With so much recent zeitgeist focus on Narcissism within the past few years, many of us are confronted by issues of entitlement versus asking for what you want.
It’s even more confusing if we’ve experienced any form of abuse.
Our perspective is skewed we don’t know what, exactly, we deserve. To be beaten? Screamed at? Punished? Disciplined? Given everything? Given nothing?
And it can get even squirmier as many of us wrestle with the question, “Am I a Narcissist?”
Are you I entitled, or settling for mistreatment? Is it clearly laid out as an absolute, or is it on a more ambiguous spectrum?
Squirming and overwhelmed at the prospect of getting the answer, aren’t you?
Yeah, I know. It’s not easy. I’ve been trying to sort out the issues for years. But here are a few of my theories on the intimidating concept. Distilled to its simplest parts, I think what we’re dealing with is a question of demanding things, like respect, or demanding things, like respect. And within those two approaches, there appears to be some moving parts that influence the perspectives we take.
First moving part?
It’s not inherently bad, wrong, or evil to have expectations.
However, things can go off the rails when we approach expectation through the prism of demand. Demand has a neediness, a voracity, and yes, an entitlement built into it. Expectation can quickly cross over into entitlement when we view ourselves as more important, more valuable, more worthy of special or preferential treatment than another person.
“Other people should stop at a red light, but not me. I can speed through the intersection.”
“Other people should pay their taxes, but I can cheat on mine.”
“Other people should wait their turn in line, but not me.”
You get the picture. The “other people should, but not me” argument appears to be central to the toxic expectation expressed as entitlement.
Entitlement shows us…
By demanding a preferential treatment and unrealistic approach to humanity and life, a disregard, selfishness, and a lack of self-awareness come into full view of the person “making the demand.”
It appears to bring up questions that the demanding person, operating in their entitlement, cannot or will not answer. Questions like…
“Why have you earned this special treatment; what have you done to possess this perk, honor, or convenience?”
“What is it about you that makes you better than the next person?”
“What is right/fair about you getting this particular treatment over someone else?”
“Why should you be spared from the consequences of your harmful and destructive choices/behaviors?”
Most of us, hopefully, would be jolted at the premise of being asked such blunt questions. If we’re not full-fledged personality- disordered, most of us would take an opportunity to check ourselves, self-reflect, and ask ourselves, “Am I doing that?”
However, someone fully raging in their “you owe me” demanding entitlement would, perhaps, double down even harder on their unique specialness. They would go to a victim stance. They would attack the questioner, and the question, as being “mean,” “cruel,” and “selfish,” all for not recognizing the demanding person’s infallibility and, oh, I don’t know, DEITY status?
There’s no internal “get over yourself” quality to their way of thinking/deciding. They want… and expect- to remain unchallenged in their dysfunctional, abusive, and unreasonable demands.
Fun for everyone.
The “Command” approach to matters of life, love, respect, etcetera, however, is different.
Realistic assessment shows up…
“Commanding” a treatment is not about force or manipulation. It is about integrity and personal self-worth. It is knowing our inherent value, not being shaken by another person’s poor treatment or recognition of that truth, working within us. By “Commanding,” we invite others the opportunity to see our humanity and dignity, agreeing to the reality that each person is imperfect. Regardless, each person has value and should not be trampled upon.
Based on how we are treated, we, solid in our own self-worth, will respond accordingly, and make decisions that honor our integrity. Talk about a big job description.
And how many of us really have a handle on it?
Does it feel impossible to you, or is it just me who needs a nap at that concept?
It is doable. It’s on-the-job training, however. It is life lesson stuff, practiced repeatedly. No one- and-done,” sorry to say, about this practice.
But, in that, there should be the realistic reminder of hope at the ongoing imperfection of it, in action. It is an action, even making the decision to move slowly to the concept that we are valuable and worthy of good and honorable treatment.
Nina Simone says it best…
“You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served”.”
“Commanding” respect, love, decency, and good treatment all incorporate the action of integrity, doing whatever we need to do to retain our honor, character, and moral code. And sometimes, we need to leave a situation that doesn’t reflect that commanding approach. We don’t shame or berate anyone. We keep our dignity… and we keep it moving.
Again, it’s not a “one- and- done.” It’s lifelong, imperfect, and repetitious.
Do we choose to embark upon it?
