When we view a sense of entitlement from the point of view of one’s belief that they deserve privileges even when they do not earn them, the African easily comes to mind. The average African is afflicted with unrealistic and unearned expectations and a “you-owe-me’’ attitude. The belief that others owe us something because of who or what we are to them – relations, friends, associates, neighbours, co-workers, classmates, benefactors, beneficiaries and so on – is common. We may blame this sense of inappropriate expectation on our cultures or societies wherein children are provided for without teaching them how to earn what is provided for them. This is mostly so for the children of the middle class and affluent. Welding the goals and character of the individual with that of the family and society also makes us believe that there are no boundaries to ownership and no wide margins between individual possessions and communal possessions. However, a sense of entitlement goes beyond this narrow compass.
When we expand the concept, we may see that it includes people who believe that the world owes them and expects favourable treatment from every inhabitant of the earth. In this category of people are those who suffer from a narcissistic personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder who appropriates every environment, making themselves the standard bearer of everything about that environment. Seeing themselves as the standard and moral bearers of their environments, they pontificate, prescribing morals, defining what is right or wrong and who is right or wrong. They are walking moral and social judges who do not believe that societal rules apply to them.
These tin gods are enigmatic and difficult to deal with. They believe absolutely in their thoughts and views and also believe that lesser mortals owe them respect and admiration. The experts say that when someone with a sense of entitlement doesn’t get what they want, it is not uncommon for them to lash out at others in anger or frustration. The fluctuation in their moods and attitudes towards others is rooted in their battles with personal insecurities. They are overly sensitive and mostly extremely suspicious. Their relationship with others is influenced by the gauge of the assurances of loyalty they get from them.
A sense of entitlement can also be viewed from expectations that are based on what one does or has done for others. We also believe that favours are barter commodities. You do a favour to another and expect gratitude and everlasting thankfulness and loyalty. That “after-all-I-have-done-for-him” mentality is a variant of the entitlement mentality. To my mind, there is nothing like a free favour. Even where the favour comes in the form of a gift, help or assistance or any form of philanthropism, there is always the pleasing feeling that comes with a “Thank you!” and the perception of one as a kind man or woman. That feeling of satisfaction and appreciation is in itself a reward or a prize for kindness. Expecting anything beyond that is inappropriate and betrays a sense of entitlement.
I do not believe in the concept of ingratitude. We also invest in our future with our present acts and deeds. The nature I have studied is that, more often than not, your fortunes or rewards do not come in a specified package or from an identifiable or expected source. If you believe in the cosmic influence in your life, why bother about the actions of others? The concept of ingratitude is inconsistent with my understanding of my religion.
A sense of entitlement has its downside. Indisputably, an entitled individual is vulnerable to the threat of unmet expectations. Such individuals always feel cheated, disappointed or betrayed. Defensive attitudes or mechanisms developed in response to the feeling of being let down may lead to self-isolation, depression and other antisocial behaviours. The popular “Do you know who I am” outburst is an example of the distress that can come with a sense of entitlement. In that sense, the Bible will forever be right in saying that do unto others as you will want them to do unto you, which is conversely stated as whatever is hurtful to you, do not do to any other person. Be fair to the world, if you want the world to be fair to you.
Akin to the sense of entitlement is self-expression. Self-expression is the active component of self-definition. In other words, who you are on the outside is who you are on the inside. That is why you first respond to people’s reactions to your actions or statements from the inside with inner reflections and assessment before reacting. It is the self-perception of behaviour or beliefs that informs your response to the responses of others to your behaviour or belief. If you innately believe you are right, any contrary view is offensive. That is the meat of the self-concept. It is that me-first-before others perspective.
Your personality is the total of you. Put differently, you are nothing but your traits, interests, drives, values, self-concept, abilities and emotional patterns. This is because you express yourself in the way you interact and socialise. Interestingly, a human being does not develop characteristics and behavioural traits by accident. The personalities that define us are in turn the total of the blocks we have stacked in the daily routine of adjusting to life’s challenges. That is why, unlike the earth that rotates around its axis, humans are spun by their personalities. This brings me to the question, which is, is it possible for a man to control or define himself for himself, walk his sole path and transcend to a world of his image and likeness?
I have yet to see that human being who does not crave the validation and appreciation of others. We all crave emotional connection with others. “Notice me”, is not entirely a bad thing. Perhaps it becomes less honourable when excessively sexualised or obsessive or when used as a tool to dominate others. On average we all flirt and appreciate some doses of flirtatious attention from others. The southern side of validation seeking is criticism. The more we spin around our communities the more mud we gather and the more criticism we attract.
Another challenge in the making of one’s god and religion is that our interests, values, drives, goals and fulfilment or happiness are involuntarily connected to others. There is nothing about a man that is not connected to another man. If this world is to be inhabited by only one man and animals, that man will have to learn to be an animal in order to survive. He either learns their language and behaves like them or dies the next day. That explains why the religion of large public gatherings like sporting games, musical concerts etc is a big deal in the hypocritical Western world. Those big and wild arenas are mostly congregations of lonely souls. Yes, we are by nature dependent on our man Fridays.
We need people. But, needing people becomes a burden when we are addicted to the company of others. Self-worth, self-esteem and self-respect are defined by what we give to others. The rich and powerful are a must-go-to people because they are objects of value. If you are always the one going to others to get fun or emotional satisfaction, then it means you have little to give. You are in effect a social receiver and not a giver. Remember, givers never lack. Yes, it is now easy to have the communion of like souls across social media but that by itself has not diminished the requirement for self-definition and self-glorification. What you take to the arena must always be better than what you take away from it for you to attract premium social capital.
Like any property, there is always room to moderate, renovate, remodel, adjust, and rebuild our personalities to attract value. To every hint of criticism, there is a field of the dump. We must strive to transcend the gods of ego and pride in our lives to be the independent gods we want to be. This is where I must warn you that spirituality or religiosity cannot cut it for you. You have to make it a duty to consciously rehumanise yourself with value-promoting principles. You cannot front religion, which I consider to be God’s best gift to mankind, to hide an odious life because every thinking man has an analytical mind. Many of us walk around with hollow personalities and yet believe that we weigh much in the estimation of the public. Unfortunately, not too many of us are lucky to have friends who can tell us to our faces when we walk around naked.