“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