The Scarcity Mentality

What psychological drivers, thoughts, beliefs, and impressions are guiding the wealth mindset that we each have?

Do you covet more? Do you covet more for the sake of having more? Do you believe that if someone else gets more, there isn't enough for you? There are valid reasons for wanting more, especially if we find ourselves in situations where more money would make life easier.

This is a non-judgmental space. It's a space of inquiry and finding what is behind the wanting.  


Am I wealthy? In monetary terms, I mean. By many standards, yes. By others, no. It all depends on the perspective I take and what end of the spectrum I'm looking towards. Or, if I look at it the way our society defines wealth, it depends on what category and classification I fall into.

The 1%, the 8%, the middle class, the upper-middle class ... classifications created to put people into categories, into a mental framework of perpetual comparison, striving, desolation, competitiveness or hopelessness. Distractions of ego and mind away from what is meaningful to our souls, and onto external factors that tell us who we are and what we are worth.


We can compare ourselves to others and always find those who are better off; who have more. This can set off a sense of lack, scarcity, and envy especially if our thoughts are focused on what we don't have - or what appears to be lacking. 

The notion of 'not having', which is so easy to prove because you can either see your stuff or check your bank accounts, has a parallel track. It's the notion that by not having something, we are missing out on it and its benefits. Paradoxically, we can see what's not there. We experience lack and longing, bad feelings and ill will.

When we are coveting, jealous and focused on the benefits of 'more', especially with money, we don't use logic or reason. Emotions are strong, and our cognitive capacity is diminished. We don't look at what we don't have with a critical eye. We don't explore the other side of the situation.

For example, if you wish you were rich, do you ever stop and think, "all that money would be great but then I'd have to worry about all the responsibility, extra work, structuring and planning. Not to mention extra taxes!"

Mo' money, mo' problems.


The scarcity mentality is the belief that others have more and therefore you have less. It is a belief about limitation. And, because scarcity elicits stressful, unpleasant feelings, it is undesirable. Stephen R. Covey, in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, explains, “People with a scarcity mentality tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. There is only so much; and if someone else has it, that means there will be less for me." 

This can lead to selfishness, jealousy, and worse.

I grew up around a scarcity mentality and unknowingly adopted it. Thoughts that there was never enough. The belief that if someone else had something it meant we didn't. There was jealousy of others who had more. That there were limits to just about everything. There were also fatalistic and doomsday thoughts that any abundance we had could suddenly be taken away. We could end up in a state of lack and misery - misery caused by lack. These are signals of the scarcity mentality and this mode of thinking is common. Too common.

The book, Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives explains what happens to our brains when we are focused on scarcity. The authors show that scarcity is not just a physical limitation. Scarcity - and the scarcity mentality - affects our thinking and feeling. Advance that line of reasoning into the next step after thinking and feeling: acting.

We take action on our thoughts and feelings, which, if driven by fear and lack, can lead to unhappy results. We get what we focus on because we take action on that focus, even if it is unconscious. 

Strong emotions focus our minds and thoughts. One of the strongest emotions is fear. 


By definition, wealth relates to plentitude; having a lot of something, so we naturally tend to think of wealth as a state of having more. It’s antonym, poverty - being impoverished - is the worst possible state of being that anyone could want. 

Through the process of shadow work, I discovered that I was terrified of poverty; of being poor. In my mind, it was related to the most unpleasant feelings of starvation, destitution, despair, unhappiness, unworthiness, abandonment, and a slew of negative imaginings and emotions. 

"Is it just me?", I thought. It turns out, no, not at all. In fact, the fear of being 'old and poor' is common for many women (link to money story).

How is poverty defined? Its most basic definition is the lack of something. Lack is the root of scarcity, isn't it? Scarcity is the lack of a particular resource.

As defined by the dictionary, poverty is:

*the state of being extremely poor.
"thousands of families are living in abject poverty"
synonyms:    penury, destitution, pauperism, pauperdom, beggary, indigence, pennilessness, impoverishment, neediness, need, hardship    

*the state of being inferior in quality or insufficient in amount.
"the poverty of her imagination"
synonyms:    scarcity, deficiency, dearth, shortage, paucity, insufficiency, absence, lack

And, from Merriam Webster: the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.

