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The “Lack Mentality” Is Killing Us

A discussion concerning the hyper-focus on what is missing in one's life: How does it affect their mental health overall?

The truth bombs about reinforcing a mentality of shame due to lack of something in one’s life need to finally land. I’ve dropped these bombs on myself because this way of thinking led me and my friends to a life of torment, no matter how many stupid memes we post about how our life is a rancid garbage fire. The “lack mentality,” meaning the constant focus on what you don’t have or the habit of running away from the truth of your reality, is a slow, subtle suicide. As I break down how the “lack mentality” festers within us, the end of each point will propose what I call “Challenge the Illusion” statements. Please apply them to yourself if you struggle with this mentality or find yourself relating to the following points.

Unrealistic Expectations

Whether you consider yourself a perfectionist, a slacker, or somewhere in between, you’re going to set expectations for yourself. We envision what we want in life and it becomes this little dream we hope to make a reality. As we share our dream with others, one of two things happen: It’s shamed to death or it’s supported. This can occur through yourself or through others. Either shame or support could become discouraging or uplifting because our expectations are illusions that aren’t substantial in reality—yet we feed it so much of our mental energy. A shamed dream could be interpreted as the sign needed to let go, even though it hurts. A supported dream could be so overwhelming that we’re convinced we’re not capable of making it possible and drop it. That’s anxiety, ladies and gents. It’s not fun. When those illusions shatter, a sense of relief rolls in confirming what reality actually is rather than being lost in what it isn’t. All humans are taught to expect. It’s nearly automatic. Getting your hopes up or waiting for the shoe to drop is a powerful force we rarely challenge, except maybe by the cults of forced positivity.

Expectations driven towards positive outcomes can be just as dangerous and just as delusional. As someone who believes in synchronicity, which is the correlation of multiple relative events, I know what it’s like to see signs of what matches my expectations of life and then taking that sign as motivation to push away any doubt and fear as much as possible. I believe in synchronicity, but I also believe in addressing my true nature. Forced positivity convinces so many of us to blow off our true feelings if they corrupt the positive illusion. That in itself is incredibly harmful. The universe may be sending you signs so that you do face your fears rather than indirectly feed them. Repression is the “bottling up” coping mechanism that eventually explodes. Forced positivity will make you explode. Stop it. Be real.

Challenge the Illusion: Why not challenge negative and positive expectations by coming to terms with the truth of how you really feel about your situation and accepting reality in the present moment? Expectations fuel the lack mentality; being present in the moment does not.

Shameful Views of the Authentic Self

Like... really?! Why think this way?!?!

How many times have you subtly insulted yourself for the sake of being more relatable with friends? It’s really unfortunate, but shame is reinforced in many social circles and is disguised as modesty. Purposefully lowering self-esteem isn’t humility; it’s just shame. Perhaps you’re one of those people who could care less about being humble and modest. You address your bullsh*t because that’s how you really think of yourself. You put yourself down for other reasons, like gaining pity, wanting to self-destruct, feeling guilty, or being full of regret. When I worked at a crisis center, I found myself becoming a broken record, telling people: “Your mistakes don’t erase your progress.” If anything, your mistakes are little red flags so your mind can take notice what needs improvement. Instead, too many people see the red flags and translate it into: “I suck and don’t have [blank]; therefore, I’m screwed forever.” A lot of people fill that blank with money, and so they shame themselves for not being rich enough. Some fill the blank with love then shame themselves for not being attractive enough. Even if it is true that you’re lacking what you want in life, that’s not a legitimate reason to tear yourself down. It accomplishes nothing but increase the power of the lack mentality.

Challenge the Illusion: Why depreciate your self-worth because of what’s missing in your life? Can you reflect upon what you’re missing without hating yourself? Shame fuels the lack mentality.

Perpetual Negativity = Dis-ease

A lot of you are going to hate this one because none of us like to address the roughness around our edges. Some interpret their rough exterior as the perfect defense mechanism against addressing how they truly feel about what they lack in life. They’ll put more of their mental energy into hating something; they’ll attack it verbally and physically. You can put a psychological twist on this and say, “Well, this happened during my childhood, so that’s why I attack or defend against what I hate today.” Trauma like that isn’t supposed to be a wound that should be opened over and over again for the sake of hate or distracting yourself from the source of your pain. Trauma and pain of any type is meant to heal. If you have any physical injury and choose to ignore it, it will not heal unless your immune system can handle it on its own. If your immune system isn’t strong enough, it will manifest into an infection or a disease. The same can happen in mind and in heart, which suggests keeping away from whatever encourages the trauma to resurface. If you find something to project your negativity upon, you’ll create disease in another way.

I don’t think I ever noticed how disease was actually “dis-ease” until I started studying metaphysical and holistic philosophies. Learning about kinetic abilities and learning about how emotional energy affects the body made it clear to me that psychosomatic dis-ease is very real. If what you’re lacking in life is causing your dis-ease, address the discomfort. When someone learns they’re diagnosed with cancer, the shock hits. The rush of despair can be overwhelming and drowns them in various outcomes of their life or death. Soon after, options are offered thanks to the advancements of medical science and these options address the dis-ease as it is. Then act accordingly, the patient diagnosed can either let the despair overwhelm them or at least, even in the midst of despair, give those medical options a chance. When you’re hit with the reality of an event that immediately brings you to the state of “I no longer have [blank],” it is completely natural to react emotionally. The challenge is coming to the decision of either letting negative emotions be your downfall or addressing how you feel, then exploring your options in the current reality.

