The Man in the Mirror

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Does the image reflect positive or negative energy? Is how you see yourself helping you to achieve your goals or acting as the biggest barrier?

Though motivation and discipline are key factors to overcoming entitlement thinking, they won’t guarantee success without the right self-image. Dr. John Townsend contends that the same attributes that give us a positive self-image can be the same attributes that lead to failure.

For example, we need to have high self-esteem and personal confidence for a positive self-image. But if we are overconfident we might not be truly honest with ourselves about our weaknesses. If we can’t identify our weaknesses, then we can never turn them into strengths.

If someone is habitually late for appointments, this reflects a personal belief that I am exempt from responsibility and I am owed special treatment, the definition of entitlement according to Dr. Townsend. The person may justify the behavior by adopting views such as: I do more than everyone else, so people should expect me to be late. I am an executive, so my schedule takes priority over people who report to me. I can’t help that there’s always heavy traffic or an accident or construction work on the highway.

Realistically, someone can never improve what they don’t see as a problem. Until someone can openly admit how their behavior impacts someone else, there is no need for change. This includes what would be considered positive behavior, too. In contrast to habitual tardiness, helping and serving others is a positive behavior. However, it can quickly turn to a negative trait if someone is not setting healthy boundaries to the point of becoming resentful or burning out.

Sometimes we really cannot “see” ourselves when we look in the mirror. A helpful exercise is provided in The Entitlement Cure–Finding Success In Doing Hard Things The Right Way. Create a list with four categories: True Positives, True Negatives, False Positives, False Negatives. A true positive may be “quick to forgive.” A true negative may be “procrastinates.” A false positive is “I think I should be first in line sometimes.” A false negative is “I think everyone believes I’m a failure if I make a mistake.” Notice that truths are reality, whether they are “good” or “bad.” Anything “false” is a perception–a thought that may or may not be based on reality. The idea here is to separate where we need to change thoughts and where we need to change behaviors.

Because we need to differentiate perception from reality, we need to have a team of two to three people we can trust to review our list. These friends should be able to provide honest feedback. This means not over inflating the positives and discounting the negatives. It also means not using the list to cut a person down and find fault. If this occurs, the advice is to tell the confidant, “I am in the course of self-improvement and growth. The only way I can be the person I need to be is to have good friends who will be honest about my failings and help me improve. I’m not fragile.”

Once self-image is addressed, the next step to shed entitlement mentality is responsibility. There is an important distinction between deserving and being responsible. The next blog in this series addresses this distinction.

©, May 9, 2018


J. Townsend, The Entitlement Cure Finding Success In Doing Hard Things The Right Way, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015. pp. 127-136.

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