I’m going to start by saying I suck at vulnerability. Everything I talk about in this series is something I am actively working on (and often failing at), because the concept of “daring greatly” is hard. Challenging cultural norms that encourage you to stay submerged in your deficiencies is exhausting, scary, and difficult. Learning to protect yourself by practicing vulnerability instead of putting on “armor” is basically impossible 99% of the time. How the hell do we find “enough” when our minds and society drown us in “never _______ enough”s?
The first chapter of Daring Greatly by Brené Brown is all about the culture of scarcity. “Culture of scarcity” is just a fancy way of saying that society likes to tell us about the things we lack and the ways in which we fall short of expectations. Add that to the constant inner narrative telling us that an ordinary life is meaningless and you’ve got one hell of a cultural epidemic.
Brown talks about how quick we often are to point the finger at “those people” — the narcissists. The people who can’t go anywhere or do anything without taking a selfie, who act as if they’ve never made a mistake at work, who can’t seem to start a sentence with a word other than “I” or “me.” But this helps shield us from accepting responsibility for the ways in which we buy into the culture of scarcity, and prevents us from addressing the systemic issues at the root of the problem. The problem isn’t that your friend likes to take selfies; it’s that we live in a culture that tells us no matter what we’re doing, it’s not enough. But if we point the finger, we can say “That’s their problem. That’s just how they are.”
Scarcity is a problem we all face to varying degrees — the people we might label “narcissistic” just experience that shame-based fear of being ordinary on a greater level. It’s easy to want to cut someone like that down to size, but narcissism’s underpinning of shame means shame isn’t the solution at all — empathy is. We need to look at the ways in which our behaviors relate to protecting ourselves and how to swap those scarcity-driven techniques with empathy and vulnerability; we need to listen to our “never enough” tapes and find the faults in their logic. Some of my tapes are:
- Not pretty enough
- Not thin enough
- Not smart enough
- Not talented enough
- Not cool enough
- Not sexy enough
- Not interesting enough
- Not relaxed enough
- Not fun enough
- Not wild enough
I could go on forever. This post could literally just be a bulleted list of the deficiencies I see in myself, but that’s not really the point. The point is that we focus so much on the “not enough”s in our life that we can’t figure out how to seek “enough” — what Brown calls Wholeheartedness and the opposite of scarcity. We need to exercise vulnerability in the face of uncertainty and emotional risk, and we are called to “dare greatly” each time we choose our enough-ness to challenge the culture of scarcity. As long as we are trying, we are enough.