How often have you uttered the words “I don’t deserve to be treated like this!”? Or “I deserve this holiday/bar of chocolate/night out!”? Or even “Why’s this happening to me…I’ve done nothing to deserve it!”? If it sounds familiar, it’s probably because we very often think it, if not say it, from time to time too.
So all this deserving that’s going on in your life – does it make you happy? “I’ve been good all day, I deserve this chocolate bar this evening”. “I’ve worked hard on this project, I deserve to go out and celebrate with my colleagues”. “I’ve had a difficult year, I deserve a bit of luck”. Do you notice any kind of pattern in these common statements we make?
The Problem with Deserving
You’ve probably already run through a few examples of your own in your head by now. Do they sound similar to the ones above? Do you notice something that’s common to all of them? They all involve some kind of negotiation.
If you do/say this, then you get that. Classic negotiation formula. It’s also a common parenting technique to get kids to do what you want them to do. Be nice and then you’ll get rewarded. Behave yourself and then you’ll be rewarded. Work hard and you’ll get what you deserve. The rewards might have been sweets, extra TV time, staying up later before bed, a trip to the toy store, or any other “bribe”. But notice how the balance of power sits on the “then” side. It has to be sufficiently enticing to get the other person to do what you want. And the interesting things is that deserving rewards will bring happiness for only a short period of time.
A further problem with deserving rewards is that it can breed a sense of entitlement too. For a “peaceful” life, parents can employ a tactic of giving in to every little want and need their kids express. When they do this, they are likely feeding and nurturing a sense of false entitlement without knowing or realising it —which can lead to problems later on.
Children can also get a false sense of entitlement by being overly praised for things, and rewarded for tasks that they should be doing as a matter of course – like household chores. While there’s nothing wrong with rewarding achievement and excellence, it becomes a problem when mediocre efforts are rewarded. And if this is done often enough when we are children, it will follow us into adulthood and begin to potentially trip us up. The problem with entitlement and rewards in adulthood is that alongside it can come anger, impatience, cynicism, resentment, ingratitude, disappointment, and criticism when we don’t get want we want. And these don’t make for helpful behaviours in the workplace or in our relationships.
So What’s the Alternative?
Fortunately, there is an alternative option. Rather than deserving something and entering into some kind of negotiation that may be loaded with post-treat regret, hangovers, self-loathing from overindulging in that chocolate supply, you can find yourself worthy of that reward.
The difference is subtle, but it’s there. To believe we are worthy of something means that it is connected to our self-worth. One of our biggest fears in life is being unworthy of love. We may feel like we deserve love because of all the things we do for others, but being worthy of love is an entirely different story.
To be worthy, we have to believe that we are enough – just as we are. And to believe that we are enough, we need to be connected to something bigger than ourselves, to a level of spirituality that has us have faith in ourselves for who we are and what we do, regardless of what others think and feel about us.
And if we rewarded ourselves from a place of worthiness, our rewards would probably look quite different. Instead of that chocolate bar at the end of a long day, it might be a bubble bath. Rather than a night out drinking, it might be savouring a delicious meal with someone important to us. In place of hoping for some luck, it would be a recognition that hard work will breed success and that the corner you have to get around is within your reach. They are wholesome rewards. Not ones that you will regret within moments, or hours of them happening.
So when you reward yourself, will you do it from a place of deserving or worthiness?
While researching/writing this, I noticed that I reward myself more from a place of deserving rather than from worthiness. So then I got curious. Having been bullied pretty much all the way through school, I wonder whether the if/then negotiation is an implicit one from those days. If I did nothing to attract the attention of the bullies, I’d then not suffer from their harsh words and actions. And I chose to suffer in silence. I didn’t tell my parents what was happening. But I did turn to consoling myself with chocolate and other treats I could “steal” out of the kitchen cupboards – probably being “rewarded” by the sugar high! I ate my vulnerability away. And these days, whenever I feel vulnerable, I turn to chocolate, haribo, and any other kind of sweet treat I can get my hands on. My goodness – lightbulb moment!
Over the last few years of reading and spending more time with and around coaches, I’m on my journey to recognising my own worthiness. And it is a journey. Apparently, due to my own revelations while writing this, I now need to work on finding new rewards that don’t lead to an expanding waistline or a disappointment on the scales! We all have stuff to work on, even coaches.
So what “ah ha” moments have you had while reading this? How do you reward yourself? When do you reward yourself? Are you stuck trying to find a new way that works better for you than what you do today? If you are looking to change some of your habits, contact me to see how I can help you move forward.