Do you feel you’re special? I used to think I was.
I had to learn this cold hard truth when I used to hang out with a friend I used to have named Chris P (I know lots of Chris’ so I had to use a P to protect myself). He was a Christian and he knew the Bible quite well and we had some great conversations. He was fun to talk to while having coffee with a couple of friends.
But when we were around friends, he’d always talk about how awesome his apartment is and how he got to date the hottest Christian girl in a mega-church he attended (that in itself isn’t really worth bragging about from Jesus’ perspective).
The truth was that Chris’ parents paid for his rent because he kept getting fired. Girls were uncomfortable with him when he would flirt with them. I think most likely he was fired from previous positions because he tried to cop a feel from female employees.
I’m not sure where Chris P is now. He probably won’t see this because his Facebook account was de-activated. I have a feeling that most likely he’s either on welfare or sadly committed suicide because he didn’t bother to change his mindset. I’m not sure if he was on the spectrum or not. But either way, I think he would have a hard time reading this post if he was alive today.
So when did people start to feel “special?”
Back in the 1960s, it was trendy in psychology to work on building a rock solid self-esteem. It was encouraged to “just be positive” or “think happy thoughts.” During this era, research determined that if you think highly about yourself, you’ll excel at anything you put your hands to or you won’t have huge problems to deal with. Those who enforced policy believed these researchers and decided to do what they can to increase the self-esteem of their countries’ general population. As a result, they believed more people will be employed and make lots of money, students will do better in class, crime would be lowered, and there wouldn’t be much of a budget deficit to worry about.
As a result, in the 70s, parents began to teach these types of self-esteem growth mindsets in the previous paragraph. They did this because “just being positive” or “thinking happy thoughts” was being taught by teachers, therapists, politicians, pastors, and other people of influence. It even infiltrated the educational system. This is the origin of participation awards, grade inflation, motivational seminars, business leadership schools, and the “blessed” hyper-Pentecostal movements where preachers would tell their congregation they have the ability to do abundantly great things because they’re all equally special in God’s eyes.
But the truth is coming out fairly quickly today. Almost 85% of us are all just…mundane, really. Just being positive, thinking happy thoughts, and even having a rock solid self-esteem doesn’t really mean much unless you have a reason to feel good about yourself. Over the last 4 years or more, falling and learning to pick myself up and just stumbling while accomplishing a few things here and there actually helped me to build a better mindset than the entitled attitude I had before I went to college in 2009.
Sorry to say, but teaching people they’re going to become successful and great while also building their self-esteem to feed their ego doesn’t create an entire world full of Elon Musks or Oprahs. It actually leads to a large Tokyo-sized population of Chris Ps.
Here’s the problem with feeling special.
The problem with “just being positive” and “thinking happy thoughts” just to feel good about yourself is that it determines how much self-esteem a person has by how happy they are with themselves as they are. If Chris P felt great about himself all the time even if he was getting fired and eventually can’t live in his apartment anymore, how is the metric valid for the successful he actually has in his life? It’s not.
Feeling “special” is entitlement. The Chris Ps of the world think they can get things without actually putting in hard work. They think they can score a pretty girl without having a meaningful relationship or they can make money online by signing up for a get-rich quick scheme and fly in a private jet in a week. The Chris Ps feel so good about themselves they live an illusion of blessing that doesn’t exist. It seems cool on the outside. Because this delusional positivism has been spread across the first world like a virus, it’s contagious and other people want to be like Chris P.
The problem with a culture of entitlement is that it plants cravings in a person’s soul to feel good, to feel high all the time, even if everyone else feels like garbage. Because entitled people need to feel good, they only think about themselves. No wonder people including myself get fed up with rich Christians who say “God only helps those who can help themselves.” But I digress.
Every life event to an entitled person is either a blessing or a curse, not something to learn from. Challenging a person’s mentality is threatening to a person’s superiority. Because of that, it takes a lot to break a person out of a mold of entitlement. In my case, shutting down my business as an app developer and almost having my back destroyed by sciatica made me a much more humble man (not bragging, just describing it as I see it. I may be wrong though).
“But Aaron, I’m not entitled at all!”
Nice try. This is why pride comes before the fall. Pride and entitlement are the same thing. I’m entitled. You’re entitled. Your kid is entitled. Your sweet old grandma if she’s still alive is entitled. All human beings are entitled. Now that I’ve exposed a source of today’s entitlement earlier in the article, the question is not if we are entitled or how we become entitled. We should be asking what we feel we are entitled to, and who we feel owes us said entitlements. Once we find out that some of these things aren’t such a big deal, we start to become a bit more humble when asking the questions often.
“So, Aaron, how do I become a more humble ‘not so special’ person?”
I’m honestly no expert at this. All I know is that to stay away from the attitude of feeling “special” or entitled, you have to continue to change your mindset and improve as a person. Think before speaking. Ask questions instead of constantly pushing your own viewpoint. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love God if you’re a Christian. Don’t be a dick.
I had to learn to stop playing the victim all the time. Playing the victim is also a form of entitlement because it’s a subtle art of getting people to pay attention to you and cater to your needs. In a way, it’s entitlement in disguise. Once you admit there’s something in your life which is in your control that needs to be changed, you’re on your way to becoming a better person. That doesn’t mean don’t call for help or ask for assistance.
“So if I’m not special, what’s the point?”
The problem with entitlement that has spread through our culture since the 90s is that it’s acceptable to think we can all do something awesome with our lives and become the next superstar with the spotlight, smoke, biography, and movie about our lives all at the same time. Everyone says it. Political figures, talk show hosts, businessmen, even actors on commercials in the ads we’re bombarded with everyday say we can become “extra-ordinary.” The problem is that if we all become “extra-ordinary,” then by definition, no one becomes “extra-ordinary.” This is the meaning behind the statement, “I’m unique…just like everyone else.” Unfortunately, the new adjective for a loser is “average.” Hey, at least by being there, you’ll get some attention right? I’m mean, again, it sounds appealing to be a depressed and lonely victim at the bottom. Isn’t that right, Charlie Brown?
I believe that the average person who just takes whatever life gives them and makes the best of that life will actually live out a meaningful existence. Life has its highs and its boring routines. Even just writing this kind of thing makes me uncomfortable. But actually digesting this knowledge is very good for your soul. It will help you to achieve realistic goals in your life as well as give you a great self-esteem. Knowing this will help you avoid judging people or raising your expectations of others too high. It will keep you from getting hurt or feeling worthless when your family makes fun of you or chastises you because they don’t approve of how much money you make or the hobbies you have that make you the family’s black sheep.
The point of knowing you’re not “that kind of special” is that it will help you find meaning as you help change other people’s lives or even tell them about what Jesus has done in your life. It will help you enjoy a close friendship, a healthy marriage, and may help you be thankful for living in the place you’re in right now. It will also deepen your relationship with God because you will know how “special” He is compared to how finite you actually are. I know it sounds kind of counter-intuitive just being another boy or girl with a red shirt. But that’s life. Life is mundane and it may not be the kind of “special” you want, but that in itself is what makes life worth living.
I know for some people this may be a hard post to read, but I guarantee if you think on it and question how it relates to your own life after reading it, you’ll see life a lot more differently than you do right now, especially if you feel special and that the world owes you something.