When you hear the word "entitlement" what comes to mind? Those people who want something for nothing? Sometimes at our expense? How dare they?! Easy to smugly think that I'm not one of those people.
The other morning while happily working out, pushing through an interval training session on the elliptical machine, I was listening to Typology - a favorite podcast featuring Enneagram teacher, episcopal priest and co-author of The Road Back To You, Ian Cron. The podcast "...explores the mystery of the human personality and how we can use the Enneagram typing system as a tool to become our most authentic selves." I love this podcast, and anything that can add to my attempts to become my most authentic self is good by me. As a 4 on the Enneagram, authenticity gets straight to the heart of my matter.
On this particular morning at an especially juicy part of the episode, I accidentally caught my headphone cord on my arm while reaching for my water bottle, simultaneously ripping my earbuds out and flinging my iPhone to the floor. I guess my most authentic self loves to yell the "F" word, and smack my hand on the elliptical handles. More than once. The feeling I had could perhaps best be described as a fiery hot flash of anger. How dare that happen to me?!
Climbing off the machine to retrieve everything, I started to wonder why that little, teeny, tiny, mishap had gotten under my skin so quickly. As things go, this was a nano-thing. It wasn't like my bank account was overdrawn and I couldn't afford groceries for my family, or didn't know where I would sleep that night because the homeless shelter was full. A loved one hadn't just tragically died in a suicide bombing, nor had I lost my home to a hurricane. I wasn't the subject of identity theft, not had I been subjected to sexual harassment in return for another day of work. Nope. My $700 iPhone had dropped on the floor, safe in its $69 waterproof, shockproof case, and my ears were a little irritated from the ripped out earbuds. Let's talk First World problems here. The word "entitlement" quietly slipped into my mind. I'm not fond of that word, especially when applied to me, as it conjures up images of people who don't want to put in the work. All of the glory, none of the guts. Their needs always matter more. The world owes them. The college graduate who doesn't want to start at the bottom and earn their way up. The driver who endangers everyone else by cutting in and out of traffic because apparently her time is more precious than ours. Entitled people are the ones who think the rules don't apply to them. How dare they?!
That's. Not. Me.
Well then, exactly what did I imagine I was entitled to in that moment when my iPhone went sailing to the floor? No discomfort? The right to finish the podcast in peace? No obstacles in the way? Smooth sailing? And then I remembered a few other occurrences that showcased what was looking like my own subtle brand of entitlement. Like the time not too long ago when I was driving out of our driveway for a meeting, and my cup of coffee spilled all over my oh-so-casual-but-carefully-chosen outfit. I screamed so hard and so loud that my throat hurt for the next two days. Think Linda Blair in The Exorcist with her head spinning around, a guttural, other-worldly sound coming from a very, very dark place. Or the time when I banged my knee on my open filing cabinet drawer and slammed it shut so many times that it required the help of my husband (who never seems to scream, slam, or spill anything) to finally pry it open. Do you see a theme here? Yeah. Me too.
Those outward immature temper tantrums point to something deeper and hidden below my mature looking surface. It seems that I have a deeply rooted belief that nothing should get in my way, or ruin my plans. That I have a right for things to work out as I think they should, and that I deserve to proceed along my merry way uninterrupted. I hate to admit it, but those sound strangely like senses of entitlement. So, where else might it raise its ugly little head? How about when I'm savoring my first cup of coffee in the quiet morning hours and someone calls on the phone. How dare they?! I am entitled to these few moments of peace and quiet dammit! Or when I've cleared the decks and have a whole day at my desk to write, and suddenly someone needs my help. Right now! How dare they?! Don't I have a right to an uninterrupted day? Don't get me wrong, I am all for self-care and the importance of making time for ourselves, our health, our loves, and our work. But that's not what I'm talking about here. This is about the underlying belief that I have a right for things to work out exactly how I want, when I want, and where I want.
Time to look even deeper.
My latest book came out last year. BLUSH: Women & Wine felt important to write, and it was. It is well written, has a relevant message, and has the potential to touch people's lives for the good. But now that it is out in the world, it isn't getting the notice I think it deserves. And perhaps even more embarrassingly honest, I'm not getting the attention I think I deserve, the speaking gigs I love, or the opportunities to showcase what I have to offer. As a 4 on the Enneagram, I'm long on big dreams, but can fall short of taking the consistent small steps it takes to bring a vision to life. I talk about it with my coaching clients and in my workshops, but I am lazy about actually doing it myself. Recently a good friend (and fellow Enneagram 4) sent me a link to a Will Smith video about the self-discipline it takes to achieve success. He's talking about material success, but it's true of anything we set out to do, become, contribute. We don't deserve success. We're not entitled to it. We don't have a right to it. We make it happen. Day by day. Choice by choice. Step by step.
To replace my newly recognized and embarrassing sense of entitlement with a much more energizing sense of accomplishment, I've implemented a new practice. Do at least one thing a day to further my progress.
Oh...And count to ten before swearing, screaming, or slamming.