I grew up in what one might deem to be a very middle class family. We had a decent roof over our heads and food on our plates. Sometimes, when the budget got thin we would switch to powdered milk, but I learned that I preferred water in those times. At the beginning of each school year my brother and I would each get one new pair of sneakers, a new pair of jeans and a shirt or two. This was only after the years that I stopped getting my older brothers hand me downs. The majority of the other things we had were second hand from thrift stores. Nothing was in what society might see as abundance, (except perhaps the bags of powdered milk that were stockpiled) but we had enough.
I didn’t see any problems with it in those years. I had not yet been conditioned to believe otherwise. We were a content family. Both of my parents worked hard and us kids were growing up according to plan. It wasn’t until I was in 5th grade, my perception of the world started to shift.
About half way through the school year, a new girl joined our grade. She seemed to be quite kind but my sense was that she was definitely “cooler” than I was. In truth most of my classmates had more on trend style than I. Even though I noticed this I was simultaneously somewhat oblivious with all of my 2nd hand threads. Nonetheless, everything seemed fine, until one fateful day in January.
I clearly remember returning back to school after our Christmas Holidays wearing the new black velvet pants I had gotten under the tree. I was in love with these pants and super excited to show them off to all my friends, but when I did I was shocked to see the reception of my outfit was not what I had expected. Instead of getting excited with me, my best friend judged my sense of style in front of the new girl and suggested that I tight roll the legs so that I wouldn’t look like a complete fashion failure.
I was devastated and completely embarrassed. How could I have missed this? I quickly brushed off my lack of style, did exactly what she suggested and vowed to myself that I would never again be caught in such a mortifying experience. I’d like to say that was the only event where my style was questioned, but as hard as I tried, time would prove that this was just the first of many bullying experiences. As a result my popularity quickly diminished. The worst part was, the bully was my best friend.
I was out. New girl was in.
No matter what I did to try and keep up I always seemed to fall short. My parents were not able to spend money to fill my closets with all of the latest and greatest, and I just didn’t have a clear perception of what would help to keep me popular. While other kids were wearing new threads and kicks every day, I was cycling through the same 5 outfits, week after week.
What is it about our cultural narrative that codes having lots of or the best of something as “winning”? On the contrary, when we are in lack of abundance we are often perceived as a failure. While I am completely aware that there are historical events and a current financial paradigm that play into this mindset, I still find it curious that the amount and the quality of what I have has played into my worthiness as a human.
Despite this devastating childhood event, I have now come to learn that for me, less is really more. It has taken me quite some time to come around to this though.
Yes, I admit that I too have played the “keeping up with the Joneses game” and for years got caught up in this vortex. Even my primary relationship played into this pattern, a never ending cycle of us wanting more and the impossible expectations that we were putting on each other to keep up with it all. While the attainment of more was giving me the dopamine hit of pleasure I so clearly desired, it became more and more clear that this feeling was temporary and very unsustainable. Abundant on the outside, empty on the inside.
The pressure to keep up became debilitating. The constant feeling of dissatisfaction had me in a downward spiral. It was almost as if I had hit a proverbial rock bottom. I knew that I needed out but didn’t know how to maintain the lifestyle I had created while shifting out of a consumptive mindset. As my worldview started to break down it started to become clear to me that I was trying to fill an internal void with external abundance. Did I have abundance all wrong?
As fate would have it, over time my surroundings started to shift. It would seem that the simple awareness of knowing I was completely eroded with dissatisfaction allowed my lens to refocus and bring other avenues into my view. It’s like the universe was waiting for me to step outside of the cultural framework that I inevitably knew I didn’t fit into and move back towards my roots. I slowly started to move away from the idea that abundance is external and move towards a narrative of internal fulfillment.
Even just the idea of stripping myself of my conditioning gave space to the incredible expansion of my inner abundance I was about to journey towards. Finally I could step more fully into myself. No more round peg, square hole. I could taste the freedom that I realized I have been craving all of my life. More and more I began to understand that this was all within me, I was just conditioned to believe otherwise.
My 10 year old self wanted to break out my black velvet pants and wear them however the f#@k I wanted, while dancing down the street in my pink Converse high top knock offs!
It’s been a solid year now of consciously working to unbox myself of all of the patterns and beliefs that I created and inherited along the way. Some of these boxes have heavy duty, grade A locks on them that I am still trying to find the key to. But each time I feel the crumbling of yet another outdated system within me, I can almost simultaneously feel an endless expansion of abundance.
The biggest gift in all of this unlearning is being able to step more fully into my authentic self. It is abundantly clear to me that it is my authenticity that creates true connections beyond what I ever could have imagined. For me this is everything. Abundance is in the fullness of an experience. This source of internal fulfillment needs nothing else. It doesn’t need more money, a bigger house, a faster car or even the coolest velvet pants. As I witness more and more of my desires falling away, I find myself feeling more abundant than ever.