We live in an “entitled” society. Gone are the days of working for what you have. Earning a reward seems to be a foreign concept in a world where people don’t seem to understand the word “no.”

Perhaps as a reaction to a generation struggling with low self-esteem, educators wrestled with a way to build up a group of kids that seemed determined to find only the negative in themselves. As often happens with well-intended efforts, the attempt to create an environment where no one felt singled out, unwanted, or incompetent ended up swinging too far to the right. Instead, we ended up with children and teenagers who now felt they had the power to do and to be anything. While empowerment is important for all people, the bottom line is that, unfortunately; no, you cannot be anything that you want to be.

No, You Can’t Be Anything You Want to Be

We were all created with unique talents and skill sets for a reason. Not everyone has the tenacity and grace under pressure to be a doctor. This makes them no less important than someone who wants to be a housewife and mother, a hairstylist, or a plumber. All jobs are equal, valuable, and needed for society to function at its highest level. But the reality is, no, you cannot be anything you want to be. You have limitations. We all do.

It’s a fine line encouraging a generation to strive to reach their potential without crushing their spirit. Sometimes our ambitions lie further than our talents. Is it kinder to allow someone to believe they can become something when they lack what it takes to succeed? The unfortunate truth is if we allow someone to pursue a dream they lack the competence to achieve, life will teach them a far crueler lesson in the end. Are we doing any favors to a young generation trying to find their way in this world?

The world can be as unforgiving as a tomb. No one passes you a trophy for getting out of bed or showing up to work on time. Accolades are hard fought for and earned. Though our methods of raising up children to be productive members of society may have changed, the working world has not. It is still merit and ability-based. If these lessons are not learned in the elementary and high school years, when will they be learned? Will the fact that they are delayed until the stakes are much higher be far more painful in the end?

No, there isn’t a trophy just for showing up. By removing standard benchmarks through which to measure progress and achievement, we inadvertently create a generation of children who lack the solid educational foundation to learn and thrive. We value their feelings above their learning. It is a fatal error that has led to epidemic increases in illiteracy. Students graduate from school due to a system that pushes them through regardless of academic progress and find that they are not equipped to work any job let alone function independently in society. Many lack even the most basic of skills.

But more than that, our current educational system leads children to believe that no matter how large or small their efforts may be that they will all receive the same reward. In the end, this results in a generation of young people who feel that life owes them something, and they don’t need to do a blessed thing to deserve it. By virtue of being alive, society is now in their debt. Cultivating this attitude in our young people does them a great disservice. Life is not going to hand them a trophy for doing what is essentially their duty. There is no reward for doing what is expected of you. Prizes come when you exceed expectations; meeting them is required not rewarded. 

5 Common Problems

A sense of entitlement creates a host of problems that once established are almost impossible to eradicate. Among the issues we see today are:

It’s all about me.
While a system based on merit can cause some children to feel as though they are living in a hierarchy, removing this type of standard measurement encourages a sense of dark individuality known as narcissism. People become insular, believing that their needs are more important than the needs of others, and social graces begin to degenerate. It is the death of courtesy as every person battles for his self-proclaimed rightful space as the heir to all they desire. 

I own it all.
People who feel entitled lack respect for the things of others. They seem to have no sense of what things cost or what their responsibility is if they take or ruin something that belongs to someone else. Worst of all, sometimes they seem to feel no guilt when their inconsiderateness inconveniences a friend, loved one, or fellow student.

I am special.
The truth is every person is special. Every person is loved and is unique. But no one is more special than anyone else. The problem comes when people compare themselves to others and appoint themselves to a superior position. Instead of being satisfied with being equal, people seek to be in an elite category that is all their own. This is faulty thinking, and it is both condescending and dangerous.

It’s never my fault.
A sense of entitlement leaves people thinking that they are never at fault for anything. If something goes wrong, the blame clearly lies with the other person, and an apology is unthinkable. This type of behavior leads to broken relationships and an inability to truly connect with other people. The end result is a sad, lonely existence as interpersonal skills are stunted and eventually simply wither and die.

I am a victim.
Lack of accountability is a great problem in society today. Instead of accepting their own part in the issues people face, it become easier to simply say that things happened TO them that were beyond their control. It removes them from the position of architects of their own demise. It is much more an attractive role to play the victim than to admit they are suffering the consequences of their own foolish decisions.

No, you do not get a trophy just for showing up. But there is great reward in a hard day’s work. Today’s educational system is broken and in need of reform to help our children reach their greatest potential. We cannot fix the world, but we can play a role in seeing change by investing the right things into our own children and the children we know and love. Working with one child at a time, you can play a part in influencing the next generation for good.

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