A sense of entitlement also requires an action plan. Being demanding involves certain behaviors. In today’s culture, “bad behavior” often gets excused or promoted, under such buzzwords as “Diva,” “High Maintenance,” and someone who “knows what they want.”
Yeah. Uh-huh. That, somehow, makes it ALL okay.
Entitlement shows us…
An entitled person will do things like demand the best of the best, to be catered to instantly (they’re all about instant gratification) and will be unfaithful and dishonest with important relationships.
You know the clichés. The clichés exist because they are true.
There exists a Machiavellian “the ends justify the means” approach to getting whatever is desired.
Whatever it takes, is the unabashed, unapologetic declaration. Sometimes, for flair, the entitled person will also proclaim, “I deserve this!”
(I’m stealing, cheating, killing, stuffing the body in the trunk of my car, going after what I desire, but it’s all good. After all, I’m a Diva and I know what I want).
Too extreme? Well, I’m pretty sure there are some felonies being committed right now as you read this, not far from the extreme portrait I just painted.
“Demanding,” as an entitlement tactic, usually involves some action, something needs to get done, to achieve a goal, a dream, a desire, or a passion.
Command. Realistic assessment shows up…
The “Command” approach also involves actions and deeds. However, it differs from “Demand” as the actions are executed through a realistic viewpoint.
Delusions are not present. Magical thinking is not driving the bus.
There is the acknowledgment, going into a situation, fully expecting and accepting imperfections, personal individuality, and a lack of coercion or control when dealing with other people.
The person, operating from a “Command” approach, allows others to be themselves, while they maintain their own sense of self and corresponding actions. There’s do disconnect between the thoughts/words and the actions. Everything matches up.
No deceit, no lip service, no manipulation. Straight up truth, lacking defensiveness, because this person feels they have nothing to prove.
Some call it confidence; some call it assurance.
“Demand,” through entitlement, has a needy panic to it. “Command” doesn’t.
Nothing and no one needs to be perfect, or ordered to specification, all because of a certain agenda.
It can be argued that an entitled person has a resolute perspective. “My way or the highway.” Demand. Entitlement shows us…
The “Demand” approach asserts that bending others to the entitled person’s way is the only course of action. Relationships can be sacrificed. Morals can be sacrificed. Jobs, marriages, children, rules, and regulations, of any sort can all be sacrificed.
The only thing that matters is the entitled person’s wants. Anyone and anything are subject to serving and obeying that mandate. No exceptions. No compromises. No other choices, opinions, or perspectives are allowed.
It doesn’t occur to this demanding person that this is egregious, wrong, or harmful, in any way. People, things, and systems are simply the potential collateral damage to the necessity of achieving, “My way or the highway.”
Does that sound extreme? How many serial killers, Ponzi-scheme criminals, cheaters, and abusers have destroyed other peoples’ lives?
The “Demand” of entitlement does that. The person who forces that into being has already decided or reconciled that this is the way things need to be.
Command. Realistic assessment shows up…
There does, however, exist another way of doing; the “Command” approach challenges entitlement.
Coming from a place of dignity, self-respect, and adhering to the healthy, realistic realities of life, the “Commanding” person, accepts life and circumstances will not always and perfectly go that individual’s way, simply because that person prefers things do so.
Radical acceptance. Adjusted expectations. A sense of self that does not solely hinge on always getting one person’s way.
There is wisdom, self-reflection, humility, a bigger picture approach which operates beyond the immediate, one-person wish fulfillment. They may be times when a “Commanding” person stands up and fights for a situation. It will be weighed and considered. The choice to protest or insist on something will, typically, not be taken lightly or acted upon rashly.
There’s more involved; there’s more at stake. Other people need to be considered. The “Commanding” person recognizes this.
Demand or Command: That is the Question:
Each of us is faced with how to approach life, case by case, circumstance by circumstance. We are all capable of having a selfish or an entitled moment. We have the capability of having a bad day or acting in an ugly fashion.
But, perhaps, each person, also has an operational baseline, dictating attitudes and behaviors, with entitlement factoring into that baseline. We are responsible for our actions. We can be constructive or destructive. We are not perfect, but we have the potential to lean toward in a certain direction.
It’s the sobering, ongoing reality check.
How are we really choosing our way in this world? What approach are we taking?
Copyright © 2022 by Sheryle Cruse