And since in the previous post we talked about forced happiness as an advertising resource and a social paradigm, let’s approach here another issue –not less controversial. The culture of false deservingness.
I walk along the street and I see a huge sign of a beverage claiming: <<the taste you deserve>>. Then I open the newspaper and I read this big ad on mattresses: <<get the rest you deserve>>. And so my mind starts to relate all those messages which apparently remain hidden but in fact consolidate a concrete pattern in our way of thinking. Certain political propaganda: <<the change you deserve>>. A department store announcing their new clothes collection: <<Pamper yourself. You deserve it>>. A brand new apartment building: <<the luxury you deserve>>…
I imagine the comic strips of Quino, and his Mafalda suddenly screaming… Stop it! Do I really deserve so many things? If so, why can’t I have them all at once right now?
That’s exactly the problem. And, again, it is not limited to advertising. There is a whole culture of false deservingness in which easy access to pleasures and goods (and even worse: to achievements and rewards as well) is unrestrictedly promoted. As though we had done the necessary and right things to get them. The truth is sometimes I feel pretty uncomfortable to realize motivational speakers and self-help authors restlessly brainwash people’s heads about: <<harvest the success you deserve>>. Does really everybody deserve ‘success’?
Because one thing –certainly irrefutable- is to defend human integrity, people’s rights and their worth. And to hold the idea that all of us deserve respect, equal opportunities and experiences such as happiness and freedom -just to name some. Indeed. But it is a very different thing to arbitrarily assume that we are deserving of things for which we have made no effort at all.
I was fascinated by a piece of writing by Alejandro Dolina I once received via email. It read something like this:
In the recent years many institutes have come up, which teach things at full speed: “….complete high school in only 6 months, become graduate in 3 weeks, get PhD in 10 minutes…..”
I don’t trust that. I have spent 7 years of my life in primary school, 5 in high school and 4 in college. And I believe no genius can cover in a little while the road I walked for decades.
Why do these rushes blossom? Maybe due to people’s craving for immediate reward. Nobody likes to wait. Everybody wants to harvest, even without having seeded. Anything that allows us to receive a lot by giving little is becoming successful.
All of us must have met a remarkably large number of individuals who would love to be engineers, but can’t stand trigonometric functions. Or who would die for playing guitar, but are not willing to invest a single second in sol-fa. Or who would have loved to read Dostoievsky and, however, find his books too long.
What these individuals want, in fact, is to enjoy the benefits of each activity without paying anything in return.
I don’t like it. I don’t like having this eagerness fostered: obtaining plenty by giving little. Everything has its cost, and he who is not willing to face it is scrounging on life.
I couldn’t agree more with Dolina. Believing that one deserves something for which one has gone through no pains at all is more than simple anxiety. Even more than being prone to minimum effort. It is a matter of arrogance. And ungrounded arrogance is a pretty ugly feature in anybody’s character.
But, then, what is it <<to deserve>>? Is it a social or a personal criterion? Is it an idea or a feeling? If we do not believe ourselves to be deserving, we truly won’t ‘feel’ the experience. Let’s think of a real achievement that took us plenty of sweat (and maybe even tears and blood). It is only once we reached it that we’ll feel deserving. That’s because deep inside we carry a certainty.
To feel deserving is an emotional experience, for sure, related to expectations, pleasure and reward. But it could not exist if it wasn’t for an inner deservingness model of reality. I mean, ‘beliefs of deservingness’. It is undeniable that we are sociable stimulated by criteria that condition us on what to deserve or not. But there must also be an inner component within each one of us to allow such immersion. That component consists on the inscription of a model about how exterior reality relates to us.
Individual beliefs of deservingness are the opposite of the beliefs of personal abilities. The latter show that our mind makes inferences and generalizations for building a full range of personal attributes and doable actions. It is a matter of how we relate with the world; of our performance towards it. Inside out. On the contrary, beliefs of deservingness are the result of our mind making inferences and generalizations ‘from the world towards us’. From the outside in: the opposite vector. As a result of what happens to us since we are kids, we keep making explanatory attributions that build the model of how the world relates to us. What is awaiting in fate? What can we expect from the future? These expectations are supported on such beliefs.
No belief, of course, is exempt from emotional contents. As a consequence, it is healthy to expect the world to have the capacity of provide us with good outcomes. But as any belief, it may get distorted. It is in this case that the emotional content ends up being abusive and arrogant. Expecting everything in exchange of contributing with nothing… is a misconception of reality which sooner or later will lead us to conflict: either internal frustration or bad interaction with people.
Understanding deservingness from the angle of the beliefs that support it may help us modify this false culture.
Might this be the post that you finally deserved?