All of us are prone to believing that what we do just doesn’t matter, not really. Especially at the beginning of a new year where many of us take time to reflect on the prior year and wonder what is to come for the year ahead, we all begin to have doubts. These doubts can creep into all areas of your life, and build up until you just give up or incorrectly believe that what you do doesn’t even matter and question if you even matter. Having doubts about your abilities is normal but you have to find the strength to quiet those negative thoughts before they become a problem.
Here are some common ways that you might believe what you do doesn’t matter.
- You keep doing your best at work, and you might even be praised occasionally for the work you are doing, but you never get that promotion or raise. You feel that despite you doing your best, that nobody appreciates your efforts or your value in the company.
- You constantly question your choices. Did I make the right career decision? Am I happy with my partner and/or my friends? What do I want? I have all these goals but how am I supposed to ever achieve them?
- You interact regularly with others who you believe perceive you negatively or don’t even seem to notice you or the efforts you make. This could occur anywhere from working with clients, retail, a hospital and so on.
- You are critical of others who you perceive as successful or happy. You try to downplay or minimize their happiness or look for ways that they are really not as happy as they seem.
- You believe you cannot do things. I can’t get better at this subject. I can’t lose weight and be healthy. It’s too late for me to be happy in a career. I can’t improve my relationships with others. Instead of feeling like you are capable of making those changes, you feel like you lack the control to make positive changes for yourself.
What you do actually does matter. Every single action and choice you make has some consequence. You may not even realize the impact you have on the people around you. Below are some ways that you can realize that what you do does matter.
1. Identify your values. One of the best ways to realize you matter, is to know what’s important to you. Comparing what you want to a friend who has different passions, interests and skills is completely irrelevant to you. Also keep in mind that some things may sound interesting or cool to you, but don’t really align with a personal value. In my own personal life, I loved doing improv comedy, singing and a few other hobbies that I invested a good deal of my life into. However, music and comedy is not something that I value beyond myself. It’s fun and a great hobby to meet new people and challenge myself, but it’s not a life value. One of my life values is to help people in need around the world. This is something I find very important in my life and I look for ways to give back whether that’s volunteering overseas or donating to a fundraiser.
Take a look at your life and sort through what your values are. Your life values shouldn’t include a massive list of goals, these should be a few things that you find most important. Your values could include having a strong relationship with your family, a passion in music, learning new things for the sake of learning or helping the environment and so forth.
2. Make choices and actions based around your values. Feeling like you don’t matter can often occur because we have lost sight of what truly matters to us. If you aren’t investing in something that is truly important to you, you may feel like your actions don’t really matter or you might place too much focus on things that actually have little importance in your life.
3. Appreciate how other people matter. It’s easy to be critical of others and to pass judgment based on the very little knowledge you know of this person. Resist the temptation to negatively label others or feel they do not matter because of your incorrect perceptions. A stranger you meet anywhere can have a nice conversation with you that is lasting and positive, even if you never interact with them again. A busy restaurant with service workers can remind you that you need each of these people to have a good meal in a timely fashion. Appreciate the “thank you” or compliments that your loved ones and people you interact with give you. As you notice how others make a small or big difference in your life, you will also come to realize the ways that you make a difference, no matter how subtle or obvious.
4. Notice how your actions impact people. Try giving someone a genuine compliment, particularly someone you rarely compliment or maybe don’t speak with. See what happens. Speak to someone who is homeless, ask them about themselves and see if there’s anything you can do for them such as buy a meal or provide them with a blanket. See what happens. Smile at others whenever you catch their eye. Say thank you to someone who is providing you with a service. If you try this, I guarantee that you will notice that your actions have an impact on someone. Maybe someone’s day was a little happier just because of you, just because of that small effort you made.
5. Pay attention to how your actions make a difference to you. How many of us can relate to the feeling of being healthy and eating well and feeling great, and then suddenly we stop being healthy and feel low energy, tired, unhappy with our appearance and so forth? Yet knowing this, it can be tempting to not get back into that healthy routine and continue to feel less happy in your own life. Be honest with yourself about what actions you take that make you feel happy. If you know doing something makes you feel good and increases the quality of your life, then do it! The decisions you do make do make a difference, especially to you! Even something like being appreciative and thankful to others and the world, can leave a positive ripple to others but also inwards.
6. When you feel stuck, remember things will change. Feeling like you don’t matter is a feeling that doesn’t and shouldn’t last forever. All of us go through periods where we feel unhappy with something in our lives whether that’s our jobs or school and wonder if this phase will ever end. When you feel stuck, see what you can do to change that now because again, the actions you do take do matter. When you feel like you are worth more than the job you are doing, then start the process of searching for something else that reflects what you can offer. If you realize you are investing a tremendous amount of time doing something that means nothing to you, then figure out what gives you meaning. Once you identify that, invest in that which can mean taking a class, volunteering and so forth. You are in control. Things can change starting with you.
7. Let go of the expectation that you need validation. There have been countless of times where I have done things for others that have received no praise or recognition. Yes, that can hurt and make me feel like what I do doesn’t matter or isn’t appreciated by others. However, years ago I realized that I couldn’t have these expectations of other people. What matters is how I feel about myself. When I do something kind for another I appreciate anyone who notices but realize that I don’t need that type of validation to feel good about what I’m doing. When you let go of the expectation for validation, you open yourself to doing good things simply because they are important to you.
8. Be open with others. Sometimes the thing holding you back from realizing you matter is by being vulnerable with others. When you open yourself up to another, you realize not only the impact that person has on you but the impact you have on another. Being vulnerable is very difficult, especially if you have never really opened yourself up to another. Do something within your comfort limits whether that’s posting your experiences on a forum, listening to a friend either online or in person, sharing your story on a website or speaking to someone you just met. Vulnerability allows you and others to realize you arer not alone in your experiences, and the ways that you and others make a difference.
All of us have struggled with the feeling that what we do doesn’t matter, but this is far from the truth. What you do does matter. Your actions matter from a kind smile to raising awareness for a cause important to you. What you do is important. You do matter.