Do You Think that You Matter?

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by Simon Jacobson

Would the world be any different if you weren’t born? Do you wake up in the morning feeling like you have an important role to play in the grand scheme of things?

Most of us grow up in a world where life is dispensable, where our individual contributions go unrecognized, where there is no real sense that life - ours or anyone's - is significant or meaningful.

At the root of this restlessness and discontent is the deep-deated conviction that "I Don't Matter." A belief that if I were to show up someplace or not, or make some kind of contribution or not, it would not fundamentally affect the world or the people that live in it.

Think about that for a minute. If you don’t feel like you make a difference in the world, how excited can you be about the things you do and the choices you make? When you wake up in the morning and you feel like what you do that day doesn’t matter anyway, how committed or passionate can you be?

But here is a message that will change your life forever: Birth is G-d’s way of saying "you matter."

This means you are absolutely necessary. You are indispensable to G-d's vision of the world, chosen to fulfill a mission in this world that you and only you can accomplish Like musical notes in the grand Divine composition, each of us has our unique music to play.

If you think this is a simple message, let me share with you a letter that I received from a woman who read my book Toward a Meaningful Life:

"I am a 47-year-old executive—very successful and accomplished; admired and respected. Yet beneath this fine veneer lies a woman in shreds. You see, my soul was murdered as a young child when my parents abused me physically, emotionally, sexually. Every day of my life is essentially a struggle against suicide. I feel no self value, actually no self at all. I am a sum of my parts, and my value is based on how others value me. I have tried many therapies but essentially have remained the same. Intimacy doesn’t work in my life, relationships are either unhealthy or nonexistent.

"In order to compensate for this deep void and lack, what I have done, as do people in this situation, I have become superambitious and hyperproductive in order to create some semblance of outer control in place of no inner control. It helps distract me somewhat and helps get me through the day, but it doesn’t really change anything. Inside I am a wreck, and every day, sometimes every moment, is another struggle.

"I had long given up hope and resigned myself to this life of misery. But then a miracle happened. Someone gave me the book Toward a Meaningful Life as a gift. I am Jewish but non-observant, and I was glancing through the book with a measure of skepticism until a line jumped out at me and struck me like a thunderbolt, like a silver bullet between the eyes:

"The line said: ‘BIRTH IS G-D SAYING THAT YOU MATTER.’ I read it again. ‘BIRTH IS G-D SAYING YOU MATTER.’ I read it over and over at least 500 times. And I will continue to read it every day of my entire life.

"I suddenly realized, after 47 years, that no matter what my parents told me, no matter how they said I was an accident and a source of misery in their lives, that no matter how society tells us that we are just a statistic in someone’s balance sheet, that our value is measured in buying power, productivity, looks, youth, contacts, and money—none of matters because I matter to the One who matters most. To G-d, who created me and said, ‘I want you on this Earth. I need you.

"The mere fact that I was born, that I exist, regardless of my mood, my performance level, my looks that day. The mere fact that I am here is a vote of confidence from G-d that I am indispensable, absolutely necessary, irreplaceable. No one can replace me. I matter. I truly matter.

"Do you know how that made me feel? That I have permission to matter. I am commanded to matter.

"So though I still have many years to heal, now, for the first time in my life, I have hope. And I know what I need to do. I need to create bypass surgery to bypass the infected arteries that my parents gave me when they touched me, criticized me, hit me, for the first time, and reconnect to that first, pure, innocent moment of birth, when G-d said YOU MATTER, you are indispensable.

"So thank you for giving me back my life."

This letter left me in tears for some time. It is a letter that changed my life. I grew up in a relatively healthy home and was nurtured and made to feel valuable. But hearing the heart-wrenching story from a woman who did not have that luxury, I was challenged to ask myself: "Do I matter because my parents valued me and because of my achievements, or do I matter in a more permanent, cosmic way?"

I began to pose this question to audiences across the country - and I ask you, dear reader, the same: Do you think that you really matter? The knee-jerk response is usually : Of course I matter - I feel that I am important. My family, friends and work colleagues value me. But let me rephrase the question: Would it make a difference if you were never born? Remember, before you were born, it would not be a catastrophe if you did not appear; no one would miss you because no one was expecting you.

Of course, we can justify our existence once we are born. But does our existence have any merit beyond our justifications?The only absolute reason why you truly matter is because you were chosen by G-d to come to this world. The words "Birth is G-d saying you matter" are not my own. They are taken from the Torah,which states the single most important truth you will ever hear:

Yes, you matter, not because you think you are important, or because others tell you that you are, or because of your buying power, monetary value, looks, performance or productivity level. But because G-d put you here. You are an indispensable musical note. Irreplaceable. Period. The world would be different if you were not here or if you do not fulfill your calling. You have been allotted a certain section of this globe, with certain talents; people you will meet; experiences you will have; places you will go; objects you will obtain - all are allocated to you in order for you to transform them, to leave them differently from how you found them. And this change lives forever. Eternally.

