“Perhaps the most basic belief underlying all of our feelings of entitlement is the belief that life should please us, that life should be comfortable.
When life doesn’t give us what we want — the job that isn’t satisfying, the relationship that isn’t quite working, the body that ages and breaks down — we resist. Our resistance can manifest as anger, or fear, or self-pity, or depression, but whatever forms it takes, it blocks our ability to experience true contentment.
We see our discomfort as the problem: yet it’s the belief that we can’t be happy if we’re uncomfortable that is much more of a problem than the discomfort itself.” – Ezra Bayda, Beyond Happiness: The Zen Way to True Contentment.
Once upon a time, if we were lucky, people found our tantrums cute.
‘There’s little Eric being all entitled again! Isn’t it adorable!’, mum and dad would say, with indulgent expressions.
That was then.
Now imagine if your new girlfriend or boyfriend threw a tantrum because, say, you’re a little late to dinner one time. Probably not going to cut it.
We all slip into the self-entitlement trap at times. But ultimately, self-entitled thinking is unproductive.
The sooner we can lose anything in our thinking that suggests things are coming to us on a plate, the sooner we are able to do the work to get the rewarding careers and relationships we desire.
Self-entitlement comes from avoiding pain
Life has self-entitlement sort of built in.
Understandably, our parents seek to protect us from pain. But that isn’t particularly constructive, because life is pain. And the more we defend ourselves from having to experience pain and discomfort, uncomfortable is what we are.
Conflicts, mistakes, failures, losses, disappointment and loneliness are actually kind of cool, because they are where important learning happens.
So number one thing for self-entitlement generation to be aware of is avoiding difficult shit. Where are you thinking ‘noooo, thank you, that’s not for me?’
Here is what happens when we avoid a few things that are on the face of things, quite painful:
- Healthy food and exercise – we become fat, unhealthy slobs.
- Difficult conversations – result in unhappy unhealthy relationships.
- Hard work – we do shitty jobs we can’t stand.
Self-entitled thinking happens because we are taught that ‘anything is possible’
At the same time as wanting everything to be easy and painless, we actually want a quite a lot.
We want to be entrepreneurs, and we are picky about what we are willing to do to become them. We want awesome relationships, but we are choosy about our battles there, too.
And we are oh-so expectant about our careers and relationships.
Work should be aligned with our passions, in addition to also being very lucrative (naturally). Our romantic partners need to perform some kind of magical feat where they support us in self actualization, and are epic lovers, best friends, even business partners.
There’s nothing wrong with being full of possibility. I recommend it, in fact.
As long as we see ourselves at being at source of it all. We’ve got to make this happen for ourselves.
What happens when we think happiness (or success, or love) come from outside
We just stop working for them. Our intrinsic motivation is undermined.
Success and happiness become more elusive.
By-products of self-entitlement
Feelings of self-entitlement set the stage for the experience of other emotions. These are lovely. Are you ready?
When we can cultivate more self-responsibility however, we feel:
- At peace
- Able to delay gratification
Are you snagged by self-entitlement?
I don’t know anyone (myself included) that doesn’t get caught up in a bit of self-entitlement sometimes. Watch yourself in particular in these situations:
- What you are saying about your partner/date/mate – behind their back.
- Internal rants about being requested things by your boss/family.
- Your behavior in any customer service setting.
We have to guard ourselves from anything looking like the spirit of self-entitlement. Initially, this is a bit of an effort.
Here are some symptoms of destructive self-entitlement:
- We are applying double standards.
- We crave admiration and adoration.
- We make unrealistic demands on our BF/GF, family and friends.
- We feel sorry for ourselves if things don’t pan out how we envisaged.
- (Whether we admit it or not), we think we ‘deserve’ happiness.
- We feel massively put upon when people ask small favors.
- We expect others to be more interested in our agendas than we are willing to take interest in theirs.
- We disregard rules designed for other people’s comforts.
- We freeload.
- We inconvenience others without even thinking about it.
- We think it’s okay to offend people.
14 antidotes to self-entitlement
It all starts with self-awareness. Otherwise, here are some good guidelines:
- Concentrate on developing compassion and empathy. When we train ourselves to see things from someone else’s perspective, we see a drastic reduction in our tendencies towards being a self-entitled jerk. I know I do.
- Cultivate self-love. When we develop a feeling of wholeness that isn’t conditional on what we have, we naturally stop being so entitled.
- Get familiar with how good it feels to promote people’s successes. Again this is about taking the emphasis away from yourself. I know it sounds crazy. But try it.
- Use cognitive restructuring. Take any of above tendencies and consider the alternative evidence.
- Observe what happens when you curb self-entitlement.
- Catch yourself falling into ‘moral licensing trap‘. An interesting mental glitch. Self-licensing is a psychological effect where doing something that makes us feel good about ourselves increases the likelihood of us making bad choices later on. Have you ever rewarded a sickening HIIT workout with some extra beer later? There is nothing wrong with it necessarily, but it is a form of self-entitlement that might make reaching your goals that much harder.
- Banish ‘it’s not fair and it’s not right’ from your mentality. Noone cares anymore what we find unfair. I know it’s sad. But let’s deal in the reality of the situation, yeah?
- Stay ambitious and full of possibility. 100%.
- Stop thinking you’re special. We’re all unique, but we aren’t special.
- Ignore everyone else. It’s that old chestnut: comparison is the thief of joy.
- Let go of expectation. Practice, practice.
- Be grateful. Always. Every, single, day.
- Accept challenges as learning curves. Smile at them – at least internally.
It’s simple really.
When we can keep our expectations rock bottom, but behave in life like we can do or be whatever we want to be, then we are going to feel a lot happier.
That’s why working in a self-entitled thinking awareness muscle is a useful ally in the path to all things fulfillment.