Sunday, March 16, 2008

Are We Really Entitled to Feel So Entitled?

What makes someone feel “entitled”? Is it something innate or something we learn? Personally, I've never felt "entitled" to anything, so I'm constantly amazed when I meet people who are blatantly arrogant regarding their rights and liberties. Yes, we have freedom of speech and freedom of choice, but do we also need to impose that freedom every opportunity we get? Has the “I can do anything I want” mentality become so completely ingrained in our culture that we can’t see past our own selfishness?

A feeling of entitlement can rear its ugly head in even the smallest of ways. When someone goes to the front of a line and cuts in, because they don’t feel it necessary to wait like everyone else. Or when someone suddenly cuts you off in traffic because they felt “entitled” to get somewhere faster than you. Or a co-worker who constantly complains about the salary and benefits they feel they’re entitled to, even though their position or job performance doesn’t warrant such perks. Or my favorite—“That’s not my job!”

I’ve met many people who feel they’re entitled to a better life, a better job, a better salary. Because of their age, experience, resourcefulness, dependability, etc., they should be further along on their career path. I understand these kinds of feelings and frustrations, because they’re part of a natural ambition to succeed. However, when those feelings escalate into attitudes of superiority and self-importance, they’re imposing their need for distinction on everyone else around them.

I am especially surprised when feelings of entitlement are displayed in children and teenagers. Last year on a TV show called “Kid Nation,” a young girl named Taylor perfectly embodied this brand of youthful arrogance. She referred to herself constantly as a Beauty Pageant winner who shouldn’t have to get dirty and help with chores because Pageant girls “don’t do dirty work.” She refused to help on many occasions and basically did whatever she wanted. And if someone ever questioned her actions, she would just yell back at them, “Deal With It!” And this girl was ten years old. Can you imagine how much that attitude will manifest itself by the time she’s in her twenties? And can you imagine what her parents must be like?

To me, the only kind of entitlement we all share is the right to air and water. If we were born on this earth, than we can assume those elements are freely at our disposal; everything else is up for grabs. In America, we are lucky enough to have constitutional rights that give us freedoms and privileges not afforded to many people around the world. So does that also give us the right to feel entitled to anything we want?

When I think about my life and all the “things” I have, I don’t feel entitled. I feel lucky. Lucky that my life is not too stressful, that my accommodations are more than comfortable, and that I can make a good living at something I enjoy. But even with all that, I don’t feel “entitled” to anything. I worked hard for what I have now. I wasn’t ever handed anything on a plate that said “Here, you’re entitled to this.”

So what’s the point of all this ranting? I guess I felt the need to put down into words the feelings that have been festering in me for quite some time. If we are all human beings, why are some people more “entitled” than others? Aren’t we all made from the same clay, processed in the same manner, and sustained with the same basic food and drink? Is there some rubber stamp somewhere that brands certain individuals with different rights and status? Because if there isn’t, I wish some people would just get off their “high horses” and put their sense of self-importance into perspective.

Feeling empowered is one thing. I feel empowered all the time, but that doesn’t make me also feel entitled to anything. It just makes me feel like I can accomplish my goals if I’m diligent and put forth an effort. It doesn’t mean I’m looking for a short-cut just because I feel I have a right to it. Because once empowerment changes to entitlement, there’s a dramatic shift in perspective which can keep you running on a negative treadmill for years. Empowerment can move you forward, while entitlement can keep you stuck in the same place, forever complaining about the wrongs you’ve suffered, or the rewards you haven’t gotten.

So there you have it, my essay on entitlement. I have no idea why I felt so empowered to write such an opus, because I certainly wasn’t entitled to it. Or was I?


waliz said...

u said it all...nice post!

Henson Ray said...

Thanks for dropping by!

Mandi said...

I agree with you! I am constantly astounded by people who think things aren't fair just because. I work with people who are always wanting more for doing less! It amazes me!

Henson Ray said...

Work is one of the places you tend to notice this a lot, because underpaid or undervalued employees are always the ones to bring the issue to the forefront, whether they intend to or not. The other place you notice it a lot is in fast food lines, where people tend to have more attitude than normal.