Why “You Deserve It” Makes Me Mad

“You deserve it”.

Does anyone else see and hear this phrase thrown around?
I’ve been seeing it a lot lately. The conversations go like this (I’m not quoting anyone specific here…):
“We are heading off to (some amazing location) without the kids for a holiday”
“Have a great time- you deserve it”
“Had a great Christmas with the family, got heaps of cool presents.”
“How lovely- you deserve it”
“(Childs name) was awarded (blah blah blah)”
“Fantastic! S/He deserves it”
It makes me mad!!
You see, when I see that phrase “you deserve it” it starts off a train of thought for me that I find difficult to process.
When we deserve something, by definition it means that we have done something to earn the outcome we have, right?
So, by extrapolation if we don’t get something, we didn’t deserve it….. yes?
Or even, if we get something bad, or difficult or challenging, we did deserve it.
Can I just say, I have not been on a holiday to any location, let alone an amazing one for about 10 years. When we last went on a holiday we took the kids. And I’m wondering what more I have to do in my life to *deserve* a child free holiday like so many other people take every year? We did manage to have a night away child free a few years ago to celebrate a wedding anniversary… which I guess counts. Sort of.
Also, for the record, we don’t really have enough money to be buying heaps of cool presents at Christmas time. And this year we opted out of attending family gatherings for Christmas because of how difficult it is with all the different needs going on in our family right now. Can anyone tell me what we did to deserve all the complications in our family that cause that situation?
To be clear, it’s not just my own jealousy that is the problem here- I have an issue with the injustice of this sort of thinking too. What about all the people in the world who don’t even get to eat every day, let alone have a house or job? They must look at me and wonder why they don’t deserve the good things I have. What did they do to *deserve* that? How about people born with disabilities that rob them of the privilege of movement, or speech, or the ability to maintain social relationships easily? Do they *deserve* that?
Of course I am proud of my kids when they receive awards, but who’s to say there wasn’t another child who worked equally as hard from within the constraints placed on them, but just didn’t quite manage the extra few marks to receive an award too?
I am not saying we shouldn’t express happiness for other peoples good fortune. Not at all!! But can we please think about how our words sound to those who didn’t “deserve it” before we open our mouths?  So many of us struggle with our everyday realities, and press on with little to no external reward.
How do you think it feels to hear and see other people awarded, praised, encouraged and told how much they deserve the good things, when your own life is full of struggle and things that seem so harsh and unfair?
When we say “you deserve it” to someone in relation to something good they have received, we imply that those who don’t have it don’t deserve it, and that those who have bad things to deal with do deserve those.
But in reality none of us are any better or more deserving than the rest, really. We all face our own challenges and do our best with them, don’t we?
Perhaps I am over thinking things (again), but I suspect I am not the only one who feels this way. What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear other peoples opinions on this, as it has been bothering me for ages!!   I don’t claim to have any solutions or special wisdom on this- I am just struggling with it and looking for some feedback. Feel free to leave a comment!

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Michelle Sutton

0 thoughts on “Why “You Deserve It” Makes Me Mad

  • January 7, 2013 at 11:48 am

    the logic doesn’t follow. just because person A got a holiday/gift/whatever and deserved it, it doesn’t follow that getting something = deserving something or that the converse is true, it is simlpya correlation.

  • January 7, 2013 at 9:09 am

    I hate it when people tell me I’m “lucky” when I accomplish something.. I’m like nooo, 25% of the time it’s chance, 75% of the time it’s hard work and perseverance. Not much for luck involved.

  • January 7, 2013 at 7:51 am

    It’s just another way to say you’re happy for someone instead of saying “That’s nice.” Kind of like how, “How are you?” is another way to say “Hi” and not actually wanting to know how you are. Other languages have “Have you eaten?” and they honestly don’t care if you just ate, but it’s a greeting to say “hello” because “hello” becomes redundant. 

  • January 7, 2013 at 4:14 am

    I always hated “good for you”. It doesn’t matter how your phrase it, or if it’s even genuine, it comes off as condescending. In my mind, it translates into “I don’t really give a shit, but I’m being nice”.

  • January 5, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    I totally agree with you on all of it. Everyday I think “what did I do in this life or a former one to deserve all the struggles and bad misfortune I have?”. Sometimes I think “why does God hate me?” . I get jealous of all the people who have nice houses and lots of money and get to go on vacations. We grew up poor and never could afford the basic necessities most people take for granted. I know there are people who have it worse like you say and that I should be happy for people but it is hard when see other people have things you only dream of.  I have lots of health issues too and sometimes I feel like I want to die but then I try to think of other  people who have no arms or legs or who can’t move and I realize it could be worse and I should appreciate the things I do have.  However it’s easy to say not to get upset but If you are sensitive like me you can’t help overreact to things people say.


  • January 4, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Yeah, you’re overthinking it. It’s just something people say to be nice, like “good job.” When someone says “good job,” they’re not implying, “Good job (unlike those jerks over there).” All they mean is that you did a good job. Similarly, when someone says, “You deserve it.” they’re not implying, “You deserve it (and homeless children starving on the streets had it coming).” All they mean is, “I recognize that you do a lot of good, so in case you feel guilty about doing something nice for yourself, don’t.” Nothing beyond that. It’s a compliment.

    One time, I bought a meal for a homeless guy. Later that day, I was thinking, “If I post about this on Facebook, it’ll be like I only did it to brag about how awesome I am.” Then, I felt like a bad person for that possibility that wasn’t even on my mind when I did it. That’s overthinking it. People can’t get hung up on how things might seem. It’s important to take good gestures at face value, unless there is some actual implied / non-imagined context to explore.


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