Entitlement: When right is wrong

Entitlement is nothing but the ego's false (and futile) sense of superiority

Paper and pencil

Let’s do a quick exercise. Just stop whatever you’re doing and make a list. Write down all the things that you feel you’re entitled to. Write down everything that comes to mind, making no exceptions. Be brutally honest and jot down all the things that you think you deserve in life—personally, professionally and socially.

If you’re like most, your list may contain items like a loving spouse, obedient children, good health, a decent salary [or profits, if you’re a businessman], a more understanding boss, more hardworking subordinates, amiable neighbours, a safer city, a better government, a cleaner environment and so on…

Once you’re done, go over your list and put a cross against the items that, in your opinion, are missing from your life right now. It’s a good bet that the more the number of crosses, the more powerless you feel, and the greater is the misery quotient in your life.

Why entitlement is wrong

Entitlement, by definition, is a ‘right’. But in my reckoning it’s totally wrong. If you reflect a bit, you will realise that by feeling entitled, you’re giving your power to others. How? By insisting that ‘they’ behave in a manner that pleases you, and when they don’t, you feel hurt, frustrated and angry, blaming others for your despair.

Every time someone speaks to you rudely, treats you ‘unfairly’ or does a myriad things that you think you don’t deserve, it’s because of your feeling of entitlement.

It’s actually quite easy to spot entitlement in your daily life. Simply watch out when you use words like ‘should’ ‘must’, ‘ought to’, ‘need to’, ‘got to’, ‘have to’, and the like. Whenever you do, know that a feeling of entitlement is lurking beneath somewhere, no matter how justified you think your ‘demand’ is. Because, at the heart of entitlement is this phenomenon called demandingness, which is nothing but insisting that the world owes us our happiness.

Allow it to unfold

Here’s a promise: the quality of your life will improve immediately if you shorten your list of entitlements. Try it for yourself. Make a decision to give up some of your entitlements and see the difference.

Let me assure you that letting go of entitlements does not mean giving up all hope. It only means that you go from expecting to accepting.

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When you accept reality the way it is, you begin to view others as well as situations in an objective manner. You then begin to understand that while it is wonderful to receive love and respect, get a fair boss or a competent government, demanding the same only puts you in the corner. Acceptance is smarter and wiser—you do whatever is in your control, and let go, allowing the world to unfold the way it has to. Because you know it will, regardless of your demands that it do otherwise.

In truth, we are entitled to nothing. Those who realise this essential truth lose all need to control and manipulate others or insist that the reality be any different than what it is. Such people have traded their entitlement for enlightenment—a clever deal, I’d say.

This was first published in the March 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Manoj Khatri
Manoj Khatri has spent the last two decades learning, teaching and writing about wellbeing and mindful living. He has contributed over 1500 articles for several newspapers and magazines including The Times of India, The Economic Times, The Statesman, Mid-Day, Bombay Times, Femina, and more. He is a counseling therapist and the author of What a thought!, a critically acclaimed best-selling book on self-transformation. An award-winning editor, Manoj runs Complete Wellbeing and believes that "peace begins with me".


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