“You deserve it.”

by teresalaynebennett

stylized art of gold trophy

You can thank the ad mavens at L’Oreal* and other equally duplicitous conglomerates for this pap, BUT dooooon’t believe it. Just because we think or (as in this case) an ad writer tells us that we deserve something, doesn’t necessarily mean we do.

But let’s say we are thinking correctly, and we truly do deserve something good and – yippee! – we receive it. Sad news: getting what we think we deserve doesn’t always bring us bliss.

But seriously,
playing by the rules
means I deserve to win,
doesn’t it?

No, it doesn’t. But for years – and I refuse to tell you how many – I wasn’t paying attention and sincerely thought this statement was 100 percent true. I fervently believed that playing by the rules (doing good) meant I deserved to win (receive plenty of attaboys and all kinds of good results).

How could
I have been so wrong??

All I had to do was look around and pay attention: just because we play by the rules doesn’t mean we deserve to win the game. Some people, you’ve no doubt noticed, get to not play by the rules, not get caught, and walk away with the trophy: the trophy job, the baseball trophy, the trophy wife.

Scenario 1

But let’s say you played by the rules, practiced diligently, and your company’s team won the city league softball tournament. Did it change your life significantly? Did guys at work look at you with newfound respect the next day? They did not.

Most of them didn’t even know what a studly jock you’d turned out to be. Even the ones who did weren’t all that impressed. Your coworkers’ flattering admiration after winning the deserved trophy was not forthcoming. In reality, it didn’t bring you a whole lot of anything except a momentary high.

Scenario 2

Just because you’ve put up with a real jerk of a manager doesn’t mean you deserve his corner office when he gets the boot.

The powers-that-be, while they no doubt appreciate your long-suffering attitude, may also know someone else is far more qualified for the job than you are – or not. Maybe the person who gets your jerky ex-manager’s job is the CEO’s lazy nephew.

Or maybe you do get the job and learn why your manager was so consistently crabby: it’s a total beast of a job with trifling support from higher up. You deserved it. You got it. But you get little reward or pleasure from it.

Scenario 3

Just because you’ve sweated like a pig and eschewed all desserts for two months doesn’t mean you deserve to lose weight in time for your high school reunion.

You may have started only two months before the reunion with a goal of losing 50 pounds. You’ve been unrealistic, and you really don’t deserve to lose 50 pounds. Fifteen maybe, but not 50.

Maybe your mother and grandmother handed down a nasty set of genes. Regardless of how well you adhere to the diet game’s rules, you may as well apply the food directly to your hips ‘cause that’s where your DNA will make sure it goes.

Let’s say you lost the weight. The only problem is that no one at the reunion knows you packed on 70 pounds after graduation. No one knows you’ve just taken off 50. They’ll only note you’re about 20 pounds heavier since they last saw you and politely bypass the whole weight thing. You lost the weight you intended by the deadline you gave yourself. But none of the people you intended to impress gave you the atta-boys you were expecting.

What’s the common denominator
in these three hypothetical
deserving scenarios?

Traveling through life telling yourself you deserve certain good things because of _________ (fill-in-the-blank time) is traveling through life just asking for disappointment, after disappointment, after disappointment. I well know what I’m talking about here, dear reader. Few have had more of an I-deserve-it attitude for doing good things than I have had and still have, more’s the pity.

That nasty rumor you’ve heard here and there – the one that life isn’t fair? It’s true. We don’t always get the good things we think we deserve, while others often get the good things we think they don’t deserve. It gets worse: some exceedingly disagreeable people get good stuff they don’t deserve at all and escape the negative consequences they deserve in spades.

There’s just
no getting around it.
Life isn’t fair.

The sooner we come to grips with that fact, the better. The sooner we realize we get no guarantee that doing the right thing brings us accolades and our perceived deserved rewards from others, the sooner we can get on with living our lives with less angst. To mangle one of Jesus’ beatitudes, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall not be disappointed.”

Yuck. How depressing.

Not necessarily. Paying attention to the fact that life isn’t fair can help us live in a way that circumvents this whole I-deserve-it pothole.

How? You base your life on one simple concept: doing right is the reward. Knowing you’re doing the right thing:

  • at work,
  • in family life,
  • in your community,
  • in your church family,
  • in your weight management efforts,
  • in your exercise routine

can give you a satisfaction that infiltrates your soul much deeper than you would believe possible.

Knowing you’re receiving something because you deserve it can give you a superficial – maybe even smug – satisfaction which can easily and inevitably (and much sooner than you’d like) be ripped from your consciousness.

As you know, all it takes is for one devious co-worker to steal your brilliant idea, and that deserved promotion can bypass your waiting hands and be plopped into his. You are entirely at the mercy of other people’s actions when you go through life waiting to receive the good things you deserve because you’ve been “such a good boy.”

On the other hand, when you do right and, in the doing of it, receive that deeply intrinsic satisfaction that comes only from doing right, who’s going to take that away from you? That deep reward can be taken from you only if you allow an unhappy person to rain on your parade or fall into the comparison trap. If you won’t allow either to happen, no one can steal that feel-good reward from you.

The Pay-Attention Finale

Deserving good things doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get them, so jettison the “I deserve it” mentality. Pay attention to how you can do good for yourself and others. Then pay attention to how good that makes YOU feel. Do good for its own sake and let the doing of good nurture your soul.

*A note to clueless male readers: L’Oreal promoted women’s hair coloring products for years with a campaign that ended with this husky-voiced line from a pencil-thin, lustrously tressed, drop-dead-gorgeous model: “After all, you’re worth it.” Translation: “You deserve it.” (Listen, I know as well as you do it’s smarmy twaddle. I don’t make up this stuff; I just report it.)

© 2014, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “Doing good does YOU good.” – Anonymous

It can’t get much plainer than this, can it?

red box with white text: “...He [God] makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” – Jesus, Matthew 5:45, NKJ Bible

Even God (!!!) isn’t “fair” – in THIS world.