How Important Am I?
They tend to call millennials the entitled generation, noting how they (we) always want something for free, without having to actually work to attain the objects of our desires. And, in a culture that’s full of social and economic inequality, I’m going to attempt to grapple with the question of entitlement in a nuanced way, asking if it’s possible (with social mobility being what it is) for some millennials to possess a sense of entitlement to such a high degree that it precludes them (us) from having healthy relationships and good careers, making them worthy of the label.
When I was a kid, I believed that things should just be given to me, and that others had to accommodate my needs. I did, and said, whatever I wanted to, hardly ever feeling the need to consider others’ perspectives or their feelings. In essence, I wasn’t only at the center of my own universe: I was at the center of everyone else’s, too, in my mind, that is.
And, it was so easy for me to be that way because my environment was so chronically unstable that I never had a stable set of rules imposed on me. When I played games against others, I cheated; when I lost, I threw tantrums. And when I grew up, I quickly discovered how insignificant my behavior was; adults just simply ignored me. So, in the span of a few years, life taught me one of its most valuable lessons: that, within its grand perspective, I am fundamentally a nobody.
And this begs the questions: is being a nobody really such a bad thing? Can it ever be a useful self-conception?
It’s also said that nothing worth having comes easily, but I believed that I didn’t, and shouldn’t, have to work hard for anything. And, most importantly, I believed that I would somehow be spared of experiencing life’s most vicious aspects. And this embodies a true sense of entitlement, not the fact that we’re asking for reasonable wages (dependent on positions), decent working-conditions, paid time-off, and reasonable work-hours. I deeply knew, or rather didn’t know, what a sense of entitlement looked like, and I frequently see it in some of the people I work with.
For them, as it was for me, it seems natural: the way the world ought to be. And their struggles, in significant ways, can be traced back to it. Their relationships, as mine were, are strained by their unwillingness to examine themselves in their hostilities, and their careers are threatened by their excessive demands, which exceed the above-mentioned requests and seem so trivial to most others.
And all of their stubbornness, their refusal to accept that the universe isn’t obliged to play by their rules, not others’ successes, fosters feelings of jealousy and resentment. Why did she get the promotion and I didn’t? Why is she demanding that I give her as much attention, care, and support, as she’s given me? Who are they to ask anything of me? I am the one who is owed.
Discovering My Limits
That sense, or deeply-ingrained belief, is difficult to relieve, like a cold sore that seemingly never heals. Even as I write this article, I recall my own recent sullen moments, particularly when I was upset about reading a challenging book, subsequently demanding, mentally, that the author had written it in a lighter language. But then, I realized that I had the option to opt-out of reading it. And this ackownlgedgment brought me to a pivotal understanding about feeling entitled: it prevents one from clearly seeing their possibilities and capabilities.
For, I always had a choice, even if it wasn’t fully what I wanted.
I know now, or rather accept, that I can’t change the world to mold it into exactly what I want it to be. I can’t make it so that I have the most sought-after achievements and only date the most attractive women, but I can create good life for myself with the options that I have; I just simply have to accept them as they are, and cease fighting with the cosmos.
I Am a Nobody
To be a nobody tends to be repugnant in our capitalistic/individualistic culture. But, to become a someday can easily entail a sense of being owed for the simple reason of one’s status. So, I advocate for being a nobody, or in a more nuanced sense: nobody special.
Being special to your friends, your children, your spouse; these are all wonderful achievements, as they’re the people who can, and likely will, care for you throughout the rest of your life. But perceiving yourself as being special in some grand conception of the word can just as easily push them away.
The philosopher Mark D. White argues that we should treat our relationships as though they could end at any moment and recall the significance of our willingness (and subsequent efforts) to nurture and sustain them; but, one can’t do that if they believe that they’re special, or entitled to their partner, or at least to their attention.
Thus, I am a nobody in the cosmic/universal sense of the term. I don’t deserve any particular individual’s love or attention, nor do I deserve any particular achievement or social accolade, that is unless I’ve earned it. No one owes me their time, and no one owes me their admiration.
The way I currently see myself in the universe allows for gratitude for the attention, and concern, and validation, and admiration I receive, because they’re now gifts to me, ones which until only recently I believed that I was owed for simply being me.