Bootstraps

Bootstraps
Faruk Ates, Flickr/CC

I’m going to go out on a limb and make the sweeping generalization that many of us looking at a computer right now, reading these words, live in a rich nation that is run off of safety, abundance and desire.  America at its finest, right?  But really, sarcasm aside, author and researcher Brene Brown says that we of the first world – regardless our home country – live in a culture that is largely defined by scarcity.  (And I’m inclined to agree with her wholeheartedly.) We live in a culture that is defined by scarcity and we fear that scarcity in a myriad of forms:  from not having the money we need to live our chosen lifestyle to existing in the shadow of low self-esteem to looking to external circumstances to make us happy to feeling devoid of authentic relationships.  The list could go on for pages.

Brown goes on to say:

The greatest casualties of a scarcity culture are our willingness to own our vulnerabilities and our ability to engage with the world from a place of worthiness.

Basically, we’re generally afraid to put our full, authentic selves out there for the world to see because we are afraid of what might happen when we do.  We could be rejected, we could be ridiculed, we could be left at the altar with a wilted bouquet slipping from our fingers.  We could get hurt.  We could lose something dear to us. We could appear weak to someone who has only ever known us as strong.  We could make a mistake and not know how to remedy what happened because of it. Once again, the list could go on for pages.

So why, with all of these unknowns, coulds and potential disastrous outcomes would we EVER want to put ourselves out there?  Why should we strive to own our vulnerabilities?

I haven’t read all Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, from where the quote above comes.  I’m only on chapter two, and I’m sure she’ll provide some profound insights into this topic as I get further into it.  But what I started thinking about while just getting into her work was the word “bootstraps”.  Odd, maybe.  But I think bootstraps got into my head because we, at least the we that live in America, are part of a culture that still largely promotes “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.”  We are supposed to make it work by working hard.  By doing whatever it takes to make it in a difficult world in a way that matters.  To go it alone and make our own path.

Sometimes these are excellent tips.  When the path is going somewhere that doesn’t fit with what you value, it’s great advice to forge ahead in another way.  Working hard makes a lot of sense if you are working at something that makes your soul sing.  However, pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps just isn’t going to work, at least in the big picture.  It might be possible to get one foot a ways off the ground, but that eventually just leads to some awkward, uncomfortable hopping around on one leg.  We weren’t made to exist as a bunch of bootstrap pulling tough guys all yammering for the top rung of the ladder.  We were made to exist in community.  To come to each other’s aid, solicited or not.  To see past the fear of not having enough for ourselves to give a little bit to someone else.

We should strive to own our vulnerabilities because that’s the only way true community can be cultivated.  And when we engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we learn that the opposite of scarcity isn’t what we thought it was.  It isn’t abundance or wealth or having a multitude of whatever it is we need.   The opposite of scarcity is existing in such a way that lets people at least catch a glimpse of who we are at the core.  It’s allowing others to support us when we need it.  It’s seeing the vulnerabilities in others and loving them for what they probably see as weakness.  And it’s letting others love our own weakness, and letting that be enough.

I agree with Brown when she says,

 The opposite of scarcity is enough.