“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
A phenomenon most of us only notice once we lose it.
If you’re like me, you’ve had (and could still have) a love/hate relationship with significance. Simply because it often seemed so elusive. Just out of reach.
Our journey together started as far back as I can remember.
As the youngest of three siblings, I often felt unheard. Overlooked. Ignored. Insignificant.
I thought it was normal. Didn’t all little sisters bear the same cross? Apparently not…
As a young adult, I looked to my friends to fill my “significance” gap. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t. Teenage years are notoriously dramatic, and mine were no exception.
Those were roller-coaster years, as I constantly yearned for a sense of significance. Always relying on others to fill my proverbial cup.
Moving into adulthood proper, I simply handed the responsibility over to my various romantic partners. Looking back, those poor guys had no clue as to the immensity of the challenge they were taking on.
Back then, my particular belief system firmly stated that any partner of mine was responsible for how I felt. End of story!
It was his duty to pander to my emotional needs.
It was his duty to make me feel good!
I know, I roll my eyes in disbelief too.
But what exactly is this significance we all desire?
This sense of significance that we so readily measure our worth by?
Think about it. How would you describe your sense of significance?
Is it something you measure by another person’s judgment of you (e.g.: I’m popular, therefore I’m significant)?
Or are you able to feel significant despite another’s opinion (e.g.: I feel significant even when I’m alone)?
I had an incident a while back where, in a moment of desperation, I reached out to a close family member for support. And was deftly turned away.
It was unexpected. Entirely. And it rocked my little world.
This person was my support system. My fallback guy. My innermost circle.
My feelings of insignificance exploded back into my reality. Briefly. But in that moment, they ran deep.
Significance is often one of the ways in which we define ourselves within a relationship. Whether it be in work, family, friend, or romantic relationships. In other words, in these instances, we seek our sense of significance from someone else. Through their opinion of us, or in their attention to us.
We believe that what they think matters. A lot.
And when things are peachy and everyone’s on the same page, it’s awesome! We lift each other. We sing each other’s praises. Feelings of significance and worthiness abound!
Yet, when the peachiness turns bitter and we stand facing each other, with differing perspectives, the opposite is often true.
That familiar strength, support, and safety simply evaporates.
Leaving us raw. Naked. Feeling insignificant.
Now, before we all reach for the tissues, let me just say: There is value in this.
It’s only in the nakedness, the rawness, and the full feelings of insignificance that we can actually begin to make a shift. Toward who we really are.
Because here’s the thing: If we truly lean into those feelings of insignificance without fear, we realize that insignificance doesn’t feel like anything.
In fact, insignificance doesn’t really exist. At all!
You can’t see it. Touch it. Or taste it.
It’s simply a concept.
Born of the story we’re currently telling ourselves.
And, as with any story, it’s all made up!
I’ll venture one step further and suggest that it’s the fear of feeling insignificant that’s scarier for us mortals. And we’ll often do anything to avoid it. Mask it. Or stuff it down.
When I stood in the face of my own perceived insignificance a few weeks ago, I was initially rattled. I felt small. Rejected. And very alone.
But only for a bit.
Because as I faced it down and let the essence of it flow through me, I noticed something astounding.
Nothing. Had. Changed.
Nope, I was the same person. I looked the same, smelled the same, and sounded the same.
Even more importantly, the world didn’t end. Nor did the sky fall in.
I was okay.
So, here’s where I got to:
I get to choose whether I’m significant. Or not.
Nobody else is qualified to.
Only my opinion of me matters. Ever.
There is nothing that anyone (no matter who they are) can say that means anything about me.
Any sense of insignificance that I feel is simply my own perception.
And if it’s all simply a story, then why not tell myself a good one?
One where I am important. Worthy. And enough.