A strong sense of entitlement is unplasant; it makes people unpleasant, and it makes them do unpleasant things.
The original version of this post was an extended complaint about a woman I have had a lot to do with recently who has a strong sense of entitlement and appears to be a seething mass of frustration and bitterness. However, since then I have been reading Watching the English by Kate Fox, and I suspect that her tell-it-like-it-is American-ness has come up against my oh-well-mustn’t-grumble English-ness and that I may be being unfair. So maybe I am being unduly harsh on Mrs Entitlement. But maybe not.
Despite the patronising nastiness of the British middle class attitude which came up with phrases such as “poor but happy” and “poor but honest”, I think a sense of entitlement can really screw you over. It seems that complaining all the time creates a self-feeding loop of discontent: according to Richard Wiseman in :59 Seconds counting your blessings really does make you feel better, and if you write them down the difference is still discernible weeks or months later.
Reading Wiseman’s book confirmed something I’ve thought for a while. Some years ago I decided I would rather be happy than frustrated and, when I could just about pay my way but no more, I would give myself a mental bitch-slap and remind myself that the world is full of people who dream of being able to pay their bills. Maslow tells us that we will always have something to complain about, if we are of a complaining frame of mind.
Mrs Entitlement is, as I said, a seething mass of anger and frustration even though she appears to be living the dream: she has an interesting and reasonably well-paid job, her husband’s a substantial earner, they live in the country, their children are in private schools, they are all healthy. However she winds herself up with complaints about her au pair, about car accidents delaying her journey into work in the morning, about her mother-in-law, her colleagues, airlines, service in restaurants, the cat. Just about anything really. She is a hissing ball of barely suppressed rage.
I think if I really wanted to curse someone, I would give them a sense of entitlement.
In the meantime Nina shows us how to count our blessings better than anyone I know: