Entitlement is practically a dirty word, at least among Americans.
Most people will point the finger to an annoying person or group that thinks they are “entitled” to this or that. In reality, the experience of entitlement as a construct of the ego can create a lifelong quest to find satisfaction, resulting in a state of nearly permanent struggle to the one who possesses it.
No one wants to think they carry entitlement within their ego. Admitting entitlement can be even harder than admitting arrogance. Add a life of “privilege” to the mix, and many of us feel we have no right to even talk about the internal experience and struggle this ego aspect can cause.
The reality in American culture is that a large part of our approach to life is founded on entitlement.
And while we as a people continue to evolve and (hopefully) move more towards this ideal on a human rights, equal access level, the concept seems to have bled over into other areas that are not so systematic.
I thought I was simply in a long process of adjusting to my new life as a suburban mom. The time of living half the year in Peru is over, even as my Ayahuasca shamanic apprenticeship continues spiritually on the homefront. It does not mean that I will not be able to incorporate this travel in a new way but with real world finances, family obligations and a baby who wants me here, these are the new realities. And I do want these realities, but on some level, I also want to be able to have it all.
The American Dream of the freedom to live out our goals and aspirations, to pursuing happiness.
I do have the right and the freedom to try. No automatic payment due to me from the government, or God for that manner. Why do I feel like I should be able to do anything I want? And when I can’t make it happen (either by my own devices or an outside influence) why do I, on some level, feel that it’s not fair?
Why am I left so unsatisfied?
American culture raises children to believe they are capable of anything. We preach to our children “Go live your dreams!”. We tell them “Welcome to the real world!”.
No wonder there is a generation who feels they should not have to work at McDonalds because they did their due diligence and got a degree. What did we expect would happen?
Entitlement causes a constant struggle for me when trying to achieve what I believe I am supposed to have, or do, or be. And when I don’t get there, I am left unsatisfied. Always looking one step ahead, instead of stopping to be truly grateful for what is in front of me.
There has been much research implying that many third world cultures would rate themselves as happier than those of us in the West. Why? Possibly because they don’t compare themselves to this ideal version of what they should be or are entitled to be experiencing.
If we are constantly comparing where we are to where we think we should be, we are perpetually unsatisfied; many of us turn to substances, food, relationships, urgent ideas of grandiosity, or impulsive actions to attempt to quell the discomfort of the perceived missing piece. We may find others who do the same, or channel this energy into an idealism counter to the projected oppressor, and fight to get what we think we deserve.
A friend and I were chatting with my fiance about struggle. As a Black man in America, his experience growing up was different than mine. She and I (both white, upper middle class women) erred on the side of thinking certain things were just not fair. While he agreed, he also raised the point that many people who experience external struggle then develop the skills and the mentality to overcome them, along with a deeper gratitude for what they do have (a loving family, a roof over their head, etc.). It is true, many of us do not want to discuss these issues because it is embarrassing to acknowledge a possibility that our privilege lent itself to missing a major part of human development.
Buddhists believe that struggle is part of the human experience.
When you lessen the desire, you lessen the struggle.
While contemplating this, along with the twentieth conversation where my fiance called me out on it, I realized that I had vastly glossed over a massive step in the spiritual process—acceptance. Acceptance of the human experience, rather than struggling to try to release the struggle.
Inner Visions (the spiritual school where I studied) ranks acceptance high on the agenda for spiritual process. I thought I was accepting. Accepting of the fact that my life looks vastly different than it did three years ago; that once again, I have 50 post-pregnancy pounds to lose. I accept the fact that I may have to approach things differently in order to fulfill what I believe to be my life’s purpose.
Did I truly accept reality?
Have I accepted and settled in to this new role? Have I accepted my new body (regardless of how long I stay at this weight) as still strong and beautiful? Have I accepted that I may or may not be able to “fulfill life purpose” the way I thought I should?
Why do I feel entitled to have this crazy cool life where my family and I travel the world? Why do I feel entitled to one of those magic bodies that stay thin and strong seemingly without effort? Why do I feel entitled to be able to live out my life purpose?
I believe that when we no longer need something internally, we are finally ready for it.
When we don’t need another to “complete us”, we can stand on our own two feet in a healthy relationship. So why would this concept not apply to physical appearance, goals or life purpose?
I have recently seen my Spirit in essence, as well as my personal offering.
This got me excited to start pursuing how I wanted to share it. But I quickly get caught up on the train of the end result, skipping steps and missing the important part—my essence is what is to be shared. The way I do it is up to me. It’s great to have dreams. It is okay to be an idealist (though I think it lends itself to the same struggle). But if I’m a “shoot for the moon, land in the stars” person, I better damn well be satisfied among the constellations.
I am letting go of the grandiose pipe dreams that come from a place of needing to prove to the world (and myself) that I am important.
In letting go, I will no longer “need” them to satisfy me, and I will therefore be ready to handle them. Living in the future has put me in a perpetual state of limbo, just waiting for my life to begin when xyz happens. I am embracing my new size for now, which does not mean I don’t continue to exercise and eat healthy, allowing my body to return to its more natural state. It means don’t wait to buy clothes because it feels pointless to try to look good when I’m fat. That’s the bullshit right there. As far as life purpose goes, I learned long ago to stop calling it that—that it is really an offering of self. An offering without obligation. It is my spirit shared, period.
My spirit does not need to take shape as a big fancy author or motivational speaker.
It might, but it doesn’t have to. I don’t need it to if I ever want to have the door open for its possibility. I just need to share my spirit, as well as my ego.
I need to truly accept the fact that while I may be functioning at a given moment from either space, so what. I believe in trying to view things neutrally, without judgment. This means getting real with how harshly I have been judging myself for not being enough. Because the ideal standard I have set for myself comes from a sense of entitlement that, as someone on a spiritual path, I am where I am supposed to be.
I give up the battle of what and who I want to be right now and choose to allow myself to be whoever I am in this moment. I will still write, and I will still speak. I will not let the fact that I cannot get to Peru right now bother me. I will accept this new life and all the beauty that comes with it, including the humanness and struggle. But I will not add the struggle of trying to eradicate struggle (a little counter-intuitive now that I say it out loud). You win, idealism. You beat me. I can’t satisfy the level of your desire. Call it failure, but I know intuitively it is the exact shift that Life has been trying to teach me for years.
So I win.
I win back a little peace inside my mind. I win back the space to enjoy a simple suburban existence in this body for awhile. There will be another new now. I win the freedom to breathe and not spend my brainpower trying not to succumb to the pressure of who I think I should be.
If I am entitled to it, it in essence it will be free to come out naturally. This, to me, is a mark of maturity. Instead of “damning The Man,” learn to work within the current situation presented, let go of needing outer goals and dreams completed to satisfy the internal; allow the dreams to cultivate from a place of overflow, not a need to fill a perceived lack of who I am.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Carrie Marzo / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Damin Morys Flickr / elephant journal archives