The last few months, based on the people I've interacted with, and what I see in the media, I've been really concerned about people feeling small and unimportant.
There’s so much noise online. So many people work for companies that find them dispensable. People who are lucky enough to find a romantic partner often are ill-equipped to be ideal partners and thus even when not alone, they find themselves tearing each other down rather than building each other up.
There’s a thousand reasons to feel insignificant in a large world that feels even larger than it is where it is almost impossible to be recognized for our own amazing talents or even noticed.
From the little fights I see between neighbors, friends, and strangers on the internet, to the bigger picture stories that define our times - drug addiction and death, mass shooters, street violence, and political violence just to name a few. This dark feeling of insignificance is becoming an epidemic.
This past weekend we saw two more mass shooters claim the lives of over 30 people and hurt many more. One has an alleged manifesto that reads of white nationalism and fear of displacement.
Politics aside, I'm greatly concerned by what is going on with people that is taking them to such a dark place, so pushed to the fringes that they would take the lives of innocent people or destroy their own. Whether that be an extreme example of young men turned into mass murderers or the far more common, less-extreme example of nice people turned into online bullies full of snark and vitriol. Feeding the darkness that drives much of social media.
All these problems are negative vehicles to meet the human needs we all have to meet. Namely the need for significance.
Violence and anger are ugly, reactive means to getting a temporary boost of significance in a life that otherwise feels small and unimportant.
Whether it be a poor, inner city kid who feels he has no chance and no hope gaining a strong sense of significance by pulling out a gun to gain respect, a young white kid who has been told that he will be displaced by "the other" turning to a dramatic, violent act, or even just a normal guy working in a cubicle not feeling as if he really matters yelling at people in the comments section of the news - violence or anger makes them all feel like they matter - even if just for a moment.
There are tons of healthy or at least innocuous ways to meet your need for significance. You could aim to be successful in business, you could get a lot of great tattoos so you're noticed as being interesting, you could make art that people like, you could sing at church, you could become a parent, you could start a blog sharing your experience with something you love. There's no formula for how we meet our needs even though at our core we all share the same needs. It's only important that we meet these needs in a way that is good for ourselves and others around us.
Now here's the thing that we are seeing with tragedy after tragedy: if you don't find a way to meet these needs in a healthy way, you will find a way to meet them in a destructive way. Developing a drug problem, hurting people, becoming depressed so that others will tend to you, or becoming aggressive - all of these will make you feel significant, but obviously will destroy your life and your happiness in the long run.
If you want to do good in the world and stop these tragedies that continue to plague our communities, aside from engaging yourself in politics which can feel like chasing your tail sometimes, there are two simple things you can do today to start a ripple effect in the world and keep you and others from falling through the cracks:
The sad thing about tragedy is that it makes us all feel small. It could happen to any of us and we can’t do anything about it. So in return, we ourselves often turn to anger. We get on our keyboards and get in fights about who should or shouldn’t do what. We try to get back the significance these tragedies take away from us. And this drives the cycle.
We’ve all tried that before. Try steps 1 and 2 above. Be proactive instead of reactive. See what change YOU can make in your own life and the life of someone you come across.
Your life coach.