Tiny Wisdom: How We Are Valuable

“What we must decide is how we are valuable rather than how valuable we are.” ~ Edgar Z. Friedenberg

Just now I saw an ad on the right-hand side of my Facebook page promoting a webcast about purpose. The message reads, “Are you meant for greater things?”

This immediately caught my eye because it essentially appeals to our deep-seated need for significance.

We all want to feel that we’re important—that our lives matter—and that often comes down to feeling that we’re doing something special.

When I was younger, I wrapped my identity around singing and acting, and I hoped I’d one day perform in movies or on Broadway.

I remember one day in my high school chorus class, we were singing “On My Own” from Les Miserables. This was a song I frequently sang at auditions, and it felt like it was mine.

There was one note that I always held for a prolonged time—so I held it, even though the entire class had stopped singing.

From the piano, the teacher yelled, “This is not a solo!” I realized then that I’d refused to blend. In a very obvious way, I’d reinforced that I needed to stand out from the crowd. I needed to be the star more than I wanted to perform.

Initially, I felt ashamed of this instinct, but over time I’ve learned that wanting to feel special and valued is not inherently bad.

What’s detrimental is not being aware of that desire, and then making choices that don’t fully align with our values and priorities in the pursuit of external validation.

The alternative is to ask ourselves: What is genuinely important to me? What do I enjoy doing for the sake of it? What’s the difference I’d like to make, whether people know I make it or not?

We inevitably feel like our lives matter when we do something about the things that matter to us.

In this way, we become part of something greater than ourselves, instead of focusing all our energy on doing something greater.

I have realized I am special and important—just like everyone else.

We all want to feel worthy. But maybe we don’t need to stand out from the crowd to do it. Maybe the greatest feeling of worth is knowing we’re all connected, and we all have the capacity to do something worthwhile for ourselves and the greater good.

Photo by raichovak

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • StarGazerGirl

    Makes so much sense to me, especially today as I’m looking for a job that’ll fit my INTP personality – so difficult. Please send your prayers and good wishes that I’ll find something. 

  • Lisalisa46

    Great post !!!! ( AS usual).  It struck home with me, especially, as some of my talents are writing, singing and comedy. Doing these things have always made me feel connected.  But, for the longest time, I would agonize over why I wasn’t doing any of these things “professionally” – as others had suggested to me over the years.  As if one could only be “important” by being publically recognized for their God given talents.  Yet, every time I thought about “making those professional moves, with all the publicity garbage that goes along with it, I made myself sick inside – so I never attempted it.  Luckily, as the years went by, I realized that I, personally, didn’t need to be “famous” with my talents to feel valuable or connected.  Just by utilizing them to connect with “myself”, made me feel in tune on a very deep level.  And, if along the way I could help or reach someone else with my comedy, writing or singing, I would gladly give of it freely – and so I have.  And still do.  THAT is what makes me feel valuable and connected:) 

  • Lisalisa46

    OOPS!  Think i posted this on the wrong article…sorry! LOL!!! 

  • Thanks for sharing your insights and experiences on these issues. I regularly struggle with the tension between wanting to fit in and wanting to stand out, both of which seem be defined in terms of others. I recently read Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, which helped me understand the subtle distinction between fitting in – in which I seek an extrinsic confirmation of connectedness – and belonging – in which I feel an intrinsic assurance of my connectedness. And I find that a sense of belonging is even more challenging to accept, due to this intrinsic nature. I’m much more willing to acknowledge your specialness and importance than I am my own … and therein lies my work.

    Lightening up a bit, on the off chance that you or your readers haven’t encountered this already, I wanted to share a 16-minute video on “Validation” that offers a nice balance between light-heartedness and depth of meaning:

  • Desireswithhope

    Hey , that’s indeed the desire we all want to feel , I.e to feel that we are worthwhile. Many times I revert. Ack to my old feelings which says to me that I am not special or important Or worthwhile and the. I came across this concept of basing our value conditionally by Albert Ellis. I think he made a fantastic point that all the criteria for basing our value as a human and our importance as a human is at arbitrary and there is no proof which can prove that our value is based on something. Infact he said all this concept of basing or measuring our value and importance is religious and non scientific. So he gave two solutions. One is inelegant solution in which he said that it is healthy if we say that we all are important , worthy and special just because we exist and not because we do something or be something. And the elegant solution is to throw this concept of basing our worth and importance on some basis and criteria and just focus on living. Simply say that ” I exist as a human being and if my worth exist then I’m worthy and important just because I exist or I can say that throw this shitty concept o measuring our importance and I just see how I can enjoy myself and can love myself in many different ways”

    Personally I found this concept really helpful and I think it relieved me much tension of proving my self important and worthy by doing something or being something. Usually now I do something to enjoy myself but as a human I many times fall back to my old ways in which I try to prove myself and feel insecure if I dont do something which other person has done or whig society consider important but I remind myself again and again that I just exist and I am lovable and worthy and valuable just because I exist. I hope this helps.

