One of the basic human needs is the need for feeling significant. Everyone wants to feel that they matter and that they have a purpose in life. When someone doesn’t feel significant, the risk for emotional and physical health problems increases.
Feeling significant requires positive feedback from other people. Part of how people view themselves is based on the opinions of others. In Abraham Maslow’s widely accepted theory of the Hierarchy of Needs, meeting the need for belonging lays the foundation for the need to feel significant. You need people you can trust and rely on to give you positive feedback that will help make you feel significant.
Benefits of Feeling Significant
Feeling significant impacts both your emotional and physical health. The benefits of feeling significant include:
- Increased Self-Esteem
- Improves Motivation
- Decreased Stress
- Sense of Purpose
- Longer Life
Researchers at Dartmouth College discovered that self-esteem develops in the front striatal pathway of the brain. This pathway connects the medial prefrontal cortex, where self-awareness develops. The medial prefrontal cortex connects to the ventral striatum, which influences motivation. The brain is designed to use the feeling of significance to boost your self-esteem and motivation to achieve.
Scientists have found that feeling significant increases the level of serotonin, which boosts confidence. Serotonin, along with dopamine and oxytocin, are neurotransmitters that decrease stress and make you feel happy. Feeling significant increases, the levels of all three of these neurotransmitters.
In a study done by Harvard University, researchers found that feeling significant provided a sense of purpose and resulted in longer life. In this study, scientists gave nursing home residents a plant. Half the residents were told they needed to care for the plant, and half were told the staff would care for it.
The group that took care of the plant themselves reported a greater sense of purpose and lived longer than the others, even when results adjusted for age and medical conditions.
How to Feel Significant
There are two main ways a person strives to feel significant, productive, and destructive. Destructive means are evident when a child or an adult doesn’t feel significant or valuable. They will “act out” or destroy property and are disrespectful and mean to other people. The root of this type of behavior is usually low self-esteem and not feeling significant.
There are much more productive ways of feeling significant. Ideas include:
- Practice Gratitude
- Positive Self-Talk
Volunteering is a key way to feel significant. Helping others improves your empathy and gives your actions meaning. Volunteering can also provide a sense of control over difficult circumstances. There is a story about a man who noticed a young boy walking along the beach and throwing the starfish that had washed up in the tide back into the ocean.
The man told the boy what he was doing wouldn’t make a difference because there were too many starfish on the beach. The boy picked up a starfish, threw it in the water, and said, “I made a difference for that one.” The young boy felt significant because he helped where he could.
Gratitude is another important way to feel significant. You can’t expect other people to contribute to your need to feel significant if you don’t show them that they are significant to you. Being grateful for what others do for you and showing them your gratitude reminds you that you, and they, are significant.
It doesn’t matter if other people compliment you and contribute to your feeling significant if you engage in negative self-talk. A negative view of yourself can sabotage what other say. You may need to remind yourself that mistakes do not make you a failure, that you are human, and you are not alone in doing or feeling something.
Feeling significant means, you have a sense of accomplishment and purpose in your life. Feeling significant provides emotional and physical benefits that make you more productive and motivated.