The scarcity mentality means the belief that there is not enough to go around. Symptoms of having this belief are being in a defensive mode or stance when other people achieve success, because their success contributes to our failure.
One of the most profound passages I came across is by Stephen Covey. He quotes:
Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were one pie out there. And if someone where to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else. The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life.
People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production. They also have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the successes of other people – even, and sometimes especially, members of their own family or close friends and associates. It’s almost as if something is being taken from them when something is being taken from them when someone else receives special recognition or windfall gain or has remarkable success or achievement.
Although they might verbally express happiness for others’ success, inwardly they are eating their hearts out. Their sense of worth comes from being compared, and someone else’s success, to some degree, means their failure. Only so many people can be “A” students; only one person can be “number one.” To “win” simply means to “beat.”
Often, people with a Scarcity Mentality harbor secret hopes they others might suffer misfortune – not terrible misfortune, but acceptable misfortune that would keep them “in their place.” They’re always comparing, always competing. They give their energies to possessing things or other people in order to increase their sense of worth.
I’m sure you have come across some of these people in your lifetime where you were happy to tell somebody about their victory or reward you got; they applauded or smiled but it was sort of artificial way of complimenting you and you know inside that they weren’t as happy to see you win.
You may be a victim of this mentality yourself. Everybody is and will be put in this situation at some point in their life whenever there is competition for anything. I’ll openly admit that I have.
For example, my close friends and I were always competitive in playing with each other whether it was something as simple as playing board games or playing sports. We don’t as much now, but when we did play board games it was common to have the scarcity mentality. The goal of most games was obviously to win, and if another person achieved some type of success, you might say them, “Oh good job,” but inside you really mean, “Darn it! I’m about to lose the game because of that!”
The same applies to sports. If someone else scores, they are closer to victory and that means you are closer to a loss.
Later you realize that it’s good to have a winning attitude, but forget the point of why the board games and sports were for in the first place – which is getting bonding with your friends and developing a stronger friendship.
A lot of the times, friendships will break up because of something stupid like a board game since everybody is so inclined to win and take others down.
How does this apply to real life? Well, as Mr. Covey says, most people in the world have the scarcity mentality. Much of it deals with the fact that our world is very money driven, and because of mass competition, there won’t be enough money to go around.
If someone is in the same business as us, doing a better job than us and is reward for it, it’s common to feel a sudden loss of hope. This is generated by fear that they have taken something away from us and as a defensive mechanism, we spite them.
The scarcity mentality, whether it’s business, money, happiness, or what have you, is like a plague that will only cause one to self-destruct.
Why feel there is only a little bit to go around, when there is actually a lot. It’s all happening in our minds.
And why do we feel like someone has taken something away from us when they achieve success? There is no doubt that we enjoy it when other people are genuinely happy for us when we achieve success, so why not return the favor?
Scarcity Mentality is a part of negative mental attitude, and when you start reversing that mentality, you’ll start more opportunities for yourself, rather than worry about the success of other people. This belief that there is enough for everybody, that there is an unlimited amount of wanted things to go around, is the power of having an Abundance Mentality.