    Really I found your articles so insightful and the sense in which compassion has been entered into my daily life, it is indeed so soothing and it makes me comfortable in my own skin.

    Thanks lori

  • Mclou2633

    Thanks Lori….good thoughtful post….and it got me thinking .  I do wonder if feeling special is a human instinct or if it is born from our culture that reinforces independence as more valuable than community.  Since much of our self-worth initially came from others and from our dominant culture as we grow up, I wonder if being raised with values of connection to others as more important would have allowed me to see things differently (or at least easier to comprehend).  In absence of being able to change the past, I have found the Buddha’s view that the existence of self is an illusion, and the truth that most of of life’s dissatisfaction comes from the ego’s need to compare, as helpful. 

  • Mindfulsearcher

    Lori, since I receive your blog posts by email, I seldom comment. I wanted you to know, though, how helpful tiny buddha is to me. So often a post addresses a need I have just at that moment. We all need to be told how valuable our work is, and yours if very valuable to me and, I’m sure, to many others. Thanks.

  • Thank you so much. I appreciate that you took the time to write. Your comment put a big smile on my face. =)

  • That’s a good question–about whether or not wanting to feel special is actually instinctive. I suspect it has to do with the general uncertainty in life. We want to believe we are here for a profound purpose–that our lives mean something more than the everyday experience of living them. 

    I think you bring up a great point about how we’re raised. I know for me personally, I felt I didn’t get positive attention growing up and so I always felt I had something to prove. Challenging the urge to compare has certainly helped me a lot–though I admit it’s something I sometimes have to work at! It’s just so tempting to do it, sometimes without even realizing it.

  • You’re most welcome! This is all so insightful, what you wrote about Albert Ellis’ ideas. I especially like the suggestion to focus on enjoying and loving ourselves in many different ways. If we focus on appreciating our time, suddenly it’s less important to compare ourselves to other people. Thank you for sharing this here. =)

  • That sounds like a fascinating book! I’ve also struggled with the same challenging–wanting to fit, and simultaneously wanting to stand out. It’s something I still work on because those instincts run deep. Regarding the video, it’s one of my favorites! A couple Christmases ago, I played it for my whole family, and watched it every night for a while. It always lifts my spirits!

  • That’s beautiful Lisa! I think it’s wonderful you’ve been able to use your talents and gifts in the way you want to lose them, without feeling like you *should* be doing something more or different. I’ve actually realized that I miss community theater, because it genuinely was a fun part of my youth. It was also where I made all my friends. I can’t seem to find a community theater here in LA (because almost everything acting-oriented has to do with “making it”!) But I plan to find a local theater when my boyfriend and I move next year. Even if I’m in the chorus and have no lines, I know I will enjoy it!

  • I think it was the right one!

  • I’m sending good thoughts your way!

  • Mclou2633

    I think we all want to feel that we matter and that our lives have meaning.  But one of the common themes I hear is that in order to feel that we matter, somehow we have to stand out and create separation from everyone else.  But if we can entertain the idea that we are all interconnected, then everything we do and say affects more people and things than any of us can possibly imagine.  To me, that means the more connected and the LESS separate we are, the more we we matter.   I know I am preaching to the quire here….I guess I just want to believe that my thinking is unique and that I am SPECIAL….LOL.  Peace Lori….love your Blog.

  • Thank so much! I love what you wrote about us all being interconnected–that the less separate we are, the more we matter. Peace to you as well. =)

  • Frankachino

    Great way to start my morning. Thank you 🙂

  • Jennifer

     Nice video Joe. Thanks for sharing. You are GREAT. And you have the most amazing cheekbones. 😉

  • prime

    thank you for this lori. i for one made huge mistakes bec i was seeking external validation instead of my personal happiness and mission

  • You’re most welcome Prime. I’ve been there before as well. We live, we learn! =)