When I choose to listen to scarcity

My good pair of jeans recently began fraying at the knee. I had to buy a new pair quickly, knowing that the small hole would rapidly grow.

You can probably relate to the challenge of finding jeans when you need them. It can be so difficult to find the right cut, color and shape. And if I’m being honest, I don’t love looking at myself in 3-way mirrors under fluorescent changing room lights.

As I walked into the first store, I imagined how the next few hours would unfold. I would change into and out of pants, in store after store, and ultimately resign myself to the least worst option.

To my delight, though, something extraordinary happened. During my first round in the fitting room, I found a pair that fit perfectly! What a nice surprise!

The celebratory moment ended quickly, as I began thinking of the future. It’s wonderful that I found a pair easily this time, but how likely is that to happen next time? I should probably buy two pairs now to keep one in reserve.

Scarcity taps you on the shoulder and reminds you that the future is uncertain.

This is what scarcity does. It taps you on the shoulder when you’re feeling joyful and reminds you that the future is uncertain and scary. It tells you that you better temper your optimism because otherwise, you may be sorry.

Better safe than sorry is the mantra of scarcity. But that safety can be stifling. Because in order to protect ourselves from unforeseen danger, we must close ourselves off from unexpected opportunities.

There’s a chance I won’t easily find a pair of great-fitting jeans the next time I need them. But there’s also a chance that I will find a pair that fits even better. I may lose 20 pounds by then and need a different size. I may discover that I feel more comfortable and attractive in skirts. I have no idea what lies ahead.

But this I know for certain:

When I listen to scarcity

  • I stay small and afraid
  • I close my eyes to opportunity
  • I choose to believe that this is as good as it gets

When I refuse scarcity’s invitation

  • I acknowledge my resourcefulness
  • I have faith in my future self
  • I find joy and opportunities everywhere

Standing in the fitting room, deciding what to do, I had to rely on my gut. I walked out with one pair of new jeans, and excitement for what lies ahead.

Where is scarcity showing up in your life? There’s no shame in knowing that it has a hold on you. Getting curious about when it visits and how you respond is a great first step to loosening its grip. Let me know if I can help.


Emily Shull is a behavioral money coach and founder of Me Myself and Money. 
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