What Is a Sense of Entitlement?

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A sense of entitlement is a personality characteristic based on the belief that someone deserves special treatment or recognition for something they didn't earn. In other words, people with this mindset believe that the world owes them without ever giving anything in return.

The sense of entitlement that is seen in children is not always negative. Throughout the stages of development, children depend on their caregivers. However, as children grow older and become more independent, wanting other people's help becomes less practical and takes away from working toward self-sufficiency.

In this article, we'll explore the signs of a sense of entitlement, the impact of a sense of entitlement, and coping strategies to deal with this issue in yourself and when dealing with other people.

Signs

What are the signs of a sense of entitlement? If you aren't sure whether someone you know might have a sense of entitlement, read through the following characteristics and see if they apply.

In general, a person with a sense of entitlement has a self-absorbed view of the world and little regard or empathy for their impact on others. In its extreme form, a sense of entitlement may be part of a personality disorder (e.g., narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder).

  • They think they deserve special treatment. People with a sense of entitlement expect to get preferential treatment and special favors in life, without regard for why they should be treated specially. Their view is "the world owes me." For example, they might feel that the policies of an organization should not apply to them because they should be treated with special favors.
  • They feel that they deserve more than what they have in life. Regardless of what they have, they always believe that they deserve more. They expect to elevate their lifestyle above that of others without putting in the effort needed to do so.
  • They feel like people should do things for them because of who they are or how much money/power they have. If they have reached a certain level of success, they feel that everyone should bend over backward to help them. If someone has a problem with them or does not agree with what they are doing, they will try to make the other party feel as if they are wrong and that it is a horrible thing to disagree with them.
  • Their personal needs come before everyone else's needs. If you need something, don't expect them to drop what they are doing and help you. They believe that it is your job to ensure they have everything they need, even if this means that you don't have time to take care of your own responsibilities.
  • When someone doesn't give in to their demands, they will cause a big scene. They may be very dramatic when something does not go their way. If a friend or family member acts like this, you know it is best to avoid them when this happens. Otherwise, they will try to make themselves look better by bringing you down.
  • They are not grateful for what they have in their life. Someone with a sense of entitlement may not say thank you or show other signs of appreciation for what they have. This is because they believe it is their right to have everything, so they don't value anything.
  • They have a sense of entitlement about money, possessions, or friends. A sense of entitlement tends to be pervasive across their life. Someone who acts this way about one thing is likely to act the same way about everything else in their life. They may be greedy or will take friends for granted instead of being appreciative.
  • They act like victims and blame other people or outside forces for their problems. If someone in your life regularly feels like something bad is always happening to them, they probably have a sense of entitlement. Someone with this attitude believes the world owes them and that other people are responsible for making their lives better.
  • They constantly need praise and admiration from others. A sense of entitlement also goes hand-in-hand with narcissism. People who are focused on only thinking about themselves and what makes them feel good may be very demanding of praise and attention from other people.
  • They secretly struggle with insecurity. While the person with a sense of entitlement may come across as arrogant or confident, this can be a cover-up for underlying insecurity or fear of not having enough admiration, resources, or support. This fear and insecurity can also appear alongside depression and self-isolation.

Impact 

Entitled people have a tendency to adopt goals based around their own self-image, often leading them into conflict with others. While they may be able to put up an exterior of being nice and well-mannered on the outside, research shows that it's all just for show; deep down inside this is not how they truly feel about themselves or other individuals around them.

Another study suggests that entitlement can be dangerous. Researchers from Case Western Reserve University found that entitled people are more likely to experience chronic disappointment, unmet expectations, and a self-reinforcing cycle of behavior which puts them at risk for harm psychologically or socially.

When people think of themselves as superior, anything that challenges their worldview is met with defensiveness and anger. This creates a vicious cycle: the more they are challenged by society's limitations, the angrier they become at these injustices.

Tips for Overcoming a Sense of Entitlement

It's not always easy, but it is possible for people with a sense of entitlement to overcome this feeling and adopt new behaviors in order to achieve their goal of being more independent.

Here are a few suggestions to overcome a sense of entitlement.

  • Recognize the feeling of entitlement. Refuse to let it impact your life. If you have a hard time recognizing the feeling, think about other times when you felt entitled and then notice how much that feeling resembles what you're feeling now.
  • Understand that you are not entitled to anything. Unfortunately, the world does not owe you anything. Life is unfair and it's your job to make the best of what you get in life, not to complain about what you deserve but don't have.
  • Find ways to help others without expecting anything in return. How can you serve others without expecting anything in return? Simple: volunteer your time. If you want something in return for your services, consider that what you're getting is "happiness" from knowing that you have helped those less fortunate than yourself.
  • Learn the difference between needs and wants. People with a sense of entitlement have a problem distinguishing between needs and wants. This makes it very difficult to make healthy, sound decisions since you constantly want more than you need. Instead, focus on what you truly need in life and cut out what you simply want.
  • Focus on what's in your control rather than what isn't. You can only control your own thoughts, feelings, actions, and responses. Stop focusing on what other people are doing or how they are responding to situations. Instead, focus on changing the things that you have some influence over in your life.
  • Practice gratitude for everything good in your life, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem at the time. Consider everything you have in your life right now: a home, family or friends, good health, etc. Take a moment to be grateful for everything that you have and realize that there are a lot of people out there who would love to trade places with you.
  • Think about how your sense of entitlement is affecting other people in your life. How have other people been affected by your sense of entitlement? Have you unintentionally made them feel guilty or resentful because they didn't live up to your expectations? If so, remember that other people have their own lives to live and their own feelings. A person's actions toward you aren't necessarily directly tied to how much you mean to them.
  • Take care of yourself and be kind to yourself because nobody else will do it for you. It might seem counterintuitive, but one way out of self-entitlement is to be kinder to yourself. When you are feeling entitled, it can be difficult or impossible for you to take care of your own needs. Instead, you might fall into a place of self-neglect because you are expecting others to take care of you.

A Word From Verywell

Remember, making any sort of change isn't always an easy journey. But it's one that will be worth it. If you're having trouble navigating these changes on your own, consider reaching out to a mental health professional for guidance.

They can help you discover the root of issues that have led to a sense of entitlement.  It's essential to understand that seeking help from a therapist or counselor isn't a sign of weakness.  But instead, it can be a sign that you've identified a need to change and that you wish to improve your life and relationship with others for the better.

Over time, you can learn ways to address issues of entitlement and how to live a healthy, balanced life.

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2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Lange J, Redford L, Crusius J. A Status-Seeking Account of Psychological EntitlementPers Soc Psychol Bull. 2019;45(7):1113-1128. doi:10.1177/0146167218808501