Socially acceptable?! Sounds like a case of The Shoulds! Acceptable by whom? And for whose good?! It's stated on the website that Merriam Webster has been a dictionary since 1828. The definition of poverty clearly hasn't been updated since then. 

And here's my point about our ability to redefine words: definitions are man-made. They were decided, literally by men, hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Are those definitions still valid today? Are those definitions valid for you personally? Do those definitions appropriately define or describe who you really are or what you really want?


The scarcity mentality has a non-identical twin: the poverty mentality. It is a "poor me" attitude stemming from the belief that there is never enough. Your energy and thoughts are originating from scarcity, and decisions are fear-based. You are holding hostage both yourself - and your potential for happiness, success, love, health and wealth.  

"Poverty is a state of mind." ~ Rahul Gandhi

Some examples of the poverty mentality include: always talking about how much lack you have or how lousy things are, that money shouldn't be spent, that opportunities are limited, being against rich-people, depriving yourself of things that would make you happy, feeling guilty if you have more than others, fear of being seen as boasting when you talk about an accomplishment, belief that you're a victim of others' decisions and choices, a belief that you can lose it all no matter what you do. 

With the poverty mentality, we're focused on what we don't have and make decisions in order to avoid possible negative outcomes. When we have a poverty mentality, we’re stuck, and we won't see any positive changes in our financial situation - or in our life - until we change our perspective.


In my own life, the scarcity and poverty mindset produced a whole lot of anxiety, fear, bad decisions, and straight-up unnecessarily unpleasant feelings. For what? For unfounded beliefs, comparisons to those who had more, to living from the viewpoint of having less than ... and therefore being less than. And there is the root of the problem.

The patriarchal culture values things and accumulation of money and stuff more than it values being. Simply being. To make matters worse, the 'not having' often gets twisted in our minds into 'not being enough'. Thoughts like, "If I don't have X, then I am not in this better category over here, and therefore not as important or valuable as a human being."

Why is the value of a human life determined by what this person owns, how much they make, what they drive or what they wear?

Looking at my life now, I can see that I was always fine. More than fine. Yet the beliefs lingered. I was living in a perpetual state of anxiety and fear. The sensation was always in my life - in the background like white noise and a constant, low-key energetic vibration. When the fears and thoughts got triggered, the noise and vibration would spike.

I would act out reactively, often without thinking logically or critically. In many ways, deep inside, these thoughts kept me constantly on edge and on the lookout. How exhausting!

Unexamined, these thoughts and beliefs led to some terrible choices. I was not focused on the right outcome for the right reason. My intent and intentions were not aligned with my Soul's purpose.


We have the power to change beliefs, thoughts and actions. To liberate ourselves from the scarcity and poverty mentality. With awareness, determination, discipline, and persistence. By redefining thoughts, beliefs and simple words, we can move from a place of fear to a place of trust. From lack to abundance. From scarcity to wealth.

When working on redefining wealth we are making progress towards clearing out the scarcity mentality and supplanting it with a wealthy mentality. It all begins with recognizing where in our life we have abundance. Where in our life we have what we truly want. What makes us incredibly happy and fulfilled.

We can tally up all the instances in our lives where abundance is present and express gratitude for them. As we feel this gratitude, our feelings start to change. We look at others and we can be happy for them. We treat ourselves with compassion. We focus on what we have. We see who we are. Our energy changes.

"The more principle-centered we become, the more we develop an abundance mentality, the more we are genuinely happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition, and good fortune of other people. We believe their success adds to…rather than detracts from…our lives.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

Redefining wealth to be in-line with what is meaningful to our souls, to our sense of purpose, to our desire for fulfillment, is our true north. Putting ourselves in a mindset of gratitude, where we see all that we have and all that we are, is the place from which we can manifest more of what we want. It gets us closer to who we want to be. A mindset of abundance and gratitude is the compass that points us towards our true north.