I had the most intriguing experience on the road this year while speaking at a private, elite high school.
The school was located in a wealthy suburb. I was astonished by the beautiful, expensive cars the students drove to school. Some who didn’t drive themselves took an Uber. Every student and teacher had the latest iPhone; technology seemed to be the centerpiece of their daily experience. Kids wore brand-name clothes and either complained or bragged about where they’d gone on fall break.
It was no surprise to me, then, that during and after my faculty in-service, they grumbled about the sense of entitlement the teens exhibited on campus.
What made this experience intriguing, however, was my conversations with the faculty and staff afterward. These adults complained to me about how they didn’t have what they felt they deserved and how they resented the kids and their parents. In short, it was not just the kids who demonstrated a sense of entitlement.
In fact, I think I see where the kids got it from.
The fact is, a sense of entitlement is not only real, it is growing in our culture today. And while I don’t blame the “kids” for it, it is affecting them more than other demographics.
According to a study from the University of Hampshire, young professionals born between 1988 and 1994 scored 25 percent higher on entitlement-related issues than their 40-60 year-old counterparts, and 50 percent higher than those over 60.
“Another study found that people in their 20s are more than three times as likely to have narcissistic personality disorder (which is commonly associated with entitlement) than people 65 or older,” according to a report from Forbes.
If someone has a sense of entitlement, it means the person believes he deserves certain privileges—and he’s arrogant about it. The term “culture of entitlement” suggests that many people now have highly unreasonable expectations about what they are entitled to. An Atlanta-based employer told me he chose to dismiss a young applicant, not because he felt this Millennial was unable to do the job, but because of his sense of entitlement:
- He felt he deserved a job just because he graduated from college.
- He felt he deserved more pay than the position allowed.
- He felt he deserved more perks than the rest of the team.
The Psychology Behind Our Sense of Entitlement
If we break down what is happening psychologically, a sense of entitlement usually involves the elements below. I don’t believe we can overcome the problem until we understand it. Here is what I have discovered in my research:
- The source of entitlement is arrogance.
I feel I’m important and superior; I deserve perks without working for them.
- The symptom of entitlement is resentment.
When I don’t get all I deserve, I grow bitter and feel resentful toward others.
- The enemy of entitlement is humility.
I overcome this as I humble myself, realizing I’m part of a much bigger picture.
- The antidote to entitlement is gratitude.
I must recognize what others have done for me that I didn’t deserve and thank them.
I actually believe the source of entitlement is arrogance. If we’re not aware of our arrogance, we’re blind to its influence. Both arrogance and its offspring, a sense of entitlement, have symptoms:
- Offenses come quickly. You become easily hurt and insulted.
- You don’t express gratitude as often as you should.
- Your compassion evolves into merely looking down on little people.
- Forgiveness becomes difficult. You begin holding grudges.
- Expectations of others is high, but you make exceptions for yourself.
Steps to Take to Avoid a Sense of Entitlement
- Combat your awareness of what you don’t possess with what you do. Be mindful of your blessings. Write down what you’ve gained over the years.
- When you resent someone else having something you don’t, research to discover the hardships that person has endured. This will level the playing field.
- Begin benefit-seeking activities, where you reflect and record all the benefits you’ve received but didn’t necessarily earn.
- Be mindful of progress more than status. In other words, instead of focusing on what you haven’t gained, celebrate the fact you’ve made progress.
- Write a note of gratitude to someone new every day this week. This forces you to stay focused on what you have, not what you feel entitled to have.
Author Dan Rockwell says, “Everything good in leadership begins with humility. Everything bad in leadership is rooted in arrogance.”
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