Every one of us is a unique human being, worthy just by existing on this planet. We are all important in various ways to ourselves and others, and we owe it to ourselves to understand how we relate to others. At the same time, it is also beneficial to understand just how unimportant we are to the world. We are, paradoxically, both important and unimportant all at once, and we need to understand this in order to live our best lives.
Understanding Your Importance: Your Self
In some sense, you’re all you’ve got in this world. You are guaranteed to be the only person constantly alongside you throughout the entirety of your life until you die. (Religious folks might feel they also have God with them.) You need to prioritize your own care in order to help others out in this world. You matter; therefore, you deserve to work toward a fulfilling life.
Understanding Your Importance: Your Dependents
To your children, you are irreplaceable. Without you, their parent, they wouldn’t exist in your own family. In most families, a parent has nurtured a child since birth; in adoptive or other family contexts, a parent has nurtured since that child entered their lives. Do not underestimate your influence on your children: when they are infants, they rely on you for every single task needed for survival. As they age, they become more capable of keeping themselves alive, but they are absolutely still in need of you for love, affection, emotional support, and attention. If you’ve done a “good enough” job parenting, your child needs you until you die and will crave the time spent with you once you have passed on. So much of what a person learns and becomes is influenced by their parents, so please don’t ever downplay how important you are to your children. This applies to others in your life who rely upon you for caretaking.
Understanding Your Importance: Other Loved Ones and the World
Similarly, don’t downplay your importance to your spouse/significant other/partner. They, too, depend on you, albeit in different ways than a child. They chose you, and you mean something to them. Because partners are primary support systems for each other, it’s important to take care of yourself and work to understand the impact you have on this person. Significant others can both help lift us to our highest highs, but they also can provide us with our lowest lows during conflict or when hurtful words are said – no one can love you or hurt you like your spouse. It’s crucial you don’t downplay your significance to them, because otherwise you could contribute negatively to their well-being.
The same goes for other loved ones in your life – family, friends, communities, even acquaintances and coworkers. Understand the power that comes from kind words, actions, and connection on your end; also understand the power you hold when you share unkind words and hurt others with your actions. People often don’t like showing their vulnerability, but negative action on your end likely hurts the person on the receiving end, even if they don’t show it.
Understanding Your Unimportance: Others’ Reactions to Your Choices
So many people put so much stock into what others think of them. Now, it’s fair to want to be considered a good, kind, decent person, but a lot of people take this sentiment and extend it to somewhat meaningless choices, like what they wear or what kind of music they listen to. Most people are dedicating little to no headspace to some of the more mundane parts of your life – only you’re thinking about yourself that much, so make decisions that keep you living in line with your values and forget what others might say.
Understanding Your Unimportance: Your Status
The title you hold at your job, the degree you earned from your university, the size of your savings account at the bank – none of these things make you any more important than anybody else and warrant special treatment. Don’t make the mistake of believing that the external qualities of your life give you more internal importance than others who haven’t had your luck or certain opportunities opened to them.
Understanding Your Unimportance: Your Job
Understanding your unimportance in relation to your job can be hard to wrap your head around; we don’t like to feel like the work we do doesn’t matter. I don’t argue that the work you do in meaningless; in fact, it probably matters a lot to someone out there. What is important to realize is that you are not so important that your workplace couldn’t exist without you – it can and it will. If you died tomorrow, would your company keep existing and producing and serving? While it’s morbid to think about an immediate death, it can be effective to imagine what the world would look like without you in it to help you understand your importance.