We all want to matter…we all want to be seen, heard, and validated. We all want to count for something, to stand for something, and to make a difference in the best way we know how. To matter takes time and we need to know who we are (self-worth), we need to practice sharing our voice and being heard, and we need to be open to receiving compliments and feedback from others so we can accept that we matter!
It’s really hard sometimes for me to feel that I do, in fact, matter. When I was little, I wasn’t really told that I mattered or that I was good. I got minimal feedback, compliments, and validation. So, my life’s path became one of seeking approval and validation by working hard, achieving, and constantly pushing myself to success. This way of living reaped many rewards: attention, approval, compliments, and the attainment of goals (yay!). However, none of my hard work seemed to translate into feeling as though I mattered. I learned that mattering was not about attention, popularity, achievement and accomplishment, performing, or material wealth. To be honest, this was a bit of a surprising lesson as I felt this is exactly what “mattering” would be like. However, what I learned and what I am learning is that mattering is so much more than what we can prove or show for our lives.
There are 4 ways I have learned (and am still learning) to matter: time to reflect, mentorship, dreaming, and self-care and self-compassion. Taking time to look back on our day and life experiences is a critical piece of mattering. Sometimes I feel that life just passes by so quickly and without taking time to “smell the roses” or notice ourselves and what we are learning and how we are changing and growing, we may fail to see and feel how much we matter. Taking the time to reflect and be still and slowing down can help us to know who we are: our qualities, values, beliefs, interests, hobbies, and favourite things. I believe we learn to matter by knowing ourselves and acknowledging who we were, who we are, and who we want to become.
The second way I am learning to matter is through mentorship. There is nothing greater than having someone to talk to who sees your potential (even before you do), who can point out your strengths, and remind you who you are, how far you have come, and your amazingness. In the words of Dr. Leslie Parrott, author of You Matter More Than You Think, “…it is often through the eyes of another person that we first see what we can do and who we can be” (p. 63). I feel I matter when I talk to my mentors and when they reflect back what they see in me. Sometimes, we lose sight of ourselves or have trouble knowing who we are. Mentors are great for perceiving our uniqueness, reminding us of our value, and encouraging, inspiring, and motivating us to personal best and the greatness we have inside of us. I know I matter more and more when I spend time with mentors who influence me in such positive ways: who listen to me, who see me, who guide me, and who offer me such valuable insights and wisdom. It is important to have a mentor to walk with us on our journey and it is equally important to be a mentor to others who are perhaps just beginning their journey.
The third way of mattering is to have dreams. A dream almost always leads to something good. Dreaming is our opportunity to think BIG – far beyond our current situation, and to consider the idea that anything is possible! It is never too late to dream and it is always helpful to consider what you really, really, really want – without any limitations or doubts. Reach for the stars! Why not?! Dreaming is exactly how great ideas begin and dreaming is a way of mattering because it is your own belief about what can be!
The fourth and final way of mattering is to practice self-care and self-compassion. I believe that self-care leads to mattering and mattering leads to self-care. They work together. When we are kind and gentle to ourselves and we give ourselves lots of love and care, forgive our mistakes, and nurture ourselves, we are showing compassion and giving ourselves the message that we do matter. Any act of kindness and gentleness is affirming who we are and that we really do matter.
Discovering that I matter and how I matter has been a long journey, and I want to encourage young girls to start thinking about the ways they matter. For me, it has taken a lot of self-care, slowing down to reflect, and learning to truly receive the compliments and kindness of others. How do you matter?