name-calling rampant? 2. Comparison: Healthy competition can be beneficial, but is there constant overt or covert comparing, and ranking? Has creativity been suffocated? 3. Disengagement: Are people afraid to take risks or try new things? Is it easier to stay quiet than to share stories, experiences, and ideas? Is everyone struggling to be seen and heard? Scarcity is the ‘never enough’ problem.”
So how do we put on the brakes, turn around and head in the opposite direction toward abundance? Through her research, Brown has discovered abundance is not the opposite of scarcity. The opposite of scarcity is enough, and this is where the serious work begins to overcome the current state of culture. She notes, “I use the word 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 scarcity.”
A wonderful starting point is with our youth. Through our own example, we can choose to reject the adages: never good enough, never perfect enough, never thin enough, or never smart enough. Instead, we can model self-acceptance, self-confidence and worthiness. Change begins at home. The seeds of change are planted in our garden first.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to be in touch with school administrators from Matagorda, Bay City and Van Vleck independent school districts. They’re working at a maddening pace preparing for the coming school year. Just as soldiers/police stand guard over our nation’s security, our teachers work to enhance every aspect of our youths’ educational and social development. Neither is compensated enough based on their sacrifice to protect our lives (soldiers, police), or protect our future (teachers). Enough said!
Originally published in the Bay City Tribune on July 24, 2016.