Why Do Some People Think They Deserve Special Treatment?

Have you ever met a person who believes they deserve to be treated in a special way? It's a common trait. In this article, we explain the reasons behind it.
Why Do Some People Think They Deserve Special Treatment?

Last update: 03 April, 2022

Some people think they deserve special treatment. Not because they’ve been granted any special rights or because they’re any different from everybody else. It’s just the way they are. Arrogant and attention-seeking.

In psychology, this attitude is defined as a sense of entitlement and is a form of irrational behavior. It’s common in childhood. Indeed, many children assume that they deserve preferential treatment due to their situation of vulnerability. That’s because they’re aware that most of the relationships they maintain with adults are asymmetrical.

As a child grows and develops self-sufficiency, this asymmetry is gradually lost. They become autonomous and develop a strong identity which affects the way they relate to others. However, a problem occurs when they, like the three-year-old child continues to believe that they have more rights than any other.

Why does this happen? Let’s take a look.

Siblings arguing representing people who believe they deserve special treatment
Assuming that you’re entitled to something is a healthy (and even necessary) expectation in some cases. However, thinking that you deserve special treatment at all times is threatening and problematic behavior.

Why do some people think they deserve special treatment?

We all have rights. For example, to be respected, to have a job, food, a home, happy relationships, etc. Nevertheless, there are those who perceive themselves as an immense planet in the middle of a lonely galaxy around which everyone else must all rotate. Figures that display this form of perpetual favoritism reveal rather particular psychological characteristics.

Dr. John Gedo is a psychoanalyst and author of books such as Models of the Mind: A Psychoanalytic Theory (1976). He claims that we’re are all programmed to assume that we have more rights than the rest when we’re really young.

Nevertheless, as we grow older, we become aware that others also have needs. Our parents also have the important job of smoothing out that innate childish selfishness and fostering our empathy and openness to others. Nonetheless, there are those who don’t develop this ability; that of assuming that we all equally deserve the same treatment.

Those who feel special don’t follow the rules

Researchers Emily Zitek (Cornell University) and Alexander Jordan (Harvard Medical School) conducted some interesting research in 2017. They discovered that those people who think they deserve special treatment are the ones who tend to defy the norms. In fact, they don’t accept instructions or integrate into many social contexts.

The research claimed that those who believe they have more rights than others see everything as unfair. It’s difficult for them to accept instructions because they perceive themselves as more deserving than others. This is a highly problematic personality pattern at all levels. Indeed, coexistence with them leads to a continual back and forth of conflicts, disagreements, and tensions.

A pathological trait

The fact that these types of people have problems assuming norms suggests that they may be suffering from a personality disorder. In fact, as a rule, those who perceive themselves to have more rights than others and have problems abiding by rules are suffering from antisocial disorders.

Furthermore, these men and women who are self-absorbed and demand preferential treatment are usually on the spectrum of narcissistic disorder. This is suggested by their lack of empathy and the fact that they prioritize their own needs over those of others.

This type of profile is also accompanied by other characteristics:

  • According to them, the world owes them something. It’s almost as if they think they’ve done infinite things for all humanity and the world itself is indebted to them.
  • Regardless of what they have or haven’t achieved, they always expect more.
  • They take for granted that those around them are obligated to do things for them. To achieve this, they manipulate and make use of victimhood.
  • When others don’t give in to their demands, they can react in a dramatic, childish, tyrannical, and even violent way.
  • They don’t appreciate anything that they achieve nor do they value anyone around them.

Some research suggests that those who live with the idea that they deserve preferential treatment are, in reality, unhappy and frustrated people. In fact, their life dissatisfaction often leads to hostility.

Mother and daughter symbolizing people who believe they deserve special treatment
To live with those who feel they have more rights than others, you have to learn to set boundaries.

How to handle those who expect special treatment from you

You probably recognize certain people of this type in your own environment. Maybe at work or even among your family and friends. They’re the kinds of figures who, if you don’t set any boundaries, will end up using you as an object or a puppet to satisfy their selfishness.

What can you do? Here are some helpful tips.

  • When they make an irrational request, you must reject it firmly. Be assertive and explain the reason why. You must also make it clear that they shouldn’t make any more in the future.
  • You must assume that these types of people aren’t going to change no matter how much you ask them to. Therefore, it’s important that they understand the consequences of their demands. They need to recognize the fact that you’ll mistrust them and distance yourself from them. Naturally, this will generate feelings of unhappiness and frustration.
  • Don’t fall prey to their manipulative arts when they resort to victimhood.
  • Try to reason with them. Remind them of the necessity to take into account that everyone has rights and needs. It’s always better to lead by example.

You’ll always find people like this in your everyday life. Those who are arrogant, treat others badly, and feel more entitled than anyone else. Therefore, you must protect yourself and learn how to set appropriate boundaries. Only by doing this will you safeguard your mental health.

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  • Emily M. Zitek, Alexander H. Jordan. Psychological Entitlement Predicts Failure to Follow Instructions. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2017; 194855061772988 DOI: 10.1177/1948550617729885
  • Moeller, S. J., Crocker, J., & Bushman, B. J. (2009). Creating Hostility and Conflict: Effects of Entitlement and Self-Image Goals. Journal of experimental social psychology45(2), 448. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2008.11.005