What Is an Entitlement Mentality?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 25, 2021
3 min read

We’ve all met people who have a sense of entitlement. Maybe it’s that person who tried to cut in front of you at the coffee shop. Perhaps it was someone who demanded to be seated before you at a busy restaurant without a reservation. 

Simply put, people with a sense of entitlement think the rules don’t apply to them

You owe me. The entitlement mentality is defined as a sense of deservingness or being owed a favor when little or nothing has been done to deserve special treatment. It’s the “you owe me” attitude. 

Entitlement is a narcissistic personality trait. It’s not known exactly how this mentality develops. It may be due to social factors like: 

  • The environment you grew up in 
  • The way your parents treated you 
  • Whether adults solved your problems for you
  • How you are treated by authority figures 

The environment you’re raised in can affect how you see the world and what you expect from other people. It can even affect personal and professional relationships. 

People with an entitlement mentality often see themselves as superior to others. It’s no surprise that this way of thinking affects interpersonal relationships. 

Long-term damage. When you believe you’re entitled to better treatment than others or that the rules don’t apply to you, you’re more likely to suffer in the long term. Given that you simply believe you aren’t getting what you’re owed, an entitlement mentality can result in:

  • Conflict in relationships
  • Unhappiness 
  • Disappointment 
  • Depression

Your career may suffer, too. Entitled people often interview well and can land leadership roles because of their confidence. However, they often lack team spirit and avoid problem-solving in the workplace. Most of the decisions an entitled person makes are self-serving. This can quickly become apparent to their co-workers. 

Feeling entitled to something and the disappointment that follows when you don’t get what you want can reinforce entitled behavior. This typically follows a vicious 3-step cycle:

  • When you’re entitled, you’re always vulnerable to the threat of unmet expectations. 
  • When your expectations aren’t met, it can lead to dissatisfaction and other emotions like anger and a sense of being cheated. 
  • When you’re distressed, you try to fix the situation and console yourself. This results in self-reassurance that you deserve everything you've ever wanted, which reinforces the same entitled behavior.  

If you find you have a sense of entitlement, there are ways to change your mindset. Practicing gratitude and humility can help you become more responsible and considerate. If you’re trying to overcome an entitlement mentality, start with the following tips. 

The golden rule. Practice treating others as you would like to be treated. Regardless of social status, we are all human.

Recognize that not all situations are unfair. If you’re in a situation you think is unfair, pause for a minute and think about the greater good. Is it right that because you’re paying tuition you must get a good grade? Consider how the world would look if no one else had to work for their grades. 

Respect. Use respect and kindness when interacting with others. Everyone is a human being with feelings and struggles of their own. Go easy on others. Be sympathetic to their needs. 

Learn from your mistakes. Treat failure as a learning tool. Failing isn’t the end of the world. Mistakes that were made can be corrected next time. Never stop learning, and look for value in failure.