Entitlement means having the right or permission to do something or behaving as if you have special privileges. According to psychiatrist Dr. David Hawkins, “People simply mirror back your internal belief systems.” So, whether you believe you deserve a place at the table, or whether you believe you don’t, you are right.
The mistake most of us make, when we act how we think an entitled person would act, is we behave like an undeserving, privileged jerk. In reality, despite their over-arching confidence, those who truly believe they are entitled mostly exhibit the kind of humility and curiosity you might find surprising. Acting as they do can open doors, secure meetings, and even restaurant reservations.
“What an honor to meet you”
Imposter syndrome is the feeling “I don’t deserve to be here,” “Who am I to have this experience?” “Why would these people work with me?” If you’ve ever felt intimidated by the opulence of a room, the celebrity of the guests, or the status of the host, perhaps you chose to behave in the way you believed an entitled person would act. Did you assert yourself? Did you pretend to be unimpressed by the fame of the person interviewing you or the jaw-dropping view from their penthouse office? Did you hope your feigned complacency would make it seem as though you truly belonged?
Those who feel truly deserving of whatever privilege has been bestowed upon them (often at birth) are usually very good at shining the spotlight of their attention onto others. On finding themselves face to face with Oprah at a party, I don’t imagine Prince Charles or Bill Gates would pretend to be unimpressed. They would most likely find a way to compliment the ‘Queen of Media’ and proclaim their admiration of her many achievements. Arriving on David Geffen’s yacht, instead of ignoring the host or his iconic artwork, I can’t help feeling Lady Gaga or Kylie Jenner would more likely praise the Netflix documentary about him before admiring every last Warhol, Rauchenberg, and Lichtenstein.
When we’re being measured and assessed, it can feel like there’s a spotlight on us and that we need to take center stage, to act as if we belonged. When we don’t feel deserving, we tend to talk too much about ourselves.
Instead of obsessing about what others will think of you, shift the spotlight away from your own neuroses onto how the person you’re talking to feels about themselves while you are with them in the room.
“I’m not a member and I’m not on the list”
There was a long line outside the pre-pandemic opening of a new member’s club in Mayfair, and only those on the list or with membership cards, or invitations were being admitted by the frosty doorkeepers.
“I’m not a member and I’m not on the list,” a curly-haired, suited man in his 40’s announced as he walked up to the head of the line. Something about the way he said he was not entitled inferred that he was, and something about the way he walked towards the rope made it seem inevitable that, contrary to the club’s stated admission policy, he would be admitted. And, of course, he was.
Whether you’re communicating via email, phone or in person, it’s essential that you convey a sense that you expect your request to be granted.
“Might you be free to meet next Wednesday at 4 pm?” Is way better than “Please let me know if you’ve got time to meet me.” “I’d love to sit down with you to share my plans in more detail.” Conveys more confidence than “Would you be interested in meeting?”
‘You may not know me. My name is…’
We imagine that an entitled person would proclaim, “Don’t you know who I am?!” When in fact, a truly entitled person would be more likely to say, “You may not know me, my name is…”
When my client, a Bollywood actor, first arrived in London, he was cast as a supporting artist (or extra) in a number of movies and TV shows. So when he graduated to featured and guest-lead roles, he was surprised that, despite his name now appearing higher on the call sheets, studio security staff still treated him as though he was an extra, even pointing him in the direction of the crowd scenes.
”I just can’t bring myself to announce my name as though I were a huge star when none’s heard of me,” he confessed, “but being super friendly seems to be sending a signal that I’m trying too hard so I’m not treated with respect.”
“Who is the most charming, talented, and entitled actor you have encountered?” I asked him.
“Possibly Idris Elba,” he answered.
“Well, how does Idris Elba introduce himself?” I asked.
“He does it as though no one’s heard of him,” my actor client answered, “He says “Hi,my name is Idris Elba,” and then he kind of leaves a long pause, keeping eye contact and smiling ever so slightly.”
“Great. Do that. Next time you arrive at the studio just channel Idris Elba and introduce yourself that exact way.”
Sure enough, it worked. Without coming across as a jerk, my client is now welcomed by security like a guest-lead, rather than a mere extra.
“I’m worth it”
As a coach, it pains me that people who already feel deserving of special treatment don’t hesitate to invest in their personal growth, while many times, because their saboteur convinces them they’re not worth the investment, I’m unable to help the people who are struggling most.
All of us, even those who have been born into great privilege, have a saboteur (the voice in your head that says “you don’t deserve to be here”) but in order to feel like you are worthy of a place at the table, you need to find ways to silence your saboteur for long enough to acknowledge others and serve up your own accomplishments with humility.