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
coolbreeze, 04/03/2015
i ache for you as well as myself
keltin...I'm in the same boat as you. I understand as you....I have been in "therapy' SEEMS LIKE FOREVER.
Mr. Reality, 01/17/2015
We all have our own reality
Rather than spending money to hear someone's personal opinions as to why or if you matter, only you, by choice can decide you matter.
laura, 12/12/2014
about a book that changed someones life
This story made me cry a lot because I really thought I didn't matter but now I know I do matter and no matter what others say, to myself I matter. This relly helped me understand that I do matter
Kelton, 11/22/2014
This is me
I just read this article.... And it pisses me off to say the least. I understand you're trying to better people with what you're saying. But what about the atheist in life? Or, like me, the people who are agnostic? What you say doesn't make sense to me. If I am in this earth for a reason, then when does this reason come into play? If god is there, then when does he finally prove it to me? I use to go to church with my family all the time as a child. And I use to pray. I even went to catholic schools for a few years. But out of all those experiences, I never had the one that would matter most. The one where god finally answers a prayer and proves himself to me. After the many years of never being heard, I lost interest in this god everyone talks about. Why should put faith into someone/something, if they won't even take the time to answer a prayer of wanting to better myself? Now to why your article actually pissed me off.... You say I've been put here for a reason. Well what happens when I'm put onto this world into the care of parents who don't care about me? The last 8 years of my life have been complete misery in my house because not only my parents, but my ENTIRE family (aunts, cousins, siblings, etc) treated me horribly. Treated me like an outcast. The last year has been the worst. You don't know what it's like to have your parents tell you you're stupid. That you won't amount to anythig. That you're a loser. Did you have your parents kick you out at 17-18 because your stepdad fist fought you. And your mom took his side? I still live with my family unfortunately. I'm 20 now. And I've never wanted to be dead as bad as I do now. Where is god now? If I'm here for a reason, why wouldn't he help me here? Why wouldn't he show me that all of this will be over shortly? Instead of hitting me with roadblocks every time I try to better myself? I can't get into college because I need money and can't get a job. And even if my family wasn't financially unstable, I wouldn't get help from my parents. I go to join the army, and somehow a hernia that I've had my whole life is found. How did my past doctor who gave me my high school physicals miss that? Do you understand that just by saying "god put you here for a reason" doesn't make it all ok? It doesn't make all the bad stuff go away? It doesn't make people feel wanted? Especially the people who either don't believe in god or don't care. Personally... You're gonna have to give me a better reason as to why I shouldn't feel like I shouldn't be alive. Another thing that got me was you had a question in the article that stated "would you feel like life would be better if you weren't born?". Well what if I told you... Yes. I do feel like not only my family, but the whole world would benefit from me being gone. Cuz according to everyone, I'm just some asshole who only cares about himself and can never do anything to better himself or anyone else. Anyone who might be reading this may think I'm some eom person or some loser who's never been good at anyhing. But the fact of the matter is... I was lucky to be given such good looks. I'm an amazing athlete. And I personally feel like I'm the second most kindest, whole hearted guy I know right now. And yet I sit here and feel like I don't matter. Like nobody would bat an eye if I died right now. Whether it was by my hand or someone else's. I feel like no one would go to my funeral. I mean maybe 5 people. But why, at 20 years old, given a certain amount of personal gifts, do I feel so resented. Feel so lost. And feel like there's no point in living? Never have since I can remember. No one should buy your book. What makes you think that you should write a book and try changing peoples lives when it seems like you never had a bad day in your life? What compelled you to write a book on wanting to be alive? Did a friend kill himself because of he didn't feel he should be alive? That's not excuse enough honestly. Try going thru the heartache and troubles yourself before you try writing a book on wanting to be alive. Cuz not everyone is lucky enough to be happy with their life. Like you. Hope you're happy by making money off people who you can mislead...
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
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