Before You Talk About What You 'Deserve'...Do You Know What That Even Means?

Before You Talk About What You 'Deserve'...Do You Know What That Even Means?

Even though I don’t do the social media thing (that might change when I release my third book, mostly for the purpose of the book…we’ll see), I will tiptoe on out there a few times a week to see what folks are talking about — and y’all, if I see one more TikTok of someone waxing poetic about all of the things that they think they’re entitled to, just because they believe that they deserve ‘em, I think I’m gonna either scream, throw my laptop against the wall…or both.

Anyone reading this who is also a writer probably gets that one of the most stressful things about entertaining or engaging in online activity is the fact that you’re watching people write and say words all day long, yet you can tell that many of them are not word-literal (meaning they don’t really get what certain words literally mean). And when it comes to the word “deserve,” it’s a great example of what I’m talking about. Why? Well, just because you up and decide that you should have…whatever it is that you want at any given moment, based on what the word deserve actually means, that doesn’t mean that you should automatically have it.

That’s why I appreciate a particular quote by Nigerian entrepreneur Tara Fela-Durotoye. When it comes to the topic that we’re about to explore today, she once said, “Life never gives you what you deserve but what you decided.” And as you’re about to see, in just a few moments, there is a lot of wisdom wrapped up in that very simple-yet-pretty-profound sentence.

Let’s Revisit the Actual and Literal Definitions of “Deserve”


So, before I get into what it actually means to be deserving of something (or someone), take a moment to ponder what you think it means whenever you say that you’re deserving of something. What would make you deserving of a particular job? What would make you deserving of a certain kind of relationship? Do you deserve it just because you merely exist, or is there more to the word than that?

  • According to Google’s English Dictionary, deserve means “do something or have or show qualities worthy of (reward or punishment).”
  • According to Dictionary, deserve means “to merit, be qualified for, or have a claim to (reward, assistance, punishment, etc.) because of actions, qualities, or situation.”
  • According to Merriam-Webster, deserve means “to be worthy, fit, or suitable for some reward or requital.”

Hmm, looks to me like deserving requires some effort on the deserver’s part, and in order to accept that, some self-awarenessand humility (which we’ll get into in a bit) would need to be in place. It also seems to me that no one is deserving of something or one simply because they feel or think that they are.

Deserving goes so much deeper than that. You must be qualified. You must be worthy. You must be suitable.

Do You Qualify? Are You Worthy? What Makes You Suitable?


Let me show you how ridiculous egomania is. Imagine being the CEO of a company and interviewing someone for a management position. When you ask them if they have any experience, they say “no.” When you ask them what their educational background is, they say they have none. When you ask them to describe to you what the position actually requires on a day-to-day basis, they nonchalantly shrug their shoulders. Oh, the smugness. Like why did they even waste your time?

As a relationships writer and marriage life coach, this is how I feel when I watch certain videos (and counsel certain people) with people who come up with these outlandish relational expectations, all the while boldly professing that they deserve it. What makes you deserving? Just because you decided that you are? Again, that’s not how the word — or world — works.

  • To be deserving, you must be qualified. This means that you have the type of qualities that make you a good fit for something or someone.
  • To be deserving, you must be worthy. This means that you have merit, character, and value.
  • To be deserving, you must be suitable. This means that you are appropriate, fitting, and becoming for whatever the occasion may be.
Now to be fair, you do have some value just by existing, or you wouldn’t be on this planet. The reason why I say that is because I wholeheartedly believe that every human being has a purpose, and purpose brings forth value. However, when it comes to everything else that I just shared, the fascinating thing about the word “deserve” is no one gets to decide, alone, if they are deserving of most things or not — others have a say as well.

Back to the fictitious job that I mentioned a second ago. Say that you are the one who is being interviewed. You can’t just roll up and tell someone that they should hire you because you think you’ve got the qualities, merit, character, and things that they would deem appropriate and fitting for the job; they would have to assess and then agree with you.

Same thing goes for a relationship. Say that you want a 6-6-6 man. Do you really think you should have one just because you desire him? Doesn’t he actually get a say in the matter? According to all of the definitions of deserve, he 1000 percent does. He gets to think about if your character is attractive to him. He gets to determine if you would be becoming to his lifestyle. Yeah, contrary to how people have been misusing and, quite frankly, manipulating the word “deserve,” it’s actually quite the reality check when you let it sink into your psyche and spirit. To deserve something requires a ton of self-work and consistent effort.

Not only that but the more of something that you think that you deserve, the more you may end up getting your feelings hurt if you’re not careful. Why do I say that? Keep reading.

Be Careful: High Expectations Have a Way of Boomeranging


Not too long ago, while in an interview, a woman went down a long list of all of the things that she said she deserved in a relationship. Truly, it never ceases to amaze me how men, for the most part, will stick to no more than 3-5 things that they want in a woman/relationship while so many women will have super long Old Testament scrolls (what in the world?!). Anyway, one of the things she said that she deserves is to be taken to a high-end restaurant at least 2-3 times a week and that she also deserves a take-out budget for when they do eat at home.

