Entitlement: The Curse of the 21st Century

Entitlement is a seed our ego grows inside of us every time we feel frustrated with our circumstances. In fact, by the time we soak up or express our frustration, our seed has grown so much that we now think we are entitled to be frustrated. Truly, the human mind works in funny ways. In this article, I will seek to explore the causes, manifestations and consequences of entitlement in our lives. Towards the end of this read, we will learn how to adjust our mindset to make better use of entitlement energy.

entitlement (n): the belief that one is inherently deserving of something

You’re not happy? What’s wrong? You don’t deserve to feel this way.

You worked hard for that job you desperately want? Oh then, you are definitely entitled to earn it.

You’re having a bad day? Oh you’re absolutely allowed to let your frustration out on others, especially your loved ones who have nothing to do it with it.

Whether we are aware of this or not, we believe we are entitled to certain things in life and this simple yet flawed assumption is the cause of many of our shortcomings.

A list of some things we believe we are entitled to:

  • Love
  • Happiness
  • Respect
  • Understanding
  • Recognition
  • Attention
  • Status
  • Wealth
  • Being favored over others
  • Told we are right
  • Being apologized to
  • Sharing our unsolicited opinion even if it hurts others
  • Hurting others because they’ve hurt us
  • Letting our anger out on others when they have nothing to do with it
  • Yelling at customer service for doing us wrong

While there is nothing inherently wrong in seeking to attain or receive the first few items on the list, as we travel down you can find how having an entitlement mindset can add a bitter association to the things we believe we are entitled to. Bitterness makes up at least 75 % of that ugly part of our personality. You know, the one we try to hide from the world and like to pretend doesn’t exist? Yup, that one. No one likes to feel bitter and those who display bitterness are annoying to be around. But how does entitlement come about? Do we even notice when it does? To contemplate these questions requires a conscious effort and a careful detection of our unconscious thoughts, behaviors and emotions.

The Birth of Entitlement

It all starts with an innocent thought. I’m not content, maybe I should do something about it.

Before we know it our little thought transpires into an expectation. I should be happy/successful/independent/etc.

Slowly it spirals into entitlement. How dare they not grant me what I want and deserve? They chose him/her over me? How could they treat me this way?

Entitlement attracts victim mentality, resentment, laziness and a bunch of other negative emotions that manifest into frustration and anger.

The sense of entitlement ruins every equation it falls into. Why? because what we think we deserve is very often outside of our control.

Take a common scenario. You work hard, feel proud of yourself and instead of stopping there, you start creating expectations for your positive behavior. You’d like to be rewarded, recognized, noticed, thanked, applauded and celebrated for your efforts. You desperately wait for any of these things to happen and when they are not delivered, you feel angry and miserable. Why inflict this upon yourself? Why couldn’t you stop when you were happy and proud of your achievement? Don’t worry, it’s not your fault. Well, not exactly.

The Rise of Entitlement

When was the last time you felt discontent in your life but didn’t feel the urge to do anything to get out of your situation? Even if you didn’t exactly do anything about it, it is highly unlikely that a human piece of work like yourself didn’t feel exasperated about your condition and sought for ways to change it. It is our human nature to always want to improve our status quo but even more so in this age when everything is just so. damn. easy. and we usually get what we want.

We live in a time of instant gratification. We can get whatever we want, the way we want it, whenever we want it. Our urges for happiness and short-lived contentment are easily met which means that we are less tolerant when things don’t work out the way we want them to.

Thanks to technology catering to every aspect of our lives, promising to make it better, easier and more efficient, we really have no temperament to deal with difficult things in our life. We have robot vacuums and robot cars and robot friends assisting and responding to our silliest quests.  We can get all kinds of services with just a click on our phones. Gone are the days of patience and time wasted doing mundane things like ordering food or waiting in line.

Okay, but what does all this have to do with entitlement? You’re probably thinking.

Well, we are so spoiled (okay fine, “advanced“) that we think we are entitled to all these wonderful things modern life and technology serve us with.  If for some reason we don’t get what we want and our entitlement projections are unmet, we throw a fit and remind the world of what we deserve. 

Our entitlement is rooted in all the rising self-help advice of the 21st century. The message is usually always the same: Nothing is your fault. You deserve all that you desire, especially happiness, admiration, love, respect, peace, abundance and all other nice sounding things. These seemingly positive messages are somehow obscured in our minds and deformed into a cluster of angry emotions of entitlement. When we start believing that we deserve x, y and z and become bitter about it, that’s pretty much entitlement. But the truth is, we don’t exactly deserve anything.

Entitlement is a clear manifestation of the ego. We receive this feeling in little nudges every time we are told we are special and deserving.

