Entitlement: The Narcissist’s Toxicity Permit

The word “entitled” can mean simply having permission or approval. In one sense, entitlement can be sensible and fair, for example, where disabled people are entitled to a disabled car parking space. The word entitled can also mean “privileged”, for example, where first class ticket-holders are entitled to use a VIP lounge. Where the former is more a civil right that brings equal opportunities, the latter is more a perk that wouldn’t be considered a human right, but is still within the rules of both the law and what is considered acceptable behaviour. So, entitlement is generally acceptable if the entitled person has a formal pass, ticket or certificate (whether that be a parking permit or a first class ticket) or where they hold an official position of authority, such as a parent, teacher, boss, or police officer (and, of course, that authority is applied appropriately). We can all agree a parent is entitled to discipline her child, a teacher is entitled to instruct his pupil, a boss is entitled to give constructive criticism to her employee, and a police officer is entitled to stop someone for questioning. However, there is a line somewhere that, if crossed, entitlement becomes inappropriate, misplaced and unfair.

For the narcissist, the sense of entitlement is without limit; they do not believe they ever “cross a line” because they have no line. They apply the opposite rights, however, to other people, to whom they not only prescribe a very strict line they should never cross, but one with a much-reduced margin of error. And this error margin can be extended or restricted whenever the narcissist feels entitled to do so, creating confusion in, and reinforcing control over, the victim.

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The narcissistic sense of entitlement exerts its influence across the narcissist’s entire way of being. When entitlement forms part of the very foundation of the narcissist’s core identity, not only do they never question the rights and wrongs of their behaviour, but it plays a major part in everything they think, say and do. (Of course, narcissists can be male or female but, for the purpose of easy-reading and consistency, I shall use “he” in this article).

