[self-es-teem] : a confidence and satisfaction in oneself : SELF-RESPECT
[con-fi-dence]: the quality or state of being certain : CERTITUDE
[en-ti-tle-ment]: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges
Many days my Facebook newsfeed is filled with inspirational photos proclaiming words of motivation: you are good enough. You are smart enough. You can do whatever you want to in life.
Today, people have a stronger need to be assured of their worth.
Sometimes, on a bad day, simple statements like these, as cheesy as they may be, remind me to change my outlook regarding myself and the world around me. I am good enough. Self-esteem.
Our church community proclaims that “all are called” and puts high value in the “worth of all persons”. And we mean it. We encourage our members and friends, even at a young age, to embrace and use their personal gifts. We tell them they are unique. We tell them they are loved exactly as they are, whether they do anything to deserve that love or not. They are special.
I like that. It reminds me that, whether or not I have the same gifts as someone else, I too have something to offer. I don’t need to worry or doubt myself as much as I sometimes do. I like making others feel good and I like being reminded of the same. Confidence.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who was feeling hurt that he was not asked to be a part of a group he felt he should have. “I do everything they ask. I volunteer. I’m actively involved and good at what I do. I’m more deserving than the others they chose. They didn’t even think of me!” I can truthfully say, I’ve felt the same way in various situations: overlooked.
In another conversation, a student I used to supervise tells me about a job he just applied for: “I think I got it. That interview showed me I am definitely over-qualified. I know I’m the best choice. I deserve this.”
A friend of mine hired a lawyer to help her get what she felt she deserved and was fair from her broken marriage. What she felt she deserved, and what others felt was fair, were not the same thing. Entitlement.
I think there is a fine line between these three: self-esteem, confidence, and entitlement. To me, self-esteem and confidence are desired traits that help us achieve our goals, gain respect from others, and feel happy about ourselves and our lives. Entitlement is less desired. Entitlement, to me, is an over-abundance of self-esteem and confidence. I think too much of anything, even confidence, is not necessarily a good thing. Entitlement leads us to this feeling that, not only are we deserving, but that we are better than, and more deserving than someone else. Entitlement speaks loudly of arrogance.
I don’t mean to say that we should never share our successes or we should think lowly or bad of ourselves. Lacking in these areas can be just as detrimental. We have been taught, from many different teachers and sources, to believe in ourselves, that we are good enough, and to take pride in what we do. I agree. Self-esteem is good. Confidence is good. It’s when we become too engrossed in ourselves and our drive to get exactly what we want; when our self-worth becomes based on the opinions, attention, and actions received from others; that it becomes dangerous. We need a healthy balance of humility.
“3 Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.” – 1 Samuel 2:3 (NRSV)
I know that I have those moments of entitlement too – when I felt I deserved something I didn’t get. This scripture has become my personal reminder that it’s not up to me to determine whether I am deserving. Who am I to say what I deserve and what someone else doesn’t? Striving to do well, for my own self-satisfaction and towards the benefit of others, is enough. Whether I am acknowledged or praised for my successes, whether I get what I want, does not (or should not) matter. Being selected or chosen does not have to determine my self-worth, if I don’t let it. I do not have to tell everyone about my triumphs or feel offended if I am not recognized. God knows who I am and what I’ve done.
In the right time and place, our personal character, actions, and successes will speak for themselves.
The word “entitlement” has become more and more a defining term perceived to describe young adults. Here are a few articles I’ve read recently on the sense of entitlement that is perhaps accurate, perhaps not for Gen Y (often young adult) individuals.
While recognizing that generational stereotypes do not apply to every individual:
What do you think? Is entitlement an accurate term for this generation? Too harsh? How can those in Generation Y become cognizant of their entitled thoughts and the way they come off to others? How, as young adult ministers, can we minister to YA and help provide a sense of humbleness and humility without being degrading or insulting to these individuals?
“Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy” (disclaimer: this is a somewhat sarcastic/cynical view, but offers some food for thought if taken with a grain of salt)
“Gen Y Managers Perceived as Entitled...” by Kelley Holland