Me: “So, what if he wants you to cook some evenings?”

Her: “I’m not anyone’s slave. Also, I don’t cook.”

First up, if you read what she said and agreed with her, I’m gonna make a request of you both, and that is to retire the word “slave” when it comes to domesticated things. Good lord, your ancestors — the ones who actually were slaves — would roll over ten times in their graves to hear you comparing what they endured to making some damn lasagna. Relax. Besides, there are videos all over the internet that can teach you what you don’t know. Life isn’t as hard as it used to be before the information age. Buying cookbooks or going to the library is not something that you have to deal with anymore.

Second, studies show that cooking is healthier and cheaper than eating out all of the time, so whether you’re single or not, learning how to cook will benefit you and your lifestyle in the long run. No one said that you had to be a chef, yet at least know how to make some basic things. It’s not about “being back in the '50s,” it’s actually called adulting.

And third, so why is it that you deserve to be wined and dined all of the time, yet “he” doesn’t deserve a home-cooked meal sometimes too?

Why is “deserve” only a one-way street? IT’S NOT. And that’s why I said that when it comes to your list of what you expect, based on what you feel that you deserve, you should be careful because the higher your expectations are, the more that thing or person may require of you in return…and that’s not something that many people consider. Not by a long shot.

I know this because a lot of them are clients of mine. So many folks were so concerned with (if not consumed by) all of what they wanted in a spouse that they never really considered what their partner would want/need in return — and because they went into the relationship one-sided, now everything is basically lopsided. And rather than them finding ways to compromise so that both people can be happy, their sense of entitlement believes that divorce is the answer…so that they can run out and repeat the pattern (because divorce rates increase by about 20 percent per marriage…no joke).

Yeah, if you’re really paying attention to everything that’s being shared here, I hope you’re getting that deserve is not some fairy tale word that you can say and “poof!” things instantly appear. People who think they deserve certain things must humble themselves to become what they deserve. That’s what makes them (better) qualified.

Humility Is Never a Bad Thing


This culture is so wack. Contrary to how the media acts out here, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being humble. In fact, according to Scripture, humility is what gives people access to lasting riches, honor, and life (Proverbs 22:4). So, what does it look like to actually be a humble individual?

  • Humble people aren’t greedy
  • Humble people are consistently grateful
  • Humble people aren’t arrogant
  • Humble people aren’t envious of others
  • Humble people are flexible
  • Humble people can take correction
  • Humble people will admit when they are wrong
  • Humble people listen more than they speak
  • Humble people don’t make everything about themselves all of the time
  • Humble people know there is a greater power than themselves in the universe

HUMBLE PEOPLE ARE TEACHABLE, and yes, I am yelling it. Now think about all of the “I deserve” social media videos that you’ve seen over the past month or so — how many of those individuals seemed humble at all? Again, they weren’t using the right word; they don’t deserve whatever it is they are talking about…they simply feel entitled to it because their character alone reveals that they are far from being deserving. Humble people see what needs to be done to match what it is that they want. In other words, they don’t expect what they themselves are not. To those with maturity and common sense, to do so would be close to ridiculous.

So yeah, if you’re out here declaring what you deserve, take a moment and ask yourself, 1) how much humility are you applying to your perspective and 2) how much energy are you putting into making sure that you are a mirror reflection of what it is that you think you are deserving of? Because you’d be amazed how much your ego will soften when you actually put forth the blood, sweat, and tears that it takes to actually prepare for what it is that you think you deserve.

Where Does Your “Deserve List” Actually Come From?


As I begin to wrap this all up, now that you see “deserve” from a more realistic and less embellished place, tell me something — has it altered your deserve list or at least challenged you to have a bit less of an egotistical attitude about it? And if so, when you really stop to think about what you’ve been thinking that you’re deserving of, is it about what you want — or what the media, your friends, and/or random outside influences have told you that you desire?

For instance, do you deserve a six-figure man (for starters, do you make that much?), or is it that you deserve someone who will provide for and protect you because you plan to be the kind of partner who will complement, support, and fuel him to do so? Sit with that question for a moment. Do you see how different the energy is between the two resolves? If you were the universe, which person would you want to actually reward?

I promise you that, not until social media came onto the scene, have I heard so many people be so arrogant about what they think they deserve thanks (but no thanks) to what they saw on an IG post, heard a reality TV person say or based on the smoke-and-mirrors of a television program. So many people think they deserve what they’ve been told to want — not what they actually should or realistically need…and that’s honestly a damn shame.

Does this mean that I’m encouraging you to settle? Nope. Not at all. All I’m saying is that deserve is more than a notion and whatever it is that you purpose in your mind and/or publicly declare that you do deserve, you need to make sure that you’ve got the moxie to back it up.

Because in order to truly deserve it — whatever it is — you’ve got to have the qualities, character, and suitability to prove it. And that requires more than lip service. SO MUCH MORE.

Y’all be — and then stay — humble out here…ya hear?

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Featured image by Cavan Images/Getty Images



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