Compromising and Settling for Crumbs – leads to a Sub-Optimal Life

Compromising and Settling for Crumbs – leads to a Sub-Optimal Life

Sumita Banerjea

Educator, Counsellor & Author


A friend of mine recently had her cataract operation. What she said was very telling. “It is amazing how much better I can see. I had forgotten what a good vision was and had settled for a slightly blurry picture for so long, thinking that was normal.”

Yes of course, I told myself. How true. In so many spheres in life we find ourselves compromising; accepting lower standards over a period of time, almost unconsciously – from ourselves and from other people.

Sometimes we don’t have the energy to fight for quality. So, even while knowing it is available, we settle for peace at the cost of quality.

Compromising reduces the quality of life experiences

At times we simply get into a ‘chalta hai’ (it will do) mode and that becomes the norm. It could be some very mundane, routine activities, like setting the table for a meal and eating food there. I had become lazy and would take the plate of food to sit on the bed or on a chair, while watching television. Or, I would just eat in the kitchen when eating alone. Laying out the table with a mat and coasters seemed like too much effort.

This was till I visited my octogenarian aunt, who was living by herself, with no full time help. I found her eating lunch at the table, complete with a table mat, paper napkins, a jug of water and of course the food. It was a very simple meal that I was invited to partake of, but the entire experience was so much richer and satisfying, than just dumping the food on the plate and eating it anyhow!

I realised that I was compromising and had settled for the ‘chalta hai’ syndrome, sacrificing the complete joy of enjoying a meal in an aesthetic and pleasing manner. The beauty of the experience had been lost. I was neither doing justice to the food nor was I valuing the effort of the person who had cooked it, even if the cook was me.

Settling for Crumbs affects quality of Relationships

In relationships too, it is the same story. We often fall into the ‘dreary desert sand of dead habit’. The truth is that, deep inside us, we know whether we are happy or not. Often we are just conditioned to accept and adjust to whatever is doled out to us. We neither give the best of ourselves to a relationship nor do we expect much, often settling for crumbs instead of sharing the entire cake.

It is like getting used to the taste of dry bits of sweet, packaged flour sold as cakes; missing out on the moist, soft, butter flavoured original bakes.

Compromising per se, is not necessarily wrong. It works well when all parties concerned give each other an honest hearing with respect and make concessions to arrive at a consensus for the greater good.

The trouble happens when one party feels totally disregarded and yet, is accepting less than the basic standard.

Why do we settle for less than the minimum?

  • Fear of change and the unknown, fear of conflict, criticism and rejection.
  • Not being confident about our own ability to manage outside the familiar terrain.
  • Financial insecurity, societal pressures.
  • Insecurity regarding the future of the children.

These are some of the reasons I’ve come across. Often, it is easier to complain than to take the trouble to do something proactively, to improve the situation.

How not to settle for crumbs

  • The awareness that one is over-compromising is important. That way we do not suffer from any illusions.
  • Nature has programmed us with the ability to detect our discomfort; if only we take the time to listen to ourselves and observe our feelings.
  • We need to change our mindset, to say, “I don’t need the crumbs to survive. I have my own fat to live off and thrive.”
  • Instead of giving in and quietly accepting anything and everything, we learn to speak up against what is unacceptable.
  • It is not easy but it is ‘learnable’. With practise one finds the right words and the courage. If necessary, we can even learn at training programs or from a coach.

It might sound a bit dramatic, but most of us are un-introduced to our own reserves and tenacity to survive and prosper. We can bake our own rich plum cake with soaked raisins and nuts to enrich our lives, along with the crumbs.

We can enhance the quality of our life by adding new colours, gaining new knowledge,  learning and sharpening new skills and seeking out all the resources available to us.   

We have the choice to avoid over-compromising

Initially, our speaking up might antagonise the other person, who is used to behaving callously. But over time, if we persist, we will be heard.

  • If we are not heard, we know that there are other avenues open to us.
  • If something is not working right, we don’t have to wait for the other person to take a call. It is our life and we need to take responsibility for it.
  • In certain cases, if unsure of our rights, we might even need to take legal advice so that we can be on firm ground if the need arises.
  • There is the final option of opting out of the situation by calmly analyzing the ramifications of the decision and working on the back up plan. It gives us self respect and, over time, respect from others; including, even if grudgingly, from the person who was doling out the crumbs.

Whether we do or do not settle for crumbs is a matter of our choice. Sometimes we choose to or are compelled to and learn to make peace with it.

But what nobody else can control is whether we are the best that we can be – towards ourselves and those we interact with. That has its own rewards and satisfaction.

“I don’t understand people who say, ‘I don’t give this to people, or that to people; because nobody gave it to me before…’But that is exactly why you should give it! Because you know exactly what it feels like not to have it! And you never want another person to feel the way that you did!” – C. JoyBell C.

Please do leave your comments at the bottom and do share with others if you like this article.

Notify of

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ganesh Kumar R
Ganesh Kumar R
2 years ago

Simple and well articulated article Ms.Sumita!

Serena Zhou
Serena Zhou
2 years ago

Well said !

Jyoti Dutta
Jyoti Dutta
2 years ago

Very well put. It’s relatable. Irrespective of success achieved, I think each of us has this devil pulling us back in variable intensities. There is a need of a constant reminder, every moment of one’s existence to realign one’s stance empowering us as enablers. The thoughts in this article are so well organised, they walk right into the mind of the reader with a rich plum cake on a platter!