I remember my dad often saying of my sister, “She’s got a big a$$.”
He didn’t mean that she literally had a large rear end, because she most assuredly didn’t. No, this was his vulgar way of saying she saw herself as a princess. You see, a lowly chair wasn’t enough for her; only a throne would do. Her delicate, royal tushie needed plenty of room, plenty of luxury.
A lot of people have a similar sense of entitlement. But where does it come from?
Sure, a person brought up in a wealthy home may be accustomed to the finer things, and then go through life trying to continue that lifestyle. On the other hand, a person who grew up in a poorer home may make a subconscious decision to have all the nice things he or she was denied as a child.
While these two people’s motives come from completely different backgrounds, they’re really two sides of the same coin: both have a sense of entitlement, a sense that the world owes them something.
Now, I’m all for self-esteem. There’s not much real self-esteem these days, but a whole lot of false self-esteem. That’s another rant for another day. Entitlement, really, has nothing to do with genuine self-esteem.
I recently read an interesting op-ed piece called The Unfortunate Age of Entitlement in America. The author, Anthony B. Robinson, views the entitlement problem as both psychological and spiritual.
Entitlement is the handmaiden of the ego, the sign of a neglected, malnourished soul.
The dangers here are real, if not immediate. Let’s say a person decides she wants a 2008 Lexus. Why? I don’t know. Because she wants people to view her as sexy and stylish and successful… you know, better… or dare I say it, of a higher social class. She works so hard, and she’s been through so much, and everybody at work has a nicer car than she does, and… and… and… well, she deserves it, by golly!
Now let’s say her financial situation is better suited to a 1999 Toyota. There’s nothing wrong with an older Toyota, of course, as long as it gets her to and from where ever she needs to go. If it’s paid for, even better!
Whoops! Too late! She’s just signed away her life to finance that new Lexus. Now she’s saddled to that huge monthly payment, higher insurance premiums, and other assorted costs. Her sense of entitlement has just put her deeply into debt.
How much status do we place on things? I’ve been a vegetarian for ten years now, and I often come across people who can’t believe I would intentionally eat a meal of rice and beans. To them, prime rib or steak is the ultimate meal, and anything less is for peasants.
Adopting a frugal lifestyle can be an incredibly difficult thing for some people. To a person who feels entitled to having everything he wants, when he wants it, the thought of scaling back must be terrifying. The way our economy is going, though, it’s becoming more and more necessary… and not always voluntary.
Think about your own lifestyle. Are there things you absolutely wouldn’t cut back on or give up… not because you couldn’t live without them, but because you’d be too embarrassed for others to see you “coming down” or “lowering” yourself? Are there things you spend too much money on (gifts, meals, entertainment), because others expect it of you?
A lot to think about, I know.
The truly wealthy don’t always live the wild, gaudy lifestyles that we’ve been led to believe. Check out The Millionaire Next Door, by Thomas J. Stanley & William D. Danko.