The Narcissistic Sense of Entitlement

If there's one personality who perceives that they have more rights than others, it's the narcissist. Indeed, they assume that they deserve special treatment and more recognition and concessions than the rest. Do you know someone like this?
The Narcissistic Sense of Entitlement
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

The narcissistic sense of entitlement defines those people who, due to their irrational sense of superiority, believe they deserve special treatment. They’re exploiters, manipulators, and attention traffickers. They want everything for themselves. In fact, they think that everything belongs to them by divine right. Furthermore, they don’t skimp on ingenuity and perform the most perverse acts to obtain these benefits.

Many figures in society today possess the totally distorted expectation that the purpose of the world around them is to meet their expectations. For example, children often grow up with narcissistic mothers or fathers. In these cases, they’re obliged to orbit around their parents, fulfilling their orders and desires.

These people behave as if they rule the world. In fact, their self-perception can seem almost comical. However, on the serious side, they need to manipulate others to satisfy their objectives.

couple arguing because one of them shows a sense of entitlement narcissistic
A person with a sense of entitlement has a vision of the world in which only they’re the protagonist.

Narcissistic entitlement: “Because I’m worth it”

The sense of entitlement isn’t only evident in the narcissistic personality, it also makes an appearance in antisocial personality disorder. This construct defines a trait by which an individual assumes that they deserve special treatment and that the world owes them something by right, simply because of who they are.

Naturally, we all deserve respect, appreciation, consideration, etc. However, there are those who live in a kind of bubble in which they feel no empathy and feed exclusively on their sense of superiority. As a matter of fact, if you think about it, the “because I’m worth it” attitude is generally far too frequent in life today.

As a rule, whenever you encounter these behaviors in others, you perceive them to be selfish, pathetic, and highly immature. Indeed, the fact that someone makes a series of demands on you just because they think they’re some kind of god, you view as childish. However, the sense of narcissistic entitlement is present in many affective and family relationships. In these cases, the mental cost is immense.

When a narcissist doesn’t see their sense of entitlement as being satisfied, they may suffer a breakdown, react with anger and contempt, or have a childish tantrum.

The psychological components of those who believe they deserve everything

The concept of narcissistic entitlement has attracted the attention of experts for years. They try to differentiate the positive self-perception that we can have of ourselves as a result of our own efforts, successes, and competencies, from the other purely selfish and manipulative kind.

Sometimes, it’s acceptable to feel a certain sense of satisfaction for everything you’ve achieved, without it having to lead to the submission of others. This is what psychologists, Robert Ackerman and Brent Donnellan investigated.

They published a paper in which they presented the Psychological Entitlement Scale (PES) to measure how much people score on this construct. They concluded that this dimension is usually defined by a series of specific characteristics:

  • Perception that they deserve special treatment.
  • Feeling that they deserve more than they have.
  • Using their social position, beauty, money, or position in a company as an excuse to demand from others a series of illogical and, above all, illegal obligations.
  • Feeling that their rights and needs are more important than those of others.
  • Lack of appreciation for anything they possess.
  • Lack of tolerance toward others who don’t offer them what they need. In fact, when they don’t get what they want they tend to collapse.

Why do they act this way?

There are several different types of narcissism. For instance, there are the vulnerable narcissists – with low levels of self-esteem – and grandiose narcissists – with inflated self-esteem. Both typologies need to receive special treatment and expect the world to instantly meet their expectations. If this doesn’t happen, they collapse or explode in a fit of rage.

Narcissistic entitlement is at the heart of this personality disorder, which usually has its origins in childhood. Research published in the journal, PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) supports various hypotheses along these lines.

  • Social learning theory states that children develop a view of themselves based on how their parents treat them. A lack of boundaries and overvalued attention would be clear triggers.
  • The psychoanalytic theory places attention on another aspect. It’s the fact that there are children who grow up without any attention, reinforcement, or affection from their parents. This makes them reach maturity with notable shortcomings. In effect, they yearn for all the attention they didn’t receive in childhood.
Man with crown evidencing narcissistic sense of entitlement
Many people exercise a sense of entitlement by justifying it with their social position or money.

The narcissistic sense of entitlement beyond narcissism

We must stress that a sense of entitlement doesn’t only appear in narcissistic people. After all, narcissistic personality disorder affects only five percent of the population. Nevertheless, there are many men and women who have a far reduced vision of the world in which everything seems to revolve around them.

They’re figures who consider themselves to be superior to others and who show a cold, defensive, inconsiderate attitude, completely lacking in empathy. You probably find yourself frequently having to deal with this kind of behavior. However, you must always avoid giving in to them, as they completely break the codes of civility, respect, and coexistence.

Remember, we’re all equally valuable and no one is more special than the rest.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Ackerman, R. A., & Donnellan, M. B. (2013). Evaluating self-report measures of narcissistic entitlement. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 35, 460-474. doi: 10.1007/s10862-013-9352-7
  • Campbell, W. K., Bonacci, A. M., Shelton, J., Exline, J. J., & Bushman, B. J. (2004). Psychological entitlement: Interpersonal consequences and validation of a new self-report measure. Journal of Personality Assessment, 83, 29-45.
  • Exline, J. J., Baumeister, R. F., Bushman, B. J., Campbell, W. K., & Finkel, E. J. (2004). Too proud to back down: Narcissistic entitlement as a barrier to forgiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87,894-912.
  • Day, N.J.S., Townsend, M.L. & Grenyer, B.F.S. Living with pathological narcissism: a qualitative study. bord personal disord emot dysregul 7, 19 (2020).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.