Some say we live in an age of entitlement. This is an accusation thrown at those born in the 1980s and who are now in their 20s or 30s. Here is a group who dislike being criticized, who delay growing up, who even if they are useless at something find an excuse to blame someone or something else whilst maintaining a belief in themselves. They want it all, quickly and if they don’t get it they fall back on the goodwill of their parents to sort things out and keep them afloat. What a miserable perspective and fortunately I think it suffers somewhat from overgeneralization.
It seems to me there have always been such people but perhaps they have come to prominence more. They become dependent on others and have unrealistic expectations about what they will achieve in life. Perhaps we should look to their formative years as to how such expectations were laid down? The values of my own generation tended to center around a strong work ethic, self-sacrifice, and personal and professional development through time and dedication. The parents of those born in the 1980s were perhaps less likely to promote such values. The world is a very different place now; more affluent yet more unstable perhaps and likely to change. This has led some to argue the sense of entitlement has become ingrained through easy access to high value gifts, and an attitude that somehow the person is special just because of who they are rather than anything they may have done or achieved.
The ramifications of such attitudes are beginning to reveal themselves. A few studies have shown that unjustified levels of self-esteem may lead to higher levels of depression. Incompatible expectations such as low levels of work and a high income is little more than a dream. When the bubble bursts it shows the world for what it really is and chronic disappointment follows.
With entitlement comes a lack of gratitude and that’s a shame because evidence suggests people who are more grateful tend to be more attentive, helpful, enthusiastic, optimistic and determined than those who aren’t. Gratitude relates to our sense of coherence, that is, our belief that life is both meaningful and understandable. The grateful amongst us have the ability to reframe their experiences in ways that are positive. In turn, this leads to less anxiety, less loneliness, less envy and depression. I’ll be looking at how gratitude can be developed in subsequent posts. In the meantime reflect on something. When was the last time you took the time to thank someone and actually meant it? I don’t just mean saying ‘thanks’ when they passed you a coffee, I mean a real thank you for something they did, or said, and that touched you in some way.
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Dr Jerry Kennard is a psychologist and co-founder of positivityguides.net