You’ve probably heard of many approaches to manifesting goals, but have you ever wondered if any of them were toxic?
Research shows that one approach in particular has negative effects on our well-being. A study aptly titled “God Owes Me: The Role of Divine Entitlement in Predicting Struggles with a Deity” looked at how divine entitlement—the belief that the divine should give us special treatment or privileges—affects our mental health and relationship to the divine.
The study found that people who were spiritual and measured high on a scale of divine entitlement were more likely to experience struggles with the divine and psychological distress. They had more anxiety, stress, anger, and depression. They were also more likely to feel angry, abandoned, punished, unloved, and let down by the divine.
In other words, when we are spiritual and have a demanding attitude toward the Universe delivering on our desires, we risk our mental health and our relationship with the Universe.
That might seem obvious and avoidable, but we live in a culture that encourages this type of approach to manifesting. We are constantly given the message that we should demand and expect to get what we want from the Universe and be unapologetic about it.
According to research, entitlement in general is on the rise in our culture. There is, however, a recent backlash to some of the most well-known and well-researched specific types of entitlement: academic entitlement and sexual entitlement.
So, should we just ignore cultural messages about manifesting and be humble instead?
While studies show that a healthy amount of humility is associated with lower levels of spiritual struggle and healthier approaches to spirituality, being too humble comes with its own set of problems. For example, if we are excessively humble, we might not take enough action toward our dreams or even turn down opportunities because we don’t want to hurt someone else’s chance at success.
A healthy approach to manifesting requires actively pursuing our dreams while remaining humble.
So, how do we know if we’ve crossed the line into divine entitlement? Here are 5 signs to look out for. Some are inspired by the Divine Entitlement Scale and others are based on my clinical experience as a psychologist who works with many spiritual clients. (I’ll use the term Universe to refer to the divine, but please feel free to substitute it with something else.)
5 Signs of Divine Entitlement
1. You become aggressive when you don’t get your way
People who are entitled expect to get whatever they want regardless of effort or circumstances. They tend to be demanding, highly reactive, and overly sensitive to criticism and perceived slights. Most importantly, studies show that they become hostile when denied something they want. You’ll probably know if you’ve crossed this line because people will be either irritated by or concerned about you. Once you cool down, it might be good to consider their feedback.
2. You believe that the Universe should always give you what you want
Things don’t always happen on our timeline or how we want them to. The idea of “divine timing” requires that we cultivate trust even when we don’t understand the journey. There are so many instances when we don’t get what we want only to find later that it was just preparing us for something better. Stay open to something better.
3. You insist on getting the blessings you want or feel you deserve
Being demanding about blessings can lead to emotional exhaustion as we cross the line from enthusiasm to desperation, impatience, and rigidity. The key is to go after what we want while staying open and flexible.
4. You believe that you deserve to get things from the Universe because you’re special
Whenever culture pushes us to have an inflated sense of specialness, it interferes with our mental health and our relationships. Eventually we all encounter challenges because no one is exempt from struggling, waiting, and the natural cycles of life. No matter how many spiritual practices we engage in or how high vibe we try to be, we won’t necessarily get a fast-pass to our desires. There are always other moving parts involved that we don’t necessarily know about and there’s always room to grow. Appreciating the larger divine mystery isn’t always easy, but it can help us keep things in perspective.
5. You expect to be blessed, no matter how little work you actually do toward your goal
Manifesting goals involves a fine balance between effort and flow. To achieve your goal you might have to labor for years on a project before one magical opportunity comes along that changes your whole life. Without action you won’t even have a chance to go with the flow. Just make sure that it’s inspired action rather than the kind that’s pushy, tense, and in overdrive.
To be unentitled, it’s necessary to let go of the desire to be special and exempt from growth. Everyone struggles sometimes and wishes it were different. The important thing is that we remain resilient when we are struggling or waiting and confident but humble when we are going after our dreams.
Can you have a good relationship with the Universe even when it asks you to grow or to wait?
Can you work on your own ability to remain positive when challenged?
Easy? Almost never.
While entitlement looks like confidence to many people, it’s rooted in narcissism and hidden feelings of low self-worth.
When you truly feel worthy, your approach to manifesting comes from the heart.
As you result of being heart-centered, you feel more grounded and secure. You set intentions, not make demands. You sit with your frustration without being reactive and lashing out at others. You trust the process while being realistic. You acknowledge fear and yet take the necessary steps to grow into your dreams.
When you have self-worth, you have true confidence because you know that you can handle the outcome of pursuing your dreams on an emotional level. You do your part and then step back and allow things to unfold without constantly checking for reassurance that everything is working. You don’t just trust that everything will be ok. You trust that you’ll be ok no matter what.
Tips for Improving Self-Worth Related to Manifesting Goals
1. Don’t turn manifesting into a competitive sport
Give up the desire to prove to others that you’re manifesting amazing things. Not only does this result in a lot of unnecessary pressure, it misses the growth potential that manifesting offers. Focus on your own reasons for manifesting your goals rather than worrying about how your progress compares to others. Once you stop treating manifesting as a competition, you’ll start thriving internally and you won’t care who knows it.
2. Don’t use manifesting to spiritually bypass
Ignoring our emotional well-being while engaging in manifestation practices—whether it’s positive thinking or some other practice—tends to backfire and keep us stuck in a loop of frustration. Make your emotional health a top priority as you continue using manifestation practices that you find helpful. That means devoting time and energy to understanding your emotions, cultivating self-compassion, healing old wounds, establishing healthy boundaries, and practicing self-care. This is the area where you’ll get the most bang for your buck when it comes to self-worth.
3. Ask for help
While developing self-worth is an intensely personal process, it’s important to resist the urge to isolate when you’re struggling. Seek out people who make you feel safe and supported—whether it’s friends, family, a community, or a therapist—and let them know how you feel and what you need. The safer you feel receiving from others, the more worthy you will feel of receiving good things in general. According to research, humble people feel positive emotions such as gratitude (rather than shame or mistrust) when receiving from others. For many of us, however, associating receiving with positive feelings takes practice and gets better over time.
Having a healthier approach to manifesting can promote well-being in two ways. It can help us maintain a positive relationship to the Universe and it can protect and maybe even improve our mental health. These are major benefits given the important roles that spirituality and mental health play in many people’s lives.
I’d love to hear from you. While divine entitlement is on the rise in our culture, do you think that understanding it is important for a healthy approach to manifesting?