Mattering. To matter to another.

I never even heard of this concept until I read an article in the NYT about it.

Mattering is not just that you belong to a group of family, friends, and/or like-minded individuals, but that you also matter to them. The article hones in on mattering to a group because of what you do and/or contribute. This sounds well and truly valid. You do something, people notice and appreciate that act, and you come to matter to those people. This is then part and parcel of how we build our sense of self.

All true, and yet I have problems with all this doing.

As a therapist, I hear many stories people relate about their doings in the world — and either how they feel they matter or do not matter to others when they are doing all this stuff. Yes, just because you are doing does not mean you are mattering — and therein lies the problem.

I like to think about mattering in terms of our being state. We matter to others because of who we are not because of what we do. If we are always trying to do to matter, it can really lead to disappointment. First, your banking on someone else to notice what you are doing, appreciating it, and telling you you matter because of it — which keeps us doing for them. What if the other does not perceive all of your doing in this benign way?

Second, you could have gotten the message that you hold no value unless you are doing. So you do more and more hoping to matter more and more — and the cycle becomes never ending because the needs of others and organizations are never ending. Talk about a straight path to burnout.

Third, it almost feels taboo in society to simply be without doing. To hold value just for who you are. If we can matter for our being, then what can we do? Well, we have choice to decide what we will or won’t do and not just find worth in endless doing for others. We can simply be. That almost feels impossible today to not be doing for someone or some cause. To claim value in mattering because you are you.

The foundation is to matter for who you are and then to have choice in what and how much you do. This also provides agency to not let others dictate your worth, but to recognize you have worth without doing a thing.

You matter for being who you are first and foremost.