Mattering: The Power of Mattering in Personal and Professional Growth

Understanding the profound impact of 'mattering' can revolutionize both personal and professional growth.
A simple image to illustrate that you matter.

Understanding the profound impact of ‘mattering’ can revolutionize both personal and professional growth. Dr. Gordon Flett’s insights into this concept reveal its significance in fostering self-worth, enhancing productivity, and building meaningful relationships in the workplace.

Understanding the Power of ‘Mattering’ in Personal and Professional Growth

In the vast realm of psychology, certain concepts resonate deeply with our intrinsic human needs. One such concept is ‘mattering.’ Introduced to the academic world by Gordon Flett, a professor at York University, the idea of mattering has profound implications for personal and professional growth.

Gordon Flett’s Personal Connection to Mattering

Flett’s journey with mattering began during his graduate studies in psychology. While the term might have been new in academic circles, the feeling it encapsulated was deeply familiar to him. He reminisced about his childhood visits to his grandmother, who managed a cafeteria at an insulation plant. There, he was treated with a kind of reverence, not just by his doting grandmother but also by her colleagues. This experience, where he felt deeply valued and missed in his absence, was his first brush with the essence of mattering.

Later in life, as Flett grappled with the challenges of academic research, his mother, Mary Flett, stepped in to support him. Despite facing her own personal challenges, she took on a pivotal role in his research, becoming a community figure known as “the lady on the bike.” This act not only bolstered her son’s work but also redefined her sense of purpose and value during a tumultuous time in her life.

Defining Mattering

At its core, mattering is about feeling significant in the world around you. It’s a two-pronged concept:

1. Feeling Valued: This encompasses being heard, appreciated, and cared for by others. It’s the sensation you get when someone genuinely listens to you or when your absence is felt in a group.

2. Adding Value: This is about feeling capable, important, and trusted. It’s the internal acknowledgment that you bring something unique to the table, be it in personal relationships, professional settings, or broader community engagements.

While some might confuse mattering with related concepts like belonging, self-esteem, or social connection, Flett clarifies the distinction. Mattering goes beyond just feeling part of a group. It’s about the group feeling incomplete without you. It’s the difference between liking oneself and feeling elated when someone acknowledges your presence.

The Impact of Mattering on Well-being

Research in the field has shown that the effects of mattering are profound. People who feel they matter tend to exhibit higher levels of self-compassion, satisfaction in relationships, and confidence in their ability to achieve their goals. They have a positive self-image and are more resilient in the face of challenges.

Conversely, a lack of mattering can have detrimental effects. Individuals who don’t feel they matter are more prone to feelings of burnout, self-criticism, anxiety, and depression. In extreme cases, this can even lead to aggression and increased risk of suicide.

Assessing One’s Sense of Mattering

Dr. Isaac Prilleltensky, a professor at the University of Miami, suggests a reflective approach to gauge one’s sense of mattering. He proposes introspective questions across various life domains:

– Relationships: Do you feel valued by your friends and family? Do they rely on you for emotional or practical support?

– Work: Whether in paid employment or voluntary roles, do you feel your contributions are recognized and appreciated? Do you feel competent in your tasks?

– Community: Are you an active and valued member of your community? Do people seek your opinion or assistance in community matters?

– Self-worth: Beyond external validation, do you value yourself? Do you believe in your worth irrespective of achievements or physical appearance?

Prilleltensky emphasizes the need for balance. It’s essential to feel valued and add value across all these domains. For instance, being indispensable at work but neglected at home can lead to an imbalance in one’s sense of mattering.

Enhancing Your Sense of Mattering

Realizing the importance of mattering is the first step. The next is actively working to enhance it. Here are some strategies:

1. Recognize and Amplify Strengths: Reflect on moments when you felt most useful or valued. Identify areas where you already make a difference and seek opportunities to amplify that impact.

2. Evaluate Work Life: Understand which aspects of your job make you feel significant. Seek roles or tasks that align with your strengths and make you feel valued.

3. Nurture Relationships: Express appreciation to loved ones. Engage in meaningful conversations, ask open-ended questions, and show genuine interest in their experiences.

4. Volunteer: Contributing to a cause can significantly boost one’s sense of mattering. It doesn’t require grand gestures; even small acts can make a difference.

5. Practice Self-compassion: Recognize that external factors, often beyond individual control, can impact one’s sense of mattering. It’s essential to practice self-compassion, challenge negative self-perceptions, and seek support when needed.

Conclusion

The concept of mattering, while simple, has profound implications for personal and societal well-being. Everyone has the potential to feel and add value in their lives. By understanding and actively nurturing our sense of mattering, we can lead more fulfilled, balanced, and impactful lives.

Dr Gordon Flett’s book is titled “The Psychology of Mattering: Understanding the Human Need to be Significant”.

This summary article is adapted from the original piece from the New York Times “Want to believe in yourself?: ‘Mattering’ Is Key” by Gail Cornwall, Sept. 27, 2023, which can be found in full at the following link: Why ‘Mattering’ Is a Key Part of Mental Health – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

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