Strawberries, whipped cream, and bacon: This is the correct way to consume pancakes. Applying the same logic, this morning I made a mess of waffles with blueberries and whipped cream for my daughter. It was overflowing with sticky goodness, and so was she by the end of the meal.
Later she observed my coffee preparation, but as I reached for the whipped cream, she recoiled and insisted I could not use it in my coffee. It came into the house as a gift for her to consume, but if she shares, it will run out.
So many thoughts ran through my brain. I could eat all the whipped cream in front of her and then spike the empty can so she knows who is in charge. Or give her a shot of whipped cream to keep her quiet. But if I gave her whipped cream, she’ll just ask for more, so I can’t. Or I could tell her she’s not the boss of me and to mind her own business. I could make her get a job and contribute to the household grocery bill.
My response is irrelevant, but it is a misplaced sense of pride on both of our parts that looks at the situation and attempts resolution without understanding. I could end it by insisting she take care of herself - how could she believe the goodness of whipped cream would really come to an end? She could end it by blaming me for using the whipped cream when clearly, she wants it for herself. But we both bear the responsibility to ask questions before making a judgment. Unfortunately, our questions are often laden with judgment instead of being true questions, born of curiosity.
Engaging Compassion for Self and Others
National discord seems to be at record levels. Criticism is favored over compassion, name calling is prevalent, and rejection of others is the easy way out. When my daughter requested whipped cream, she perceived a lack of compassion in me to leave some for her - but she missed the lack in her own thoughts.
When we believe others are trying to take our good things, we exist in a paradigm that prevents anyone from enjoying the good things - even ourselves. My daughter had a pile of whipped cream hours earlier and was still unsatisfied. The lie of the poverty mindset makes us believe that what we have is not enough and must be protected. It partners with the prideful ideal that we succeed only by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, while simultaneously believing there is a limit to what we can access, thanks to others demanding the same equal access. All the while, we forget some have no boots in the first place.
The poverty mindset is breaking our compassion for self and others. We must find a way to break the pride of self and lies that the inner critic wields to control us and limit the generosity we offer to the world around us.
I submit we are living in precedented times, where humanity is asked to sacrifice for others what they would request for themselves. To shirk my responsibility to ensure others can access the things they need for survival would be completely wrong. The bootstrap principle is a lie. You receive from others; you move forward. The pioneers were granted homesteads to move West; the English were given agricultural lessons; the billionaires were given loans; my daughter was given whipped cream. Her dependency on me is based on our mutual agreement (along with state and federal laws) that she deserves to be loved, cared for, and raised in a home that offers her safety, security, and the things she needs to thrive. And yes, that includes basics like shelter and delights like whipped cream.
So why do we switch the narrative for adults?
Most adults carry a narrative full of fearful beliefs that we are not worthy of goodness, believing what we need is ultimately finite. This is a weakened sense of self that berates the adult for requiring support to grow and thrive, yet we speak this way to ourselves every day and expect the world around to judge us differently.
What does the voice in your head say about you? If it is formed by the opinions and perspectives of others, how quick are you to agree with condemnation against yourself?
The negative narrative comes from the wrong idea that we are a nation of bootstrappers, freedom fighters, and self-starters. Anything less than individual self-sufficiency shows weakness, so we discount our own humanity and reject grace the second we find a need in ourselves for generosity. Could it be possible that our subscription to the poverty mindset and bootstrap fallacy have allowed us to believe that we will never be good enough?
Combating the Inner Critic
I’ve called myself names more times than I can count. But I am responsible to combat that thinking with truth about my nature and the perceived lack that keeps me locked in a submission hold to critics, both inside and out.
A loss of self-compassion starts small but grows exponentially with every moment of condemnation, until your own thoughts agree with the narrative of less-than for yourself. It is in this moment our self-defensiveness rises (as if we disagree) and we begin to use the natural system of categorization to create a world where our lack cannot be increased by others. But this puts us in a weird place of believing simultaneous but conflicting lies - we are not good enough, but we will fight to prove that we are better and more deserving than others.
There are so many lies connected to the poverty mindset and bootstrap fallacy that if we believe we are in a position of authority (moral or otherwise) we will continue to withhold our compassion (A.K.A. love, generosity, etc.) for others in the same way we withhold it from ourselves. I cannot recognize myself as valuable until I perceive my own life as worthy of love.
Offering zero compassion to ourselves is our starting point. If we live in a state of generosity toward our own mind, we can experience and extend grace to ourselves in a way that we will then naturally influence the world with effortless compassion. The rich man may not believe he is in need, but anyone who has generously given of themselves can testify to the undeniable elation that accompanies openhandedness. When we believe we are worthy of love, we will believe others are, too. The beauty of a joyful life is that joy is not ours to maintain; it is ours to experience as a gift.
But if we seek first to ignore our own inner critic, rather than combating the lies with compassion and curiosity, we undercut the value of grace. Grace is unearned, so it is no surprise we fight it with our own autonomy and bootstraps, despite how desperately we want it for ourselves. This is the detriment of our aversion to compassion.
Before we can move through the mental barricade of our inner critic, we must engage our own hang ups with grace and compassion. As adults, we left behind our willingness to believe in magic, in mystery, and the unknown. Sometimes, we validate the loss as a necessary maturation to adulthood. But the truth is that deep down, we traded a sense of wonder for a false stability in the concrete. Have you ever berated yourself as foolish, or childish?
Imagine if suddenly, you started allowing your heart to delight in the childish, foolish things of the world. A flower plucked and handed to a friend. Frolicking through a field for the hell of it. This level of goodness is so crucial and intangible, and the adult in us wants to insist that the practical is priority. In fact, we attached goodness only to the practical, which is how we began to believe that goodness is finite in the first place!
Generosity is a mark of deep love that requires nothing in return.
If we begin to practice generosity toward others, we will absolutely experience a breakdown in our own wrong beliefs about scarcity, need, lack, and loss. Generosity requires believing that the word is not inherently dangerous, against us, and stealing our resources to keep us oppressed. Is there oppression? Yes. But this should expand us as we can move away from the fear of self-interest and toward others without believing the lie that we are now at a deficit.
Goodness is not finite - because goodness is not physical. When we can release the lie that we are unworthy and lacking, removing pride as the prohibitive factor in our generosity and childlike play, we will experience a new level of mental freedom and hopefully, extend that same compassion to others.
Practical steps to break the poverty mindset, engage compassion, combat your inner critic, and experience an overflow of joy.
· Allow yourself to believe that goodness is infinite. Consider a few examples of goodness in your life that are immeasurable and constant.
Do you need a hint? They are likely not things.
· Invite a trusted friend to speak to you, about you. Give them a guideline of identifying positive aspects only, for now, and do not interrupt or qualify anything they say.
· Consider scheduling a recurring $10 a month donation to a local food shelter. Donate manually, so you can actively engage in the process each time.
· Make a list of five words that describe a person you most admire. Do those words line up with your own character and choices? Why or why not?
· Write yourself a birthday card for the upcoming year in third person. Be as kind and encouraging as you would for anyone else. If that’s a challenge; then be even kinder.