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What it takes to feel like you matter

Have you felt like you don’t matter? I wonder how many of do. I, for one, spent years feeling this way. Like it doesn’t matter if I’m at that event, with those people, or if I even exist. Who will notice? Who will be affected?

Reduced feelings of ‘mattering’ have been found to contribute to loneliness and social anxiety, and more introverts feel they don’t matter much, compared with extraverts. So, it’s a topic of importance for our community –and something we frequently hear about in quiet conversations.

What does it mean to matter?

Mattering is the sense that, in some way, we are an important part of the world around us. And we are, of course. Just because we exist. We’re a whole being, yet part of things bigger than us – family, community, society, our ecosystem. We may be a tiny dot on earth, but we all are existing side by side on this beautiful blue marble suspended in a sunbeam. What we choose to do has a ripple effect, whether we see it or not. So why does it feel like we don’t matter at times?

What does it take to feel like we matter?

Mattering consists of three components:

Awareness involves being the focus of others’ attention. Without recognition and acknowledgement of existence, an individual may feel like a “non-person”. Even negative attention is deemed better than none (which is often a reason for children misbehaving).

Importance is to be the object of others’ interest and concern. The investment of time and energy into another person for the benefit of their welfare signals their importance. This may involve the qualities of listening to another, taking pride in their achievements, and being prepared to inconvenience oneself for the other person. This is linked to a sense of having social support.

Reliance means that others appreciate the resources we have to offer and turn to us to meet their needs and provide support.

Importance and reliance represent the flow of relationship ‘to us’ and ‘from us’, respectively. There is significance in being chosen as a consistent target of investment or fulfilment of needs, especially when someone has multiple possibilities. It’s important to note that the two relational components here, importance and reliance, contribute to a sense of mattering when relating is not a means to an end, but is the purpose itself.

Feeling like we don’t matter

We may come to the conclusion that we don’t matter if people do not meaningfully share themselves with us, we don’t feel seen, we aren’t listened to, and don’t feel interesting, cared about, or valuable to anyone. This feeling of not mattering evokes a sense of irrelevance, alienation, and disconnection within us, and can lead to feeling socially anxious.

There’s little research on why us quiet ones might feel like we don’t matter. However, we know that a lot of us quieter people can feel unseen and uninteresting to others, especially when it can be so hard to join in and keep up with the pace of a conversation. And with people often not being very good at asking questions and inviting us, it’s not always easy to let our light shine alongside louder, bubbly extraverts who easily take the stage and chat –even though we believe that everyone is interesting!

Us highly sensitive introverts might also keep a very small social circle, investing time and energy significantly into just one or two people, which perhaps reduces the amount of people we can deeply matter to and means we’re reliant on people who may not have the resources to meet our needs. If you’re like me, then you might be the ‘go-to support friend’ for some when they’re in need. Something that I’ve noticed is that, in some friendships, support has flowed from me but not necessarily to me in return when I’ve needed it, which has left me feeling used and like I don’t matter because I’m reliant on that friendship to meet my needs –it’s the one I’ve invested in after all. On the other hand, many people don’t feel like they can ask for help or show vulnerability at all, and believe they should keep their problems bottled up, which takes away any opportunity for someone else to be supportive and, therefore, to feel like they matter.

So, what can we do?

My hope for you, quieteer, is that Quiet Connections is a place where you do feel like you matter –and so does everyone else in our quiet community. It’s up to all of us to play our part in cultivating a culture where each of us feels seen and interesting, cared about and valued.

We need to make sure that we really see each other. We look up, make eye contact (if we feel able to), smile or welcome our fellow quieteers as they join us.

We invest in each other; showing an interest and caring about each other. We’re listening to each other, asking questions, being curious about each other and finding their stories. If someone doesn’t seem to be involved and appears uncomfortable, then we might gently invite them into the conversation, move to sit with them, or take a break together. We offer to make others a cuppa when we’re together, and perhaps invite someone for a post-meet up coffee or a walk.

And to borrow a principle from our friends at Camerados, let’s ask others for help and advice, noticing and appreciating each others’ strengths and resources, and giving each other the opportunity to contribute and feel valued.

I hope you notice someone showing you that you matter today.

If you’d like to join one of our Meet Ups in Cornwall, head over to quietconnections.co.uk/meetups to find out what’s on. 

 

References

s Elliott, G., Kao, S., & Grant, A.-M. (2004). Mattering: Empirical Validation of a Social-Psychological Concept. Self and Identity, 3(4), 339–354. https://doi.org/10.1080/13576500444000119

Flett, G. L., Goldstein, A. L., Pechenkov, I. G., Nepon, T., & Wekerle, C. (2016). Antecedents, correlates, and consequences of feeling like you don’t matter: Associations with maltreatment, loneliness, social anxiety, and the five-factor model. Personality and Individual Differences, 92, 52–56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2015.12.014

Marshall, P. J. (2001). Do I Matter? Construct validation of adolescents’ perceived mattering to parents and friends. Journal of Adolescence (London, England.), 24(4), 473–490. https://doi.org/10.1006/jado.2001.0384

Author

  • Hayley Stanton

    Hi, I’m Hayley - the original quieteer. I, too, identify as a quiet person. I’m naturally a highly sensitive introvert and I love and appreciate my quiet strengths now, but I spent much of my life not feeling good enough and experiencing social anxiety. I missed so many opportunities because I was afraid of being judged harshly, criticised and rejected – and because I doubted that I had the ‘right’ personality to succeed. Quiet Connections exists in part because I had a fantastic coach who helped me to work through old patterns of keeping myself small and hidden so that I could show up and be seen to play my part in creating the more connected, curious and compassionate world that I dream of. Now, I’m passionate about helping quiet people discover their unique qualities, gifts, passions and experiences and explore how best to use these to express themselves more authentically and contribute to the world in a way that works with their quieter or more sensitive nature. Get to know me here.

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One Comment

  1. I’ve been told that I am “quiet” my whole life it’s made me feel that I’m.lacking in something and not as good as other people, that im different.
    Just let people be who they are.