“I deserve it.”
This is a thought that I don't say out loud, but think often. I’m not hyper-aware of it because it comes and goes quietly. I do know that it quickly shows up when I want to give myself permission to do something that is not in my best interest.
Here’s how “I deserve it” shows up in my life:
I deserve to eat this cookie - I just spent the morning cleaning the house.
I deserve to chill out with Netflix - I’ve been working long hours at the office.
I deserve to go on a girls’ trip - I do more than my fair share at home with the kids.
None of these actions are inherently bad.
So why do I feel a need to attach a reason to why I believe I deserve to do these things? And what does deserving have to do with any of this?
Often, if we don’t consciously do things on our terms, there can be a net negative.
For example, let's say life got hard and so you ate an unplanned cookie (subtly telling yourself you could have the cookie because you deserved it) and that one cookie then led to more and more cookies, and all of sudden the scale went up, and now you're feeling regret for that initial cookie.
The net negative in this example is the scale going up and the regret.
Compare this to having a few cookies each week as a planned part of your food protocol. You are intentional about when you eat them and each time you do, you enjoy them fully. There are no negative ramifications. The cookies are good and serve as a splurge that allows you to maintain a healthy diet 90% of the time. And you like the number you see on the scale. When life gets hard you don't turn toward the cookies. Instead, you sit with the discomfort until it dissipates.
This is doing life on your terms.
So when the sentence "I deserve a cookie" runs through my head, what is it that I'm really thinking? That I deserve the extra weight and regret?
No, not after I pause and think about it intentionally.
What I want to convey is something much more meaningful than an unplanned dopamine hit.
What do I believe I deserve? What do I think we all deserve?
To feel our own love.
To treat ourselves with kindness, grace, curiosity, and compassion.
To create space for the things that matter most to us.
And to seek meaning from life.
So now, after some thought, will there ever be a moment in the future where I'll intentionally allow myself to think I “deserve" a cookie?
I hope not.
The two don’t even belong in the same sentence.
So why has it been a go-to for me all these years? Why did I think this thought for so long?
“I deserve it” is a habitual thought coming from my lower primitive brain that is motivated to seek pleasure, avoid pain and conserve energy.
Without any supervision, this is where my brain will default.
Thank goodness I, along with every other human, also have a prefrontal cortex, which allows me to be intentional, and as long as I'm being honest with myself, will see these thoughts for what they really are.
On the surface, they appear kind, but now we know they come with ugly consequences.
So would you like to break the habit of associating rewards with what you deserve in life?
Do you agree you deserve way better than a quick jolt of dopamine?
Here are three questions you can ask yourself when it comes to what you truly want:
1. What do I think I deserve out of life?
Our founding fathers believed we deserved life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What else do you think you deserve? Space to know yourself better? Time to explore your passions? A better connection to the outdoors and the interconnected world around you?
2. How can I give these things to myself on a consistent basis?
What does this look like in your day-to-day? Can you embrace the natural pleasures in life that come without consequence - things like slow meandering walks, reads that are so good they're hard to put down, soft organic clothing, warm sunshine on your face, an exhilarating bike ride?
3. What is the “it” in the thought, “I deserve it?”
Is the "it" comfort? Connection? Solitude? Get curious about what it is that you desire at your core.
The next time you get an urge for a treat, instead of acting on it because you “deserve it,” sit with the urge and ask yourself, how can I think about what I deserve from a more conscious, heart-centered place?
It’s 100% okay to eat the cookie, watch Netflix, and go on that trip.
But not because you “deserve” them. You deserve way better than just a dopamine hit.
What you deserve are more moments that matter. Moments that feed your soul.