How Entitlement Causes Unhappiness and What You Can Do About It
Have you ever ran into someone who believed the world owed them something?
When I meet a someone who has an overwhelming sense of entitlement, I’m immediately annoyed. And I’m sure I’m not the only one whose blood pressure spikes.
Entitlement can emerge in different contexts and with varying degrees. But the lives of people who feel entitled may not be all that rosy. New research suggests that entitlement causes unhappiness, frustration and constant disappointment.
The Negative Cycle of Entitlement
Entitlement is generally viewed a negative and narcissistic trait.
Lead psychologist of the study, Joshua Grubbs, examined the psychological costs of entitlement through an extensive review of academic research. His review finds that entitlement can turn into a negative cycle of behavior.
When the real world fails to live up to an entitled person’s expectations, they can react in non-constructive ways. They get angry and blame others. They then have to reassure themselves that they’re special and deserve certain treatment. Which starts the process all over again.
Joshua and his team found that this cycle consists of three parts:
1. When expectations aren’t being met, the entitled person will be in a constant state of vulnerability.
Entitled people can easily be put on the defensive when reality doesn’t live up to their expectations. Josh comments:
“Often times, life, health, aging and the social world don’t treat us as well as we’d like. Confronting these limitations is especially threatening to an entitled person because it violates their worldview of self-superiority.”
2. This leads to general dissatisfaction, along with volatile and negative emotions.
Julie Exline, another psychologist involved in the study, says this has some unpleasant consequences:
“The entire mindset pits someone against other people.
When people think that they should have everything they want – often for nothing – it comes at the cost of relationships with others and, ultimately, their own happiness.”
3. The person becomes emotionally distressed, and to remedy that distress, the person will think and react in a way that reinforces their superiority.
The entitled person then has to repair those negative emotions. How? Here’s Julie again:
“Reassurance stemming from entitlement can provide temporary relief from the very distress caused by entitlement.”
Not only is this a short term solution, but it starts the cycle over again. And the long term consequences of this behavior can lead to poorer relationships, conflict, and even depression.
How to Break the Cycle of Entitlement
The study reveals that entitlement can be a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle. It affects both the individual, as well as the people around them.
Is there any way to break free?
Psychology is still studying the issue, but there doesn’t seem to be a simple way out. There’s no switch to flip or “easy” button that can be pressed.
Entitled people generally feel vulnerable and threatened when their expectations aren’t being met. Expectations of special treatment and being an exception to the rule. The researchers believe that creating a sense of safety and security, as well as feeling more connected to others can remedy this. It can battle the the distress and disappointment that’s caused by their entitled viewpoint.
How do you do this? Here’s a few things that may help.
While entitled people feel they deserve something, grateful people are thankful for what they already have.
Research has consistently shown that gratitude can increase happiness and boost life satisfaction. Being thankful may help an entitled person realize they should be happy for what they do have, instead of focusing on what they don’t. It can also bolster emotional resilience to any setbacks or disappointment when things don’t necessarily go their way.
Being humble can counteract a person’s feelings of superiority. Realizing that everyone suffers, has limitations, and struggles may help them find common ground with others and create stronger connections in their social relationships.
Interestingly enough, a study done in 2014 found that being grateful can help one be humble. The research found that keeping a gratitude diary reinforced feelings of humility.
3.Encouraging a Growth-Mindset
Work from psychologist Carol Dweck identified two general mindsets. A fixed mindset is characterized by someone who believes that people are born with natural talent and abilities. They’ve probably been told their special from a young age. They constantly look for validation of their abilities
In contrast, those with a growth mindset don’t blame others for mistakes when expectations aren’t met. Or when things don’t turn out how they wanted. Instead, they see it as an opportunity to improve, grow, and learn from their mistakes. They see setbacks as challenges, and are less likely to blame others for setbacks.
Is Entitlement on the Rise?
Some sociologists have found that entitlement in younger generations have been on the rise.
To some this may not be surprising, considering our society in the US value and to some extent promote individualistic personalities. Others may point to parents who try to boost their child’s self-esteem by constantly reaffirming that their special.
However, entitlement can be the result of many different factors. But Joshua’s review on the psychological literature shows us how entitlement causes unhappiness, frustration, and constant disappointment.
Breaking the negative cycle of entitlement isn’t easy. But practicing gratitude, humility, and a growth mindset can make for happier children, society, and self. Something the world can always use more of.