Bonolo Mokua

Always waiting for the other shoe to drop – how to stop operating from a scarcity mentality

Responsibility in Spending , Self Control in Saving , Budgeting , Values & Money , Honesty in Earning

In 2020 we were all thrown in a ditch and we quickly realised how harsh life can be as families lost their income and had to adjust to new salary packages, forcing many of us to clench each and every “penny” that we had.

Like most 20 year olds, I wasn’t too worried about my financial future. I was simply living life, exploring the world and navigating it knowing that I could rely on my parents and my ability to always find work as a freelancer – and then the pandemic hit and jobs started drying up. I went from having two sources of income to one, and then a year later I was retrenched, and suddenly I was worried about whether I’d be able to pay rent, cover my debts or pay my policies. I knew I couldn’t rely on my parents for long. Financially I knew I was about to hit rock bottom and lose everything if I didn’t start living within my current means. Going from a life of abundance to scarcity happened instantly. Eventually I got a new job but I was still operating from a scarcity mentality; always worried about what would happen if I lost my job again. I kept wondering when the other shoe would drop.

What is a scarcity mentality?

Financial advisor Wong Kim Wee Alvin defines a scarcity mentality, also known as a scarcity mindset, as “a psychological belief or mindset that one's resources, opportunities, or chances for success are limited or insufficient. It is the perception that there is not enough to go around, whether it be money, time, love, opportunities, or any other valuable resource.” People with a scarcity mentality often feel a constant sense of lack, and fear that they will not have enough.

This mindset can manifest in various aspects of life and can have significant implications for a person's thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. People with a scarcity mentality tend to focus on what they don't have rather than what they do have. They may be overly concerned with competition and comparison, viewing others as threats to their limited resources.

How a scarcity mentality affects your life

In my case, I ended up letting go of essentials like my medical aid and pausing my insurance policies because I was afraid that I simply wouldn’t be able to make payments. When I eventually got a job again I didn’t immediately reactivate my medical aid and get on track with my policies. I liked seeing my bank account have money again and I was so afraid of seeing that money dip that I didn’t get things that I actually needed.

It’s important to realise that having a scarcity mentality can hinder personal growth and limit opportunities for success. It narrows your perspective, making it challenging to see possibilities. Finance and trauma life coach Seipati Mbokazi says that having a scarcity mindset stems from your outlook on life. You focus purely on the things that you lack. You are always operating from a space of fear and lack of trust, and that can cause you to develop a sense of hyper-independence or to become overly self-reliant. You believe that no one else is actually good enough to be able to help you handle your challenges or problems and this often leads to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

How to overcome a scarcity mentality

Overcoming a scarcity mentality involves challenging and changing deeply ingrained beliefs and thought patterns. It requires shifting your focus from lack to abundance, cultivating gratitude for what you already have, embracing a growth mindset, and seeking opportunities for collaboration and cooperation rather than trying to compete.

Seipati’stips on how to overcome a scarcity mindset:

  1. Practice gratitude. The more you focus on being grateful for what you have, the more comes your way. When you practice being grateful, that immediately says “I'm enough.” “I am content with where I am.” Find specific things in your daily life that you can be grateful for and as you do this, you will find it easier to start operating from a sense of abundance as opposed to a sense of scarcity.
  2. Seek therapy or counselling. Seipati encourages people to seek therapy in order to deal with the trauma of operating from a scarcity mindset. This will help you to not only deal with the trauma, but understand where your behaviours may actually be coming from. Getting counsel may help in terms of overcoming whatever the root cause of your trauma is and ultimately, healing from this opens up a world of possibilities for you.
  3. Get support from loved ones. Consider approaching someone in your close circle that you can sit down and talk to. This person should be someone who is able to guide you in terms of your outlook. It’s important to choose someone who has a different outlook on life to the one you currently have, and who will have a positive influence on how you can change your own perceptions about your life.
  4. Attend workshops that can help you manage your finances. Having a clear picture of where your money is going, how you spend your money, how you save and what it is that you want to do with your money will help you draw up a budget that works for you, and that balances your needs and goals.
  5. Consider you mental health. Reduce your levels of stress around how you approach your finances and the quality of life that you want. Remember that healthy people make good decisions. Don’t neglect your physical being, stay physically active, consider your mental health and focus on making sure that you are present in the moment and you're actually enjoying your life.
  6. Reframe how you think about abundance. Move away from being critical of yourself. Ask yourself: Is my current life and the way that I live aligned with my goals? And if it's not, make changes. Recognise the fact that you have the power to change the situation that you are in. And that just because somebody else has something does not mean it's been taken away from you.

In the words of former professional baseball player Wade Boggs, “A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes.”

For more information and resources you can do our Values & Money course which examines your current attitudes, behaviour and values around each of these money values: honesty in earning, responsibility in spending, self-control in saving, wisdom in borrowing and generosity in giving.

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Bonolo Mokua

Bonolo is a multimedia journalist and content creator at Heartlines. She has experience in online and radio media production and helps spread the Heartlines message on multiple platforms.

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