Challenge the Illusion: This is easier said than done; it’s up to you whether it’s going to be done or not. It takes time to make decisions such as these because negativity and dis-ease can be an overwhelming abyss or red flags pointing out options. The lack mentality encourages the overwhelming abyss and dismantles self-empowerment. There is ease when the truth of how you feel about the situation and what you can do is the priority in the present moment.

Poor Application of Support and Resources

Do you ever get recommended something that is supposed to be good for you and you forget to actually give it a shot? Or maybe you didn’t forget. Maybe you thought it just wasn’t worth it. After all, it won’t take care of all of your problems and you would prefer a solution that solves it all in one sweep. You need a clean slate, not something that spreads the smudges even more. There’s the expectation again. This component of the lack mentality is the one I see the most often and is something I was a master at in the past. I knew there were opportunities and resources that were suitable for giving me a decent start on facing depression, but I thought the more self-destructive way could lead to faster, though temporary, results. The same happens to people who are lonely and want to start dating because they lack a partner. There are a variety of ways to socialize with others, but maybe they’re not worth trying if you believe nobody finds you attractive, you have a hard time connecting with others, or you sort of hope you’ll miraculously run into someone instead, even though you’ve been waiting for quite a while.

The first two points, expectation and shame, can really make this point hard to come to terms with. None of us like being inconsiderate with our resources or insensitive to those who are trying to support us, but it just doesn’t seem to be enough. The lack mentality encourages the emptiness that no one asked for. It’s just there. One thing to remember is that the emptiness you struggle with developed over time. This means, decreasing that emptiness will happen over time. It’s a process. Going to cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapy for my depression and social anxiety was a term of many sessions and learning to apply what I learned to my life situations. Stop expecting the resources and support given to provide instant gratification.

Challenge the Illusion: Challenge the lack mentality with a mentality of abundance and gratitude. What do you have and how can you apply that to help you in the present moment? If you find it doesn’t satisfy all of your problems, address how what you have helps with one or a few of the issues. That counts.

No Sense of Prioritizing Health (Impulsivity)

The dog is cute though...

Speaking of instant gratification, if you combine that with shame, you’ll set your own well-being as one of your lowest priorities. The lack mentality encourages the excessive indulgence into substances that encourage escapism more than healing. It enhances the drive to resist reality. Resistance to your own care while also wanting to satisfy the lack mentality is a way of going further down the “perpetual negativity” rabbit hole. For example, when you don’t have enough money to pay a bill you’re stressed about, but you do have enough to indulge in a substance that helps you escape (name your poison: Drugs [legal or not], alcohol, food, shopping, gambling, etc.), the resistance you’ve built up to your self-care lets your impulses make the decisions for you. This is because the energy you put in resisting self-care diminishes any self-control.

Want to understand "resistance" a bit more? Watch this.

We don’t prioritize how we regulate all the energy we have. Our thoughts, actions, and emotions are forces that are under our responsibility. Not caring for yourself is not caring for those forces and that can turn tragic really quick considering the consequences of your careful or careless actions will inevitably point back to you. The energy that is yours can be redirected towards your needs. Accept that your needs are not always what your impulses want. You don’t need escapism, but the lack mentality you’ve been reinforcing convinces you that escapism is a necessity. Here’s what I don’t understand: Why would you want to escape healing? That comes back to shame, fear, self-doubt and the like. That is another red flag.

Challenge the Illusions: Returning to temporary escapes is exhausting; taking care of yourself is also exhausting. Which one brings the long-term benefits and decreases what is lacking in your life?

So what now? Invest in yourself; accept reality as it is.

Please do not interpret me as one of those writers who is very enthusiastic about mental/emotional health when writing, but is different behind closed doors. I’m writing this because I know this. I know the ins and outs of the lack mentality. I know what it’s like to covet and envy my neighbor’s stupid green yard and their stupid, beautiful house, and their ridiculously beautiful partner. I know what it’s like to have a one dollar in your checking account and consider dying rather than seeing it go in the negative again, to beg someone for help yet again because I just HAD to buy a couple of drinks while out with friends. I know what it’s like to hear advice from friends and family, but not really listening because the negativity in my mind is screaming static opening the portal to the existential dread buried in my subconscious. Yeah, I’ve been there. This isn’t a “suck it up” article, it’s a “you can do this” article. All I suggest is that you take the time to see your reality for what it is rather than shape it into what it’s not. Invest in the truth of who you are and what you need. Going over the points again:

  • Dropping expectations will help you more in the long run.
  • You are not worthless, useless, shameful, or horrible. You have value that supersedes your monetary and/or social status.
  • If the dis-ease is present, face it. You do not deserve to suffer.
  • Taking care of your needs is a process. There is no get-rich-quick or solve-all-problems solution, but every step you take towards what you need is evidence of hope.
  • Replace satisfying those impulsive acts with appreciating what you have and investing in that by applying what you have to your reality.

Accept what is and isn’t. Act with priorities in mind. Address the “lack” and counter it with truth. Notice that all of this requires your efforts and your genuine acknowledgement of those efforts. If you come to terms with what your lack mentality truly is, eventually surviving it will become living.

Let me know what you thought of this discussion on Twitter or on Facebook. To end, please watch this lecture from Danna Pycher, a hypnotherapist knowledgeable of psychoneuroimmunology and confident advocate of a healed mind leading the body to heal as well.

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