Deficit Mentality

Every other week I try to come up with some theory that explains the entire world. This month’s theory is Deficit Mentality. Deficit Mentality is the belief that there is limited amount of “X” of something that a person finds desirable (cars, money, happiness, etc.). The person suffering from deficit mentality believes other people are hoarding an insane amount of “X” relative to how much said person has of “X”. The unequal distribution of “X” has left the person to believe that their entire life is now at a deficit because one aspect of their life doesn’t have as much of “X”. Life without “X” can never be fully satisfying. Nothing else is good enough until “X” has been acquired. No matter how satisfying other parts of life are, life is not complete until “X” is acquired.

Of course this isn’t about you. It’s the story of a friend of a friend of a friend… you have never felt that way.

You can easily substitute “X” for something personal in your life. I think we can all agree that “more money” is a universal “X” for most people. Honestly, we believe that other items will elicit some secondary change. Is losing 10lbs going to change how people perceive and treat you? Is a bigger home going to bring more respect? Is a luxury care really going prove that you have accomplished something meaningful in life? We all know the answer is no, but I came up with 4 reasons why we keep living in such a contradictory way.

  1. What you want isn’t what you need. The absence of something can make a person believe that item or state of being has more value, purpose, and meaning than it actually does. There is a disconnect when people seek to acquire something and use it for an unintended purpose. Not all relationships provide intimacy. Not all homes provide security and status. Not all cars bring respect. Not all travel allows for clarity, growth and change of perspective. And, having kids doesn’t mean there will always be someone on Earth who loves you (or that you will actually love them back). It is easy to say, “If I had a significant other, home, car, kids, or more travel time I would be happy.” It is hard to admit, “My life lacks intimacy, security, status, respect and/or love and I have no idea how to change that.” It is so much easier to make external changes than to work on internal transformation.
  2. Disenchantment and Disappointment. The worst feeling is when you obtain something considered an achievement or an accomplishment that did not bring the emotional satisfaction it should have. It happens. I think we have all bought things that we really wanted that had fleeting emotional value. Think of a time that you splurged and bought a designer item or something of great value that felt great for a relatively short amount of time. It is because you had an emotional need that you believed acquiring something would fill. Sometimes it is hard to address legitimate emotional needs because it can get ugly and messy when that emotion is attached to hurt, pain, neglect, disappointment, or other feelings of inadequacy. It is easy to bring something new into life in hopes to avoid dealing with the emotion in hopes to mask the hurt. This comes in the form of buying stuff, switching jobs often, jumping into relationships, staying in an unhealthy relationship, hoarding, excessive retail therapy, excessive drinking, overeating, or some other avoidance behavior.
  3. There is a cost for “X”. A few years ago I applied to nursing school and wasn’t accepted anywhere. I knew that if I just got into nursing school, life would be so much easier because I would be pursing my deepest desires. Eventually I got into nursing school and it came with its own set of challenges: fatigue, self-doubt, institutionalized racism, pre-mature aging, thoughts of death (Do not be alarmed- I’m o.k.), feeling like an imposter, and a little more fatigue. Honestly, I would never go back and talk myself out of going to nursing school. I don’t think I would have even warned myself about the personal cost of becoming responsible for the health of other people. I learned that everything has a cost. Most of the time the cost is negligent or minimal. Other times the cost is reflective of the elusive “X”.
  4. “X” isn’t lasting, but your emotions are. Acquiring or achieving “X” will only make you set your sites on the next “X” if you never address your true needs and desire or you are not willing to pay the cost for the original “X”.

By now you are probably wondering why I email you with random ramblings each month. Last year I told myself I would write more and this is the only way I feel obligated to keep consistent. I also feel that I am not actively/ consciously grateful in life. These letters are my way of stopping and putting life in perspective of growth, gratitude, and generosity.

That is all.

As always, I love to hear back from you!