Are you a failure if you are poor?

I was asked this question by one of my friends. The reactive answer is no but perhaps the question is more of why.

Failure ranks highly on the list of human anxieties. Unlike other top fears — like flying and death — fears about failing relate to a deeper psychological concern for our well-being and loved ones. The drive to pay bills and sustain one’s family, after all, weighs heavily on human motivations, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. So the bottom line when it comes to the fear of failing? Poverty, plain and simple.

But that doesn’t mean being poor should ever be equated with being a failure.

Poverty is often seen in absolute terms, as in those with less than $1.25 per day. In reality, though, poverty is relative. The concept of “relative poverty” sees it defined in relation to the economic status of others. It’s the opposite of keeping up with the Joneses: People are poor if they fall below prevailing standards of living. The trouble with both definitions is that they focus largely on income and consumption.

The problem is the poverty spiral. When facing poverty, the researchers found, individuals enter a “scarcity mindset”. When focused on short-term survival, your decision-making ability is scrambled and your attention span narrowed. The attendant worry means long–term planning and the completion of peripheral, routine tasks is downgraded as the immediate future becomes the only focus. Debt counsellors have found this for years, with people in debt struggling to understand how they ended up like that, only knowing that many short-term financial crises snowballed.

When you’re constantly poor and struggling to make ends meet, the scarcity effect permeates all decisions. Any discussion of food poverty invariably segues into a denunciation of anyone who doesn’t plan meals days in advance, buying ingredients in bulk and cooking from scratch. Lady Jenkin’s “let them eat porridge” outburst overshadowed the Church of England’s Feeding Britain report launch. Psychologically, if you’re faced with some immediate bills and a shortfall in cash, that doesn’t happen. Cheap and filling meals are rarely nutritionally balanced, but being aware of how little money is available means it makes more sense short term to spend a little for one day’s food, than a lot for several days when you’ve no idea when you’ll next receive any income.

Is poverty due to laziness or a lack of opportunity? I think it is a combination of both. Life throws up opportunities and you have to take them to get out of the spiral effect. Determination and being hard working helps in offering up new opportunities that you have to take, with both hands at the end of the day. So the last thing you want to do is to give up, keep trying to make your life better because having a shot is better than not trying at all.


Interesting reads:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/apr/22/disability-poverty-crisis-government-policies

http://www.ozy.com/pov/is-being-poor-a-sign-of-failure/79902

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jun/30/poverty-negative-spiral-fear-self-loathing

http://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/dn2/WAGA-Poverty-Not-personal-failure-IS-structural-problem/957860-3184688-7ttmbq/index.html

http://www.scotsman.com/news/doomed-to-failure-by-poverty-gene-1-1412072

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/sid-mohn/poverty-laziness-or-lack-_b_4994213.html

http://www.ozy.com/pov/is-being-poor-a-sign-of-failure/79902

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