‘Entitlement’ has many definitions; the belief that I am exempt from responsibility and am owed special treatment, the belief that I am superior to others and more deserving of certain things and is a form of narcissism that has significant consequences such as constant disappointment and a tendency to lash out. Examples of entitlement range from the disregard for rules, freeloading, causing inconveniences and feeling the need to assume a role of leadership when working in groups.

Studies have shown that those most commonly affected with this characteristic were born between 1988 and 1994; also termed, Millennials. It was found that youngsters who were studied on issues of entitlement scored 25 per cent higher than people aged 40-60 and 50 per cent higher than those over that age bracket. Ultimately, the study determined that entitlement leads to a cycle of disappointment, anger, negativity and a constant need for that person to tell themselves that they are special. There is also an idea that millennials were raised by baby boomer and Gen X parents who spoiled them; they were awarded participation trophies just for showing up to competitive events and had unlimited access to internet. They have grown up believing that the world already owes them something.

Entitlement is an attitude. This means that it is a way of thinking as well as a choice. Yes, it may be influenced by parents, culture, and experiences but those things do not create entitlement. We can choose to believe that we deserve something without having to do the hard work. We can choose to show up even if it feels like an inconvenience. We can choose to take responsibility. It’s about adopting the right attitude that we are responsible for our own lives and no one owes us anything.

Can we really combat entitlement? Psychologist, Dr John Townsend, believes we can, and these are some of his suggestions for focusing on doing hard things the right way in order to achieve a worthwhile result.

  1. Words Matter
    This is about understanding the power that words have and realising that words reveal your thoughts and affect your feelings, behaviour, and relationships. By replacing the phrase “I deserve” in your vocabulary with “I am responsible”, you are already taking a step to curing entitlement. This equates to replacing any disempowering word with an empowering one instead.
  2. Get the Hard stuff done
    Successful people tend to get on with the hard tasks first and then move onto the easier ones. Getting the tough stuff done encourages positive reinforcement which keeps us motivated. This also eliminates the temptations of procrastinating and taking shortcuts. It might be boring or time-consuming but keep the bigger end goal in sight.
  3. Stay Committed
    In this age of seeking instant gratitude, we are quick to jump the wagon when it suits us and is convenient. Making a commitment means sticking to what you agreed to do even if something ‘better’ has cropped up or you no longer feel like it. Instead, focus on being more empathetic and putting yourself in other people’s shoes. How would you feel if someone stood you up?

Entitlement, at its extreme levels, is a toxic narcissistic trait, repeatedly exposing people to the risk of feeling frustrated, unhappy and disappointed with life. Learning to adapt to a more humble, grateful attitude with an acceptance of our limitations can help to break this mentality.