You deserve nothing.

Not that deep tissue massage after a hard week. Not that ice cream after you worked out. Not that fancy car from the money you scraped and saved.

That sounds harsh, right? Doesn’t our hard work mean we deserve a reward? Doesn’t our pain mean we deserve some pleasure?

Nope. It doesn’t. And the day you stop telling yourself this lie, is the day you’ll get that much closer to truth and happiness. I’ll tell you why…

Because you also don’t deserve a brain tumor. You don’t deserve to lose your child to SIDS. You don’t deserve to be raped and sodomized by a bus full of men on your way home from a date.

See how that works?

As a coach, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients, when pressed, tell me they can’t do any number of things because they are on the wrong end of the deserving equation in their heads.

They can’t make more money, buy a bigger house, find the relationship they want, have the sex they desire, get that promotion at work — because of this notion that they somehow don’t deserve it.

“You don’t,” I tell them.

At first my response is jarring to them. It’s not what they’re expecting to hear.

They’re expecting some cheerleading. Some assurance — yes, you do! Until I tell them everything else they don’t deserve from the list of things they don’t want. Suddenly, the uneasy truth settles in…

Deserving is a myth.

Somewhere along the line, we constructed and spread this notion that people only get what they deserve. It’s one of many tactics we use to inspire hard work and productivity, morality and generosity — the traits that society needs us to adopt to be successful.

It also brings us some comfort. It imbues a chaotic, unpredictable, volatile, and sometimes cruel world with a little bit of order.

Deserving gives us permission for indulgence, rationale for privilege, and a reason for chaos. It helps us to feel better about our choices, our wants, our desires — if we tell ourselves we deserve it, we don’t have to feel selfish or bad. If we aren’t deserving, we don’t have to try, or fail. Or, when we do try and fail, well then, we didn’t deserve it.

It also gets us off the hook of compassion. We don’t have to feel — or even acknowledge — the suffering of others. After all, they deserve it, right? They are lazy, they did something wrong or bad. If not in this lifetime, maybe the last.

If we don’t invoke the myth of deserving, we have to accept that we just want things. We have needs and desires. A lot of them. Some of them are outrageous. Some of them are selfish and self-serving. Sometimes we want to indulge our ego.

And sometimes, we just want greatness. We have big visions, crazy ideas. We want to fly. We want deep love, passionate sex, a happy family. We want to change the world. We want to feel alive.

Ask yourself, next time you’re running a story in your head about what you do and don’t deserve — what if this is bulls*#t? How else can I make this decision? Why else am I stalling?

How about this — get the deep tissue massage because it supports your body. Get the ice cream because it tastes good. When something big falls in your lap — a job, a car, a house — have gratitude for your good fortune. Share as much of that fortune with others as you can. Spread it around. When someone offers you love, accept it. Give them a lot of love back — because you want them to feel good, too.

Deserving is a bit of narcissism we’ve all been handed. But it isn’t real. It’s an imaginary system of quid pro quo that’s getting in the way of you getting on with your life.

You deserve nothing. And neither does anyone else.

Isn’t that a relief?