Reading an excerpt of a LinkedIn post by Brene Brown in a hotel restaurant one morning this month, I pulled out my newest personal notebook to record her words. A couple of phrases were compelling and I needed to write them down for further contemplation.
The first phrase I lifted out of the context was: “… in a culture of scarcity and perfectionism”.
Considerable writing, talking, self-help seminars, books published, even economics, have participated in the dialogue and interpretation of strategies to make us believe we do well to see through the lens of Scarcity to evaluate ourselves and our accomplishments. Scarcity has grown as a perspective to dominate our reality of what we see and know. It often makes us believe as persons that we are not enough. The discourse lends emphasis to support questions about how generous we can really be when we must already see we do not have enough for ourselves? Scarcity perspectives relentlessly point out that we ‘need to acquire to achieve’, and that our capability is directly tied to what we are able to amass. Its scope goes far beyond ‘half-full’ and ‘half-empty’.
It is a way of thinking which makes us believe we don’t have enough of whatever it is we believe we need. There are arguments that the belief that we do not ‘have enough’ impacts our ability to think of possibility and narrows our actions to achieve what is necessary. And so on …
Perfectionism is not as widely or openly discussed. We learn it is not safe to be vulnerable. We protect our gaps, and our perceived failures. Perhaps we will have time and opportunity to change what is past without others ever knowing. The only stories we tell are the ‘success’ stories in our striving to be recognized with credibility by our peers.
We all have a story. If we only hear success stories, we believe everyone succeeds except us. We don’t reach out because we suspect our truth might damage others’ beliefs about us. There is shame in reaching out. We have a society built on a wide and deep belief that independence is an ultimate statement of capability. Why have we come to believe this, “ … especially if we have not been raised to understand the irreducible nature of human need ”? (Brene Brown, Dare to Lead)
Brene offers another observation: “ … it’s as if we’ve divided the world into ‘those who need help’ and ‘those who offer help’.” How do we grow to know that our strength in our personal worlds is in knowing how to reach out to others, to share the problem solving and the insight of others in the dilemmas we all face? How do we challenge the insecurity and risk that tangibly arises within us?
Can we be fearless and gentle with ourselves and with others? If we can, we model ‘needing help’. The barriers soften and disappear. We are human together.