When you know that you and your contribution are crucial, it infuses all that you do with a compelling sense of urgency.

I believe that this simple, clear message is preventive medicine for much of the tragedy and suffering that plague our world today-the shootings, the hatred, the suicides, the wars. We need to reach to every person, to every child, every parent, every educator, every leader, with the message: You matter. Your life and what you do with it matters. You are indispensable to G-d and to this world.

Click here to order your own copy of Toward a Meaningful Life

Achieving Emotional Intimacy
Are You Good on the Inside?
Do You Think that You Matter?
Eight Steps to Breaking Bad Habits
Emotional Subjectivity: Enemy or Ally?
Growing through our Pasts
Guilt & Shame: Constructive or Destructive?
How to Find Joy in Your Life
Joy Central: Your Adar Headquarters
Mission Possible
The Anatomy of Fear
The Key to Happiness
Untrained Addiction
Who Needs Meaning in Life Anyway?
Would You Like to Judge Yourself?
Your Seven Emotions


Visitor Comments
myself, 09/16/2014
I get what you're saying but....
I get what you're saying and its partially right. But my immediate lance through my heart is "so my baby that didn't get a chance to be born doesn't matter?" That's unbearably cruel and I know not what you're saying but that's how it comes across
Marcelo, 03/10/2014
Life doesn't matter because no one put their money where their mouths are
Nice text, but I don't think you really believe what you're saying, specially when the article ends with the words "Click here to order your own copy of Toward a Meaningful Life."

Like most people, you're just selling. You're just saying the exact words you believe will lead to your desired outcome: for people to take the money out of their pockets and put it into yours.

THAT is the problem right there: if my life matters so much, why are people only trying to get money from me? Why aren't they trying to give me money instead? You can substitute any valuable thing in place of "money" if that word offends you - it doesn't change the fact that every single person on this planet only wants to take, never to give. At most, they surrender some value when they know for sure they'll be getting more in return.

The exception to that is your parents, when you're lucky enough to not have been cursed with a dysfunctional family; if your family is at least half normal, then your parents will be happy to give you the resources you need for free until you can walk on your own two feet. But you can just easily have psychopaths for parents, which then defeats the whole purpose of your having been born. So no, birth can't be proof of your worth.
Vicky, 12/12/2013
Nice article, but like many comments below, I don't feel I matter just because I was born. A lot of people are born and die in early childhood because they don't matter enough to their parents or the society (maybe medical costs to keep them alive aren't justified but there are many other cases). Perhaps death is also meaningful if someone lived just for a few seconds on this Earth. But it doesn't prove an existence of a caring God who loves and values us.
Chris, 04/03/2013
I never feel I matter
I have no family other than some very distant cousins so every day I struggle with feelings of intense loneliness and the feeling that I don't really matter to anyone. Knowing I matter to God isn't really enough for me. I would love so much to matter to just one person.
Eileen, 03/09/2013
Hi,reading the stories of so many unhappy people is touching. I too am on this site for having the same feelings.
I have struggled with trust for the majority of my life, I come from a large family, where you were lucky if your name was even remembered.

My father was emotional abusive, my mother did her best and I know she loved me, but our childhood was a constant round of sexual an emotional abuse. This destroyed my trust as I was seven when the sexual abuse started, we walked into a pedophile ring when we moved in with her relatives.
The last ten years have reinforced my feelings, losing a sister to cancer, then the one person I knew that loved me unconditionally, my mum. My family were so disfunctional that I had to walk away, it destroyed me as I have always had siblings around me, but the youngest tore the family apart.
I do have two beautiful married children, as they are busy all the time I am the one who always makes contact, otherwise the calls are few and far between, especially my son.
I am an empty nester and my feelings deepened once they were gone and I was no longer needed. I recently started seeing someone, and I noticed the turmoil began when I started seeing him? I think I have surpressed my emotions for so many years that somehow they have surfaced since sharing our affection. I am still keeping my distance as I don't trust his motives, we are total opposites and I sense he knows how vulnerable I still am, so sex is a nono. I hope I'm wrong as I would dearly love to matter to someone and I have liked him for two years. I agree we do have a purpose in the scheme of things and I think if we are patient and believe in ourselves it willl be revealed in time. Good luck to everyone on this site, you are not alone and I hope the outcome is a positive one for us all!
Love Eileen
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