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The Deserving Continuum
You sit down at a table in a restaurant and the first thing you see is dried food on the knife at your place-setting. Do you ask for a new one? Do you throw a fit and storm out of the restaurant vowing to write a lousy review of the place on Yelp? Or do you look on the menu for something to order that won’t require a knife to eat?
What if you are on a gluten-free diet and can’t find anything suitable on the menu? Do you order something anyway and just hope you won’t suffer negative consequences? Do you start writing your review for Yelp while others order and you fume? Or do you ask the server if it is possible to modify something on the menu to fit your dietary needs?
Do you feel you deserve to be treated well? I believe most of us would answer this question with a fairly automatic, if not emphatic, Yes! So why then do we eat a meal that doesn’t require a knife just so we will not have to ask for a clean one? Why do we risk allergic reactions to avoid making a specific request? This example is “just” about a meal in a restaurant but it applies more globally to how we navigate our daily interactions with ourselves and with others.
Why do we allow people to treat us poorly? Why do we treat ourselves poorly? Perhaps it is a theory vs. practice issue. In theory, we may assert our right to a clean knife or to others being kind toward us. In practice, it may be a whole lot harder to advocate for this. In theory, it’s “of course, I deserve to celebrate an accomplishment.” In practice, it’s “oh, that would be way too boastful,” or “my peers will think I’m egotistical.” I have actually seen people squirm when encouraged to spend a moment to celebrate a small victory or a large salary increase.
People-pleasing is most definitely a culprit. Back to our restaurant example, you might be reluctant to pursue a clean knife or a suitable menu choice out of concern for what the wait-staff or your fellow diners will think about you. It gets even more complicated if this meal is a work-related event. You may not want a co-worker or boss to perceive you as picky or sickly. It is not entirely far-fetched to be concerned about how this display of deserving might influence how you are regarded in the workplace. Likewise, the reluctance to celebrate an accomplishment may be driven by extreme discomfort with drawing attention to yourself: what if it makes others less enamored with you? If they have previously valued your humility, oh my, how dare you have a moment in the sun?
If a solid sense of deserving is at the mid-point on a continuum with obnoxious entitlement at one end, and deprivation on the other, your path to greater joy may be accomplished by moving beyond the theory of deserving into practice! You deserve it!