Monday, November 08, 2010

What To Do When You Feel Like You Don’t Matter

When was the last time you were paralyzed by the threat of insignificance?

Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Myself included.

THE REALITY IS: The human need to feel valuable to the world runs deeper than just about anything.

THE SECRET IS: How quickly do you recognize, overcome and leverage that that looming threat into something positive?

Not sure what to do when you feel like you don’t matter? Try this:
1. Delete people from your life who make you feel invisible. Success means surrounding yourself with people who don’t just look at you – but actually see you. Huge difference.

It’s like in Avatar: When the Na’vi people meet, they greet each other with, “I see you.”

That was my favorite part of that movie. Because their phrase is more than a simple greeting – it’s an acknowledgment. It’s a form of namaste. It means I understand who you are. And according to creator James Cameron, it’s an alternative way to say, “I love you.”

You need people in your life who will greet you that way. No matter how insignificant you think you are. This provides a foundation to sustain your spirit during times of perceived non-mattering. How many of the people you interact with on a daily basis leave you feeling seen?

2. Ritualize your life. In his book Reflections on the Art of Living, Joseph Campbell suggests that ritual introduces you to the meaning of what’s going on. It properly puts your mind in touch with that you’re really doing.

Personally, I perform a ritual every morning: It’s called a Daily Appointment with Myself. And it’s exactly the same, every day, no matter where I am in the world, no matter where I am in my life.

Unfortunately, I can’t share all the details or I’d have to kill you. Sorry. Personal policy.

However, my experience with this ritual has proven countless times to be the single best daily reinforcement of mattering I’ve ever practiced. And I challenge you to think about the rituals you practice every day, and how they might reinforce your ability to matter. When was the last time you made an appointment with yourself?

3. Reframe perceived meaninglessness. Think of it this way: Moments of non-mattering are positive reflections of your inherent desire to make the world better. After all, mattering wouldn’t be important to you if you were a loser.

Look: I’ve been there. Inconsequentiality is a bitch. It’s a form of spiritual bankruptcy that feels like an earthquake to your heart.

The good news, it’s also a wake up call that mattering is like oxygen to your soul, and your tank is just a little low right now.

No problem. You just need to refill it.

As long as you start with that baseline level of awareness. Otherwise mattering will feel miles away. As Joseph Campbell also said, “Everything is a possibility, everything is a clue and everything is talking to you.” The question is: Are you brave enough to listen?

4. Normalize your fear. It’s a beautiful moment when you understand that you’re not the only one who struggles to matter. It’s not fair, however, to commandeer other miserable people just so you have someone to sulk with.

Misery might love company, but mattering loves positivity.

Instead of boo-hooing, start brainstorming. Ask each other, “What was in play the last you felt an overwhelming sense of mattering?” As my coach, Dixie Gillaspie explains in Anatomy of a Brick Wall,

“Figure out what inspired you and find another way to design that outcome. Reframe it, repaint it and redesign it. You can achieve your purpose, but sometimes you’ll have to rethink your method.”

This exercise – which I’ve done before – will help you commit your whole psychological pitch to believing in your ability. And that will exert the necessary energy to effect the transformation from wah-wah to wow-wow. With whom could you greet and leverage your fear together?

5. Rewrite your definition of mattering. Many of my readers are unemployed. Still, despite their job search struggles, they’re some of the most driven, intelligent and amazing people on the planet.

And here’s what I’ve learned after a few thousand of their emails: A principal struggle of the unemployed is, “How can I matter when I’m not making money?”

Good question.

Fortunately, mattering doesn’t come from money, power or responsibility. Mattering is the incidental consequence of the intentional commitment to fulfill your whole capacity for living.

Let me run it by you again.

Mattering is the incidental consequence of the intentional commitment to fulfill your whole capacity for living.

The hard part is believing you can actually fill it. As Benjamin Hoff wrote in The Tao of Pooh, “No matter how useful we may be, sometimes it takes us a while to recognize our own value. But in order to take control of our lives and accomplish something of lasting value, sooner or later we need to learn to believe.” Have you put unadulterated self-belief at the apex of your value system?

6. Surround yourself with visual evidence of why. The two biggest challenges of being a writer are (a) the crippling fear that you don’t have anything worthwhile to say, and (b) the existential agony of not being read.

That’s why I keep the following email on my desk. I received it about five years ago, and I look at it every day:

“Dear Scott. My name is Karen Tarrentine. I’m sixty-five years old, and lately, I’ve been having a very difficult time with my bowel movements. However, now that I read your blog every day, I have become regular again. Apparently hysterical laughter is just what the doctor order to get things moving along. Thanks for everything you do!”

That’s how I reinforce my why, that’s what reminds me that I matter: Because my writing helps old ladies poop. Validation of my existence? Check.

Any time you feel like you don’t matter, physically keep something in front of your face to remind you why you do what you. After all, you can’t spell “matter” without “why.” What will you hang on your wall to remind yourself that your life counts?

7. Mattering is a choice. Feeling insignificant sucks, but refusing take responsibility for your perceived insignificance is just plain stupid.

However you look at it, it always turns out that you are chiefly to blame for everything. That’s what Dostoevsky wrote in Letters from the Underground. And that’s what you have to take ownership of: That you are the result of yourself. That the feeling of insignificance floated downstream of yourself.

Now, that doesn’t mean other people didn’t play a role in influencing the way you feel about yourself. After all, human beings craft their identities based on how people react to them in the past.

Still, you can’t absolve mattering to someone else. My suggestion is to make a list called, “One Hundred Reasons Why I Matter.” The first third will be easy. The second thirty will be challenging. But the last third will be revelatory. If you still feel insignificant after that, email me. Have you decided to matter?

REMEMBER: It doesn’t matter if you feel like you don’t matter.

What’s important is how quickly you recognize, overcome and leverage that that looming threat into something positive.

LET ME ASK YA THIS...
When was the last time you were paralyzed by the threat of insignificance?

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* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

“Engaging in email mentoring with Scott was an amazing experience! Not only was he incredibly responsive but his advice was clear, concise and thought provoking. Based on clearly agreed areas I wanted to focus on, Scott worked through them with me systematically and at my pace."

--Donna Rachelson, Branding & Marketing You

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