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It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what generation you belong to, I know you know someone who’s actually entitled.
I’m not talking about people who are called “entitled” but don’t necessarily deserve it. (A lot of millennials and gen Z have borne the brunt of this, and it’s an unfair generalization to make about entire generations of people, considering how hardworking and engaged most of us are.)
I’m talking about the person you know who thinks they legitimately should not have to work for anything, and who is sort of dumbfounded by the very idea of struggle.
I’m talking about the person who is so deeply deluded that they constantly talk about how spectacular they are, even though they’ve done little that’s brag-worthy.
We know this person. We roll our eyes at this person. The vast majority of us are definitely not this person. But here’s the kicker — most of us are still entitled, anyway.
How does that work? How can so few of us resemble “that person,” and yet so many of us still be entitled? Well, because there are two forms of entitlement, and I only learned about one of them recently!
SPECIAL, UNIQUE LITTLE SNOWFLAKES
First, I want to roll things back for a second and come to a mutual understanding about what makes “entitlement” entitlement.
I think we can all agree that entitled people, by definition, think that they deserve something for nothing.
Whether that “something” is money, special treatment, or even happiness, someone who is genuinely entitled feels like the general rules of engagement don’t, or shouldn’t have to, apply to them.
And I think we can also agree that the reason entitled people believe they deserve something for nothing is because they possess some inherent trait or quality that renders the rules bendable, breakable, or irrelevant altogether.
In other words: “I’m extra special, so I shouldn’t be treated the same as everyone else.”
The reason this makes our blood boil is because most of us know the truth: In this life, there’s no way around hard work, struggle, failure, disappointment, and patience.
Thinking you’re somehow exempt from the human condition (which is all about polishing your character through sometimes doing grunt work, or having setbacks, or pushing yourself to the limits) is naïve and short-sighted.
No one gets to escape the human condition.
And honestly, most of us are OK with that. We may not like that fact sometimes, but the vast majority of us are willing to work hard for something that matters. We don’t need shortcuts, nor do we necessarily want them. Cutting corners often means stealing opportunities for growth from yourself. And that’s not good for any of us in the long-term.
So, yeah. Most of us don’t respond to our circumstances in an entitled way. In fact, most of us think that’s gross.
BUT THERE’S ANOTHER KIND OF ENTITLEMENT ALTOGETHER
When it comes to our emotions and feelings, entitlement is EVERYWHERE.
This idea was introduced to me by Mark Manson in his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (seriously, I was so impressed by this book). It goes something like this:
Assuming that your feelings — particularly those of fear, shame, anger, sadness, and insecurity — are unique and special to you makes you just as entitled as someone who believes they deserve something for nothing.
I don’t know about you, but hearing that made me uncomfortable in a good way. Like, “Oh crap. I feel like he just called me out, and I KNOW he’s right.”
Pick any negative experience or emotion you’ve had lately. It could be something like …
- Getting less-than-stellar feedback about your performance and stewing over it for days.
- Feeling anxiety about what someone is going to think of you if you duck out of the office to go to the gym during lunch.
- Feeling hopeless and apathetic about finding your direction in life.
- Getting pissed off with your best friend for disrespecting your opinions.
In each of these situations, and in your situation too, everything feels very personal and unique to you.
After all, it was you who got the negative feedback. It’s you people would judge for leaving the office. It’s you who can’t figure out your direction. It’s you who’s mad at your best friend.
AND THAT’S EXACTLY THE POINT AT WHICH WE GET IT WRONG
We assume that, because our situation feels unique to us, our feelings must also be unique to us.
So, if I’m feeling all of this shame, anxiety, anger, or sadness, and if I believe that those feelings are somehow unique to me, then the next thought becomes …
“I must be more broken or messed up than the average person. I must be more flawed and less fixable. I’m different than everyone else.”
Which means that without meaning to, we end up nursing our belief in our own inadequacy in the same way an entitled person nurses their ego.
But of course, here’s the truth:
Fear, insecurity, shame, anger, resentment, blame, and sadness are all natural parts of the human condition.
It’s normal to get negative feedback sometimes. It’s understandable that your friend said something that rubbed you the wrong way. It’s OK that you feel some discomfort about ducking out of work early.
When you learn that nearly every feeling you have is not unique and specific to YOU, then you get to move on so much quicker.
WE’RE NOT GOING TO AVOID DIFFICULT FEELINGS
Like we agreed on earlier, struggle is a natural part of the human condition. It’s the elbow grease that polishes our character and makes us whole, healthy, resilient people.
You can’t avoid feeling anxiety, shame, or insecurity sometimes. That’s to be expected.
But you can avoid treating your negative experiences as if there’s something wrong with you for having them in the first place.
When you stop believing that every twinge of discomfort means that you are somehow more broken, flawed, or messed up than the next person, and you start recognizing the universality of your experiences, you get to respond very differently to life and its triggers:
“Oh, here it is again! Hello, insecurity. I see where you came from. I don’t enjoy feeling like this, but I get it. I trust it will pass.”
“Ugh, I’m angry. But that makes sense. I can’t stop feeling this way right at this very second, but I know this is only human.”
“I’m bummed that I feel so lost and unsure about life. But since I’m not all that unique, I’m guessing most everyone feels this way sometimes. Which means if they can figure it out, I can too. I’m not chronically broken.”
“I hate how hard life feels right now. But struggle is what builds the muscles I need to be happy and whole, so I’ll get through it.”
You go from seeing everything through the lens of a victim (“There’s something uniquely wrong with me, so I can’t change, heal, or move past this”) to seeing your life through a compassionate, mature, completely unentitled lens (“There’s nothing especially different about my struggles, so I know this too will pass”).
So, let’s put our heads together and agree on something one last time:
There are only so many feelings and fears, after all. You didn’t invent shame, or fear, or insecurity, or anger, or sadness.
You don’t need — or deserve — to act like you’re special. Which will set you free, if you let it.
So, in what ways have you been acting (gulp) entitled about your fear, anxiety, insecurity, shame, sadness, or anger? Come share with me in the comments!
Rachel (& Kristen)