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The Trap of Entitlement: Who Is the Real Veruca Salt?

Updated on September 2, 2013

Veruca Salt Lives On

Our society has nearly toppled over under the weight of entitlement. Everywhere I look, I see people believing wholeheartedly that they deserve more: from children at the grocery store screaming for Reeses Pieces to middle-aged men at the bar bemoaning their salaries. Try walking through a Walmart some evening without bearing witness to feverish and unsettling expectation. It's impossible. I'm sometimes as guilty as anyone else (though never at Walmart), but I try to keep perspective. Too often, we make our lives about what others ought to do for us, and in the process, we lose a sense of the greatest gift we’re naturally given, our own initiative. At the end of the day, there's no substitute for drive. It's the fuel for self-worth; it keeps us out of the bottomless pit of entitlement. Without an understanding that we may fail at a task, we never reach our true potential. Just imagine if all those craving people lived at Walmart; they'd never leave, they'd never see a reason to venture outside.

But Charlie Won the Factory

There’s no limit to what each of us can acquire if we’re willing to toss aside our core belief that someone else ought to be handing these things over. Too often, we expect things when we should stop at wanting them. If you’re wondering what's ultimately keeping you from being able to afford that new house, it’s a sense of entitlement. Want a closer family? Same problem. If you want a new house, what’s truly stopping you from going out and getting it? Money? Get the training for a new job, or better yet, create your own income by starting your own business. If you want a closer family, what’s keeping you from making it happen? After all, if you aren’t in a position to repair those frayed relationships, no one is. The path to your goals might feel as long as the 12-items-or-less lane at the grocery store, but you need to be willing to start. Stop making excuses, because excuses are the mainstay of a sense of entitlement.

Test Yourself

Not sure you believe me? Test yourself.

Remember the last time you got into a fight with your husband or wife?  Boyfriend or girlfriend? It doesn’t matter what it was about, exactly.  All that matters is that you fought. Your end of the fight was probably in part due to an expectation that he or she should do for you what you really ought to do for yourself. Maybe it was about money--well, go out and make more. Maybe it was about the kids--well, do your share of the work for a change. Maybe it was about pressures at work--well, find something better or figure out how to channel your stress. Even if your fight were about some truly awful act committed by your significant other, isn't it your sense of entitlement that causes you to expect something different after all this time? Shouldn't you stop expecting other people to fix your life for you? If you don't want change, that's fine, too, but then there's no need to fight about it.

Into the Glass Elevator

All of us need support. My wife and I have received our share over the years. There’s nothing wrong with getting help in life. What’s important is whether you feel it’s owed to you. Here’s the truth, about as directly as it can be stated: No one owes you anything. It took years before I fully understood this. Not in the I know, I know kind of way, but in the purest and simplest measure: No one owes you anything. It is both terrifying and liberating to breathe in this truth. It is a realization that starts the second chapter in your life, the first chapter being ensconced in the “truth” that someone out there ought to be blamed for your own lack of trying.  At the end of the day, you do deserve one thing: you deserve the opportunity to embrace the future as a consequence of your own choices.  There couldn't be a better reward.

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