This article has been read and shared over a million times. Most readers have gleaned its essential message and agreed with it. Less often, I’ve received criticism of the article and even of me personally. This has never bothered me as I expect and respect differing opinions and views.
I wrote this article nearly a decade ago. The world, as I perceived it, was dramatically different. My views have evolved as has my focus. The original article was targeted at superficial, petulant, and narcissistic young Americans who take more from life and others than they give and audaciously lament that they are entitled to more. I have no desire to write for or about them anymore.
These days I am focused on the multitudes of people here and around the world who are entitled to and deprived of decency, equality, and personal safety.
Today, I would rewrite the last paragraph to read:
Life doesn’t owe you anything. Count your blessings. It doesn’t owe you perfect or even good parents, but you deserved them. Life doesn’t owe you health, happiness, abundance, success, comfort, or immunity from pain and problems, but you’re worthy of them. It doesn’t owe you a job, a house, a bed, or a single meal, but those who can help bear a responsibility to do so. No one owes you kindness, love, recognition, empathy, apologies, or understanding, but I wish they’d give them to you. Your family owes you nothing, and I hope they fill you with love. Your government owes you decency, equality, and safety, and we must pull together to bring this to reality for all people.
The Original Article
We live in a culture that barrages us with images of a life that all smart, attractive, successful, or otherwise good people are entitled to live. It’s a life of wealth, great sex, physical beauty, perfect careers, adoring relationships, great health, abundant comfort and lots of blissful photos online to prove it. Because of this entitlement runs rampant.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having any or all of these things, and I’ve devoted a great deal of my life to creating them for myself and helping others do the same. The problem isn’t in the things, it’s in our sense that life owes them to us and that there’s something wrong if we don’t have them all and just the way we want.
Life doesn’t owe anyone anything. Most adults, and the overwhelming majority of today’s children and teens, feel entitled to having everything they’re taught to want. As a result, when they have a bad experience, lose a person or possession they value, fail to get the award, gift, or position, or even just have to do something less than fun, they feel slighted—victimized by life. They compare themselves to others who haven’t had, or aren’t having, the same negative experiences (ignorant of the possibility that other’s experiences might be worse) and blame life for being so unfair with them. Because of this anger and a poor-me pity-party ensues, and the structure for a miserable existence is reinforced. It repeats without end. As a result the victim persona is strengthened and validated.
Life doesn’t owe you anything. It doesn’t owe you perfect or even good parents. Life doesn’t owe you health, happiness, abundance, success, comfort, or immunity from pain and problems. It doesn’t owe you a job, a house, a bed, or a single meal. No one owes you kindness, love, recognition, empathy, apologies, or understanding. You aren’t entitled to a single thing. Your family owes you nothing. Your government owes you nothing. No one owes you anything at all.
Ouch, right? I know, it stings.
I’ve had people blow up at me for saying less (they shouldn’t have asked me).
In all truth lies a treasure. The gift in acknowledging and accepting that life owes you nothing is that you realize that every single thing you have is a blessing. Life owes you nothing, and yet look at all you’ve been given. Blessings rain upon you at every moment.
The bed you sleep in, the shoes you walk in, the spoon you eat from, the people/pets who adore you, the money you receive, the beauty you glimpse, the sweetness that sways your heart—all blessings.
Your life is overflowing with treasures. There is not enough time in a day to count them all, but count at least 10 of them each day. Recognize the truth about your existence. Above all your cup is not 1/2 empty, it’s overflowing and you weren’t entitled to have anything inside of it.
Teaching this to my children is one of my proudest acts as a mother. I know that this correction of perception will serve and propel them forward throughout their lives.
It will do this for you, too.
So, do you still like me?
It’s a blessing upon me, if you do.
Thank you Cynthia – as always wisdom and insight you have in stock for us – it’s a harsh life lesson but the sooner we realize that the better and the more grateful we learn to be. Life as such is a treasure and we are more capable than we think -thank you for reminding about it.
Thank you Cynthia I felt life owed me everything in the past but today I am wiser with thanks to you and people like you…I have so much to be grateful for with many blessings in my life…I have 2 beautiful daughters and want to pass this gift on to them…life is good because I now know that I can create that wonderful life….Thank you for the reminder xx
Truer words never spoken. Life is what you make it.
I was taught at an early age that if I wanted something, I must work for it, and to be honest, it has made every single achievement that much sweeter. Because I did it myself, and the more things I achieved, the more confidence I have in myself and my abilities, which feeds on itself and makes me set new goals for myself as a challenge.
I believe we need to rise to challenges both of our choosing and those that life provides constantly, and learn to creatively problem solve and to set those goals to grow and get by, and without that, we wither on the vine.
You would think this is good news to people, that our only job in life is to become self-aware and to walk our path, but people become enraged when they realize no one made a free, high speed, air conditioned transit system to carry them on their path.
Love your words, Weaselina. <3 You know I agree.
With a sigh and tears in my eyes I must tell you that something within me agrees to this even if my ego argues. How beautiful is to have someone remind you that your life is a blessing and therefore everything in it, it makes me appreciate it more. m
Beautifully stated! ???
Good to see you back!
Thank you, Bridgette <3
I dare you to go and say that to the face of a tortured slave or lifelong abuse victim or a severely mentally ill person. And I would watch your truth crumble in your own eyes if you had any real compassion. Human beings are born with needs and inner truths that require expression. When the world does not allow it, an imbalance is formed that causes chaos in the world. The only people that say things like this are having enough of their needs met or telling themselves that they didnt care about something to begin with.
My point is that life is not inherently fair, it owes no one anything, and yet it gives us so much to appreciate. This mindset places the power to improve your life in your hands, not in the hands of fate. For the vast majority of people, this shift in thinking will dramatically improve their thoughts, actions, and lives.
To your contention that only one who has their needs met would write this, I wrote this post after being a teen dropout welfare mom living in a garage. I was living well below the poverty line with a baby. Later, my husband had a devastating aneurysm rupture that destroyed our lives and family. Then, my mother died a long agony filled death from a brain tumor. My needs were not met. I cared with every fiber of my being.
I stand by my writing. We are owed nothing. There’s always much to be grateful for and the change, help, and improvement we need must come from us. Thank you for writing.
Thank you for sharing this.