My eyes closed, sitting quietly in a meditative position surrounded by people, listening to the soft gentle music playing, I realized how entitled I had been feeling towards the people I would have least expected: my parents.
It was six weeks ago, while at an ecstatic dance retreat in rural Portugal, that my relationship and attitude towards my parents shifted in a profound way. I had waited this long to share my reflection on it, as I was curious to see if it would stick. And it has.
With years of therapy and mindfulness practices, it is often highlighted how my childhood experiences and traumas have shaped me as an adult.
There are no doubt qualities and traits that I do not appreciate or like about myself, and it becomes easy to point the finger at my parents. Over time, a sense of entitlement had built up.
The sense of entitlement that I now realize that had been growing towards my parents disappeared in that moment six weeks ago and remains nowhere to be found. The insight that triggered this powerful shift in state was realizing that I only exist because of them. They literally and figuratively created me. And their parents them. With this understanding, I was brought to tears immediately and remain flooded with gratitude for them today. I do not need them to be perfect anymore.
I have recognized two powerful states of mind that can significantly impact my perspective on life: gratitude and entitlement.
These states are like opposites and they shape my experiences, emotions, and responses in whatever context I am in. It is evident to me that both gratitude and entitlement are states of being, not static positions. I can move from one state to the other. Recognizing the signs of each state helps me to make conscious choices of how I wish to be.
To cultivate gratitude, as a habit and skill, some daily practices help anchor me, including journaling, meditation, and expressing gratitude to others. Sharing my feelings of gratitude towards others also has the added benefit of strengthening my relationships.
Starting my day with gratitude sets a positive tone and helps me maintain a grounded mindset throughout the day, limiting any tendency to float into a state of entitlement. As gratitude is nurtured, it creates a barrier against the sense of entitlement, preventing it from taking root and growing. Gratitude allows me to appreciate the present moment and the abundance that already exists, while entitlement focuses on what is lacking or what I believe I deserve.
Entitlement often leads to disappointment and frustration, as it hinges on a self belief that I deserve something different or better than what is in front of me. When I notice feelings of disappointment, that might be a sign of entitlement creeping in. By actively searching for the positive aspects of a situation, I can counteract the negative emotions associated with entitlement and foster a more balanced and positive outlook.
Some examples of this shift from entitlement to gratitude:
At work, one may often feel overlooked for a promotion or under appreciated for their effort. This happens a lot. Approaching the situation from a place of gratitude for the opportunity, people, learning, and growth will signal a positive energy and enthusiasm that will be noticed, whereas from a place of entitlement will generate an us vs them attitude which can easily become counterproductive.
Among friends, one may feel envious of a close friend's success and accomplishments, thinking that they deserve the same. Recognizing this sense of entitlement, practicing gratitude for the friendship and the inspiration it provides can be a positive catalyst for change and a source of motivation. Whereas a sense of entitlement will surely lead to a feeling of discouragement.
Experiencing the shift between a state of entitlement to a state of gratitude continues to be transformative for me.
The beauty of this shift of attitude towards my parents is that my parents had nothing to do with it. They did not change one bit. What changed was my perspective.
It is a delicate dance, within myself, to observe how I naturally feel and at times, take the lead to move into a different state, one that is positive and productive for who and what it is that I value and love.