Examples of Narcissistic Entitlement

  1. Entitlement of special treatment – The entitled narcissist believes he is more important than everyone else, so deserves to be prioritised at all times. He goes about life expecting first-class service, the entitlement usually not becoming apparent however until he does not receive the VIP treatment to which he believes he is so entitled. Not being seen first and having to wait in line, not getting the best table in a restaurant, not being given a discount and having to pay full price or not receiving the best possible customer service will initiate irritation, offence, resentment and anger in the narcissist, who genuinely believes he is hard done-by and has every reason to complain. The more subtle ways a narcissist shows entitlement of special treatment often manifest in more childish behaviours; the narcissist may:
    • often expect small favours to be granted to him without complaint and with much eagerness and enthusiasm from the grantor, but display huffiness when asked to repay them,
    • lose patience and get bored easily when having to wait for any length of time,
    • get irritated at having to repeat himself if not heard the first time, every time,
    • expect people to share things with him, but become resentful when expected to share with others,
    • become irritated when he doesn’t get his own way.
  2. Entitlement of people’s attention – Narcissists have a high level of self-importance and self-centredness, so they believe that the focus should be on them and that whatever they have to say should always be prioritised over others. They feel entitled to people’s undivided attention whenever they have anything to say, they get irritated when they are not heard, and they get offended when they are not listened to. The entitled narcissist will often, therefore,
    • talk a lot (as long as they’re talking, they have people’s attention),
    • interrupt and talk over people, often cutting people off, finishing their sentences and raising their voice to be heard over others,
    • talk about themselves in lengthy and often irrelevant detail and repeatedly bring the topic of conversation back to them,
    • never ask people questions or show interest in them – conversations are usually one-sided,
    • give detailed explanations or step-by-step instructions, even when not asked for assistance,
    • not care (or be unable to tell) when the listener is bored, tired or disinterested – the narcissist believes everything he has to say is interesting,
    • expect to be listened to intently and heard first time, and become irritated when they have to repeat themselves (they may over-enunciate their repetition in a patronising manner – we shall look at “gas-lighting” in another post!),
    • expect immediate and responsive action from others when requested – if he calls on you, he expects you to immediately come to him, not for him to come to you.
  3. Entitlement of perfection – An entitled narcissist has no tolerance for differences in other people, especially when it comes to opinions, standards and behaviours. They believe they are flawless and view themselves as role models to which other people should aspire. They therefore treat other people as extensions of themselves, expecting other people to learn from, adapt to and become like them. This is why narcissists often argue with other people’s opinions, openly judge and criticise everyone and everything, and correct the behaviour of others, even when they’re doing nothing “wrong”. Narcissists not only see perfection in themselves and demand this same perfection in others, but they also feel entitled to perfection from life itself. Instead of going with the flow of life’s inevitable ups and downs, entitled narcissists have absolutely no capacity for things going wrong, right down to trivial life dilemmas, such as traffic jams, intermittent WiFi and spilling a drink. They fail to notice the good things and focus on the bad, with the often victimised belief that the “world is out to get them”. What are some examples of a narcissist’s entitlement of perfection? A narcissist may:
    • consider other people’s opinions as nothing other than completely incorrect and see them as a direct challenge of their own “correctness” (this initiates their urge to argue their point, which they usually do with a relentless intensity),
    • have zero tolerance for the flaws, weaknesses and mistakes that are an inevitable part of being human – they view themselves as perfect and quickly become irritated by even occasional forgetfulness, inexperience, or lack of knowledge in others,
    • often have double standards or be hypocritical – narcissists often point out mistakes and imperfections in others that they in fact make or possess themselves (we shall look at “projection” in another post!),
    • can’t resist correcting others, demonstrating “better” ways of doing things, instructing, lecturing or explaining – narcissists view themselves (and want others to view them) as all-knowing experts on everything. Even when they don’t know something they may pretend they do in order to maintain their façade of “perfection”,
    • have childish expectations of life in general. Entitled narcissists get frustrated whenever things don’t go smoothly and continually work out. They will often catastrophise trivial incidents with irrational, over-the-top rage and take no responsibility for creating the incident (e.g. flying into a rage because he cracked his phone screen, took a wrong turn, or illegally parked his car and got a fine).
  4. Entitlement of zero censorship – While freedom of speech is considered a human right, it is generally accepted that expressions of hate speech, incitement, prejudice, obscenities, etc. are offensive and unjust. Some of these boundaries to freedom of speech are sanctioned by laws, while others are commonly applied by most people to the general interactions and communications of life. Most of us have a general understanding of appropriate boundaries when it comes to expressing our opinions and beliefs; we learn diplomacy, use our discretion, think before we speak and know when we’ve caused offence. Because narcissists believe they are all-knowing and always correct, they do not recognise any need to consider censoring anything they say. They believe they have the right to express any of their opinions or beliefs without any regard whatsoever to the offence it may cause to other people (we shall look at “lack of empathy” in another post!). This entitlement to a lack of censorship, coupled with being extremely judgemental and opinionated, often results in a narcissist being perpetually offensive. He may:
    • swear frequently, using particularly vile and offensive language,
    • regularly and openly express very prejudiced opinions and beliefs about groups to which he is not related – this may take the form of crude jokes, offensive insults and discriminatory remarks directed at a different gender, race, religion, ethnicity, nationality or age,
    • express himself with excessive and extreme emotions, which are often irrational and disproportionate to the situation, and without any regard as to how his behaviour might affect those around him – for example, he may become very angry and aggressive with road rage and not consider how his behaviour causes stress and fear in his passengers. He feels entitled to express himself in any way he chooses and believes the people around him should tolerate and accept him without complaint,
    • refuse to apologise for, or retract, remarks that cause offence and instead continue to repeat behaviours other people have previously requested he curtail – the entitled narcissist feels he has the right to rebel against the rules of free speech, which don’t apply to him.

Narcissistic entitlement is actually a very immature and childish trait. Children and teenagers are naturally self-centred and are focussed on their own needs being met, but the normal development of a child involves the learned understanding that life actually isn’t all about them. A normal-functioning adult understands and accepts the concept of fairness and feels empathy towards other people’s suffering. He is aware of a line that can be crossed when it comes to entitlement and he monitors his behaviour appropriately within that line. It is thought that children who are spoilt by entitled parents who do not teach the child to develop empathy and who reinforce self-centredness over a healthy self-esteem, never learn this important boundary.

References

Johnson, B.D., Ph.D. & Berdahl, L. M.D. 2017. Childhood Roots of Narcissistic Personality Disorder [online]. Available from URL: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/warning-signs-parents/201701/childhood-roots-narcissistic-personality-disorder [last accessed 08/02/2021].

Sapadin, L., PhD. 2012. Endlessly Entitled Narcissists: What to Look For [online]. Available from URL: https://psychcentral.com/blog/endlessly-entitled-narcissists-what-to-look-for#1 [last accessed 07/02/2021].

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013. Pages 669-672.

Barr, C. T., Kerig, P. K., Stellwagen, K. K. & Barry, T. D. (Eds.). (2011). Narcissism and Machiavellianism in Youth: Implications for the Development of Adaptive and Maladaptive Behavior. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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