The Psychology Behind Sense Of Entitlement
By Nadia Khan
Updated May 09, 2019
Reviewer Ann-Marie Duncan
A sense of entitlement is defined as "an unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others." In society, this mindset attracts very strong criticism and condemnation. For quite some time, people have speculated about the infamous sense of entitlement and the psychology behind it. However, before we can understand the psychological roots behind the sense of entitlement, we must first understand exactly what this expectation entails.
What Is A Sense Of Entitlement?
In society, entitlement is often perceived differently from a sense of entitlement. While the latter breeds negative connotations, Psychology Today cites entitlement as "an enduring personality trait, characterized by the belief that one deserves preferences and resources that others do not." At its best, entitlement can be viewed as confidence and self-assurance, and at its worst, the trait can be perceived as narcissism.
More often than not, a sense of entitlement manifests in various common forms. According to A Conscious Re-Thinker, the most frequent displays of negative entitlement include the inability to compromise with others, impractical demands, an attitude of supremacy, habitual anger towards people, and self-pity. Granted, all people have a sense of entitlement, to some degree, but when extreme or regular manifestations take place, it then becomes highly problematic.
Furthermore, Lonerwolf states that individuals who possess a sense of entitlement range on a spectrum which ranges from a healthy belief of deserving certain things to full-on "malignant self-love" and "full-blown" narcissism. However, there are several warning signs that someone might be either approaching or suffering from an unhealthy sense of entitlement.
More often than not, heavily entitled individuals will make infeasible demands of others around them. This could include relatives, friends, colleagues, lovers, etc. When someone's sense of entitlement is not adhered to as they would like, they sometimes lash at others. This is not to say that someone who gets angry over being wronged has a sense of entitlement; however, when someone's disposition changes every time they fail to get their way, this is a clear indicator of entitlement.
Persons who suffer from a sense of entitlement also tend to see their peers and other people around them as competition and struggle to compromise or reach negotiate on mutually beneficial agreements. A sense of entitlement is the epitome of the "Me! Me! Me!" attitude where the world is supposed to revolve around the person and what they want. However, this is not how life works. Ultimately, the individual with a sense of entitlement takes, yet rarely gives, prioritizes themselves over others at virtually all times, and fancy themselves as superior to others.
The Psychology Behind A Sense Of Entitlement
Countless people have questioned the psychological roots of the dreaded sense of entitlement. Why do certain people believe they deserve admiration, respect, dominance, etc. when they have not truly earned it? What caused this? Is it an inherent trait or a characteristic that one picks up over time?
An Attempt To Overcompensate For Past Wrongs
Psychology Today states that a sense of entitlement can manifest as an offshoot of experiencing maltreatment or being treated with contempt by other people. Essentially, the sense of entitlement becomes a coping method, only taken to the extreme. For instance, someone whose childhood lacked the same toys, games, and clothes of their more fortunate counterparts may grow up with a sense of entitlement. Rooted in resentment, the person who missed out on a plentiful childhood may believe that he or she deserves to have the finer things in life or deserves to be treated as special. Although missing out on certain childhood experiences is unfortunate, the overcompensation can be equally as damaging to their individual, if not more.
Used To Getting What They Want
2 Know Myself cites a spoiled childhood as yet another plausible cause for notions of entitlement. Parents naturally want their children to be happy, confident and fulfilled. This is a healthy and natural urge. However, when parents make the mistake of always yes to their kids or giving them everything that they ask for all the time, it can breed a gradual sense of entitlement.
Believe it or not, young children intuitively pick up on the patterns and behaviors within their environment. When a kid is used to always getting their way, they are more likely to believe that the world should and will treat them as their parents have. Then, when they experience the real world and are forced to interact with people, they learn that not everyone is going to give them special treatment. This foreign and uncomfortable revelation, therefore, engenders anger, resentment, and self-pity.
Sometimes, a sense of entitlement is merely a manifestation of narcissism as opposed to being neglected or spoiled as a young child. Coupled with a compelling need for admiration and adoration, a sense of entitlement is one of the defining traits of a narcissist.
Understanding that narcissists perceive themselves very differently from most people is very critical to understanding their link to feelings of entitlement. In the world of the narcissist, everything is about him or her. A narcissist moreover views themselves as the strongest, smartest, a most superior individual on the planet. They frequently look down on other people and believe that the rules are for other people. Narcissistic individuals also expect their achievements and high points to be lauded, while they completely ignore or belittle the accomplishments of other people. Narcissists revel in double standards, hypocrisy, and excessive self-interest.
An interesting phenomenon referred to as narcissistic entitlement exists and probes the various levels of entitlement among different types of narcissists. All narcissists view themselves as better than others and deserving of high praise, but are some of them accurate in their assessments?
Ultimately, the findings of narcissistic entitlement note the contrast between healthy, reasonable expectations and unfeasible, unrealistic notions of entitlement. Reasonable expectations are usually rooted in merit and accomplishments. As someone becomes more established and hones their professional craft, they might expect to be paid more or work with more advanced clients. Many people would view this as an understandable expectation.
However, a person who is entering into a brand new field and expects to be treated as someone who has worked their way through the various ranks would likely be viewed as an individual with a sense of entitlement. Every person has to put in their time and work to achieve the greatness and success that they believe they deserve. Healthily self-assured people understand this, whereas narcissists simply expect the finer things in life to come to them with ease.
Rising Above A Sense of Entitlement
As previously stated, unhealthy entitlement is fostered by various experiences or, in the most unfortunate cases, sheer narcissism. However, with adequate willpower and determination, this way of thinking can be overcome.
Individuals who find themselves plighted with a sense of entitlement should attempt to look at matters from a different perspective. They should consider the manner that their expectations and behaviors impact others. For instance, a person who wants their coworker to cover certain shifts for them should be willing to return the favor, at least some of the time. While an entitled person would always expect their colleague to have their back, a caring, self-aware person would recognize that favors are two-way streets and when you get, you should also give.
Another strategy of overcoming the psychological chains of entitlement involves reminding oneself that the past cannot be changed. Every person goes through hardships and difficulties. They are unfortunate, yet guaranteed parts of life. However, the manner in which we handle these challenges is what either makes or breaks us and determines who we are as individuals.
The best way to compensate for past sufferings is not to expect the world to bow before us, but to make the best of every moment and treat those around us with respect and compassion. The energy we put out into the universe has a way of coming back to us. More often than not, favors beget favors, and when you're genuinely kind to someone without expecting anything in return, they are likely to return the gesture.
A Final Word
If you or someone you love are suffering from a sense of entitlement, it is very important for you to know that you are not alone. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, and there are ways for you to develop healthy levels of self-love and self-esteem.
While attempting to regain a healthy life perspective is great, it is sometimes easier said than done. Moreover, this can sometimes be challenging to do by oneself. Talking to someone who can pinpoint the true root of your sense of entitlement can work wonders and help you as you work to better yourself. There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking guidance, and it does not make you less of a person. The ability to ask for help with needed is a sign of courage and strength, not weakness.
Ultimately, the choice is yours, but if you ever feel the need to speak with someone, please do not hesitate to reach out to BetterHelp. You can get started here.