Article Summary:

Are you suffering from a sense of entitlement?

Sense of Entitlement

I was indulging in an episode of Judge Judy when I heard an incredible example of a problem that I believe is ruining our homes, workplaces, and our very culture.

A mother, at the end of her rope, was suing her 24-year-old son for repayment of over $4000 she had loaned him (worse, from her credit card) to buy a car. She'd forgiven the first two car loans she had made him from her life savings, but now the credit card bills were pouring in. His impressive defense: "She owed this to me because the last car she bought me was a piece of (deleted)!"

This lovely gentleman's attitude? Entitlement.

We expect young children to want what they want when they want it. But it doesn't stop there.

"Everybody else is..."
"They all have..."
"If you really loved me..."

Teenagers are notorious for expecting the best of everything, despite parents' financial realities. Too often parents are guilted into trying to meet every perceived need or into rescuing their troubled children instead of teaching responsibility.

Many adults whimper at the slightest inconvenience, delay, or restriction. Why? Because, like toddlers, they are convinced they deserve what they want when they want it.

Many of our workplaces are also poisoned with attitudes of entitlement.
In my work with organizations across the country, I hear words that are telltale symptoms.

"What have they done for me lately?"

"This company owes me more than this as an annual raise. After all, I put in my eight hours a day." (Never mind performance.)

"They're not being fair."

(Would you like a little cheese with that whine?)

Let's be honest with ourselves; it may not just be "they". I'd like to inject realistic, healing ideas to inoculate us all from that poisonous "you owe me" disease.

A seminar participant told me, "The only fair in life is a carnival." I believe it. Things don't always happen the way you planned. People don't always treat you the way you think you should be treated. Someone else may have more than you, though you believe you tried harder.

Don't go to pity parties or get bitter every time you don't get what you think you deserve. That's a recipe for misery. Stay out of the endless pursuit of "justice". Don't destroy yourself by an obsession with evening the score. Instead, determine to keep playing fairly with others and doing the right thing, no matter what others choose to do.

"Chronic victims" are a pain to others and themselves. I'm not talking about people who have been legitimately victimized, yet they work hard to deal with it and move on. Chronic victims are chronic blamers and complainers.

When you hear yourself bemoaning your life, habitually blaming others for your troubles, it's time to do a "response-ability" check. In what ways do YOU have the ability to improve the situation by responding differently?

"The world owes me" is a false premise. We have so many life-giving, life-enhancing resources and opportunities at our disposal. These are gifts. They deserve our gratitude, not our indifference. What better way to show our gratitude than to give back? I believe that we are each called and personally equipped to make a difference in this world.

Rather than complaining, let's live the words of Mohandas Gandhi: "We must be the change we wish to see in the world."

Beverly Smallwood is a licensed psychologist who has worked with Fortune 500, healthcare, and other organizations around the world for over 20 years. Her specialties are leadership development, employee retention, and personal resilience. She's often featured in such national media as MSNBC, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, FOX, and New York Times. To contact her about speaking, consulting, or coaching, or visit her website Magnetic Places, where you can also sign up for her free email newsletter.

Read all advice by Beverly Smallwood; Find more Personal Development experts

More advice on Personal Development
» Solving Communication Problems
» Stuck in a Rut?
» all Personal Development articles