In reality, nobody owes you anything. It’s better to accept this as soon as possible. It will save you a lot of unnecessary frustrations in life. What is more useful is to approach entitlement energy in a more sensible manner.


A sensible guide to eliminating toxic entitlement

Repeat after me: I don’t deserve anything nor should I feel the need to

If you like to feel like you deserve things in life, maybe you should ask yourself why it is that you do. What does the sense of entitlement add to your life? If it fuels your ambition or gets you out of a rut then, by all means, deserve away! I don’t think you’re in trouble. This is for the people who by exercising their sense of entitlement take a back seat in their own lives. They blame, judge, resent others and let their ego take charge. They never think it’s their fault or responsibility to rise out of their situation because they are too busy inflating their entitlement bubble.

As humans, we are comfortable feeling entitled. It gives us a cause to express our passive laziness.

When you feel your entitlement energy stretching its arms, take the lead before your ego gets on its high chair and starts screwing things up. Below are a few examples of how we can shift our mindset away from entitlement.

Scenario 1: You are rejected from a position at your company. You were qualified for the director position but you didn’t get the promotion. Yes, you are qualified. No, you are not entitled to the position.

Scenario 2: You are a devout mother. You are a loving mother who dedicated her entire life to her children but they chose to move out and live their own lives and now they barely visit. Yes, you are a loving mother. No, you are not entitled to their love.

Scenario 3: You have been ill-treated by a close friend. You were misunderstood when your friend called you out for something you didn’t do. Yes, you were misunderstood. No, you are not entitled to your friend’s understanding.

Did you notice the problem with these scenarios? It has the word “You” marked all over them. When we start personalizing things, we become so attached and easily upset. Instead, we can view each of them as a matter-of-fact situation that requires our acceptance. Facing and accepting our struggles is the only way forward. Rejection, disappointment or failure should not interfere with your personal self-worth. Yes, this part of self-help books is always true. It’s not that you are entitled to better treatment, but that your self-worth is not dictated by situations you cannot control. Instead of inflating you ego, this realization should make you feel at peace with your circumstances.

Once you focus on what you can truly control and accept and let go of what you truly cannot, you slowly detach from your ego’s sense of entitlement.

When you are distressed by an external thing, it’s not the thing itself that troubles you, but only your judgment of it. And you can wipe this out at a moment’s notice.”

MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 8.47

How to Use your Entitlement

Sometimes, entitlement is temporarily necessary. Emphasis on temporarily. Say your colleague disrespects you or your friend lies and betrays you. You can use your entitlement to mutter some self-respect by not responding to them and therefore allowing the situation to affect your emotional wellbeing. Use entitlement as an emotional bodyguard but never exploit it. Exploiting your sense of entitlement will only allow you to grow angry and resentful of your colleague/friend. Such energy is useless to harbor within you.

Instead of thinking you deserve something, you should work for and create that which you desperately want to deserve. Do you think Einstein thought he was entitled to outstanding intellect and global recognition? No, he was preoccupied doing the work which earned him his attributes and success. If there’s one thing you’ll take from this read, I hope this would be it.

So many of us use our ego as a shield from facing our problems. Instead of thinking we deserve better friendships, a better job, better status, better treatment, we should be focusing on improving ourselves. Once we accept that we have so much more to work on, there is really no place for entitlement.

Important Notes

Important note #1: The opposite of entitlement is not silently wallowing in your sorrows. Simply that your troubles are yours to accept and overcome. It is the only way forward. Yes, I realize this is not what you want to hear. You probably feel entitled to a more desirable form of reassurance, but that’s not why you’re here is it?

Important note #2: Just because you are not entitled to something doesn’t mean you are not worthy of it. If you stop feeling entitled to love, respect and understanding it doesn’t mean you are not worthy of love, respect and understanding. It simply means you are reduced from the baggage of entitlement which attaches your worthiness on external factors. You are worthy of love, respect and understanding simply because you are. Create your own reasons if you have to believe that you are but don’t use them to project your frustrations on others.

Important note #3: The effects of entitlement are worsened when you use people as a means to achieve your end. Say you feel entitled to a first class upgrade because your airline company messed up your flights, lost your baggage and charged your account without your consent. So you decided to use your friend who happens to work at the airline company as a means to achieve your end, to her detriment. Congratulations, your entitlement spiral is now impaired with some degree of moral misconduct. It is useless to feel entitled but it becomes ethically wrong when you start using people as a means to achieve your entitled end.

Final note: Noticing the effects of entitlement in your life requires consistent conscious awareness. Anytime you feel yourself getting riled up over silly things or feeling sorry for yourself, try to look for the underlying cause behind these feelings. More often than not, it’s our ego telling us we are entitled to something. A simple realization like this could save you from a lot of emotional distress. It is your choice to decide how exactly you’re going to use your entitlement to better serve your energy.

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