Have you ever felt that deep desire to make a real impact on your loved ones, in your office, or the world around you and wondered why that feeling is so fundamental to our existence? Well, it’s called mattering. To matter to someone or something is to feel significant, important, valued, and connected in the grand symphony of human existence. The concept of mattering has always been overlooked in our society but it’s important and needed.
The craving for ‘I’ matter
A little child seeking their parents’ approval for their first step, an employee looking for an acknowledgement for their contribution, or a romantic partner looking for an appreciation for their thoughtfulness are all examples. It’s a protection mechanism. Mattering is not just a social need; it’s an intrinsic human need. We seek assurance that we are not just cogs in the machine but valued members of a bigger community. That we belong. It is the profound sense that our existence resonates with purpose and has an impact on the world around us. It is an important part of our identity which becomes responsible for our actions, relationships, or decisions.
People often feel overlooked, ignored, or invisible which can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, low self-esteem, and many other mental health issues like anxiety and depression or even substance addiction.
Why does it impact us so much?
Because it is connected with our brain’s reward system, when we feel that we matter, our brain releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. One of the key regions of the brain involved in mattering is the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for decision-making, social behaviour, and complex cognitive functions. When we experience a sense of mattering, the prefrontal cortex lights up with activity, indicating that we are engaged, motivated, and focused on our goals.
How to develop a healthy sense of mattering?
The good news is that mattering is not a fixed state; it can be nurtured and cultivated with kindness, self-compassion, purposeful contribution and authenticity. Being kind to yourself and others, acknowledging the need for mattering, volunteering, or being authentic helps us cultivate it.
Working on it leads to healthy self-esteem. How we perceive ourselves impacts our resilience enabling us to navigate adversity gracefully. It gives us a meaning and purpose in life that fuels our passions and keeps us away from existential crisis. It also helps us cope with a lot of mental health issues. The sense of mattering gives us validation and a sense of belongingness, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness, two significant precursors to anxiety and depression.
What to note?
Since humans are “social animals”, we need each other such that mattering is not a solitary pursuit but a collective endeavour. By acknowledging the significance of others, we elevate their sense of mattering, creating a ripple effect that extends to our own mental health.
The author is an emotional and mental health professional, and founder, Enso Wellness.