Happiness and social significance

I was reading this article by Tony Robbins the other day. He says that every person has 6 basic needs, and these are what motivate us. If we are present and know ourselves, we will seek to fulfill these needs in healthy ways; if not, we might use means that get the job done, but create new problems.

“Significance” was one of the needs that he listed. It was interesting to me that he treated this need as one equal to something like “love and connection,” because in so many personal development and spiritual articles and books, the idea that we may need to feel important is treated almost as something that needs to be quelled. We understand through these texts that self-worth, value and importance are inherent, we don’t need to cultivate them because they are ever-present, yet it’s something that so many of us simply don’t feel.

We have a desperate need to feel big, valued, important, but the most useful advice we’re given is to quiet down and meditate, because we should know that we already are.

Even though that can work, it still glosses over the acknowledgment that feeling important is important.

Why is this so hard to admit?

Because searching for self-importance is demonized. We are told that we shouldn’t feed our egos, we should be small, pleasant, agreeable, and no one likes a show-off. We shouldn’t do anything for attention.

Learning that feeling important is essential to my happiness not only gave a reason for some of my behaviours, but it allowed me to let myself off the hook for them.

For the past few weeks I’ve been practising yoga every day, and I feel great. But I contemplated the possibility that I would feel different about my practice, or maybe wouldn’t have one at all, if I didn’t think that I’d gain some sort of social benefit from it. Yoga is super popular and even though I believe I genuinely love it, and even though I hardly tell anyone about it, there is a possibility that I sort of envision myself as held higher in others’ regard for doing it.

I think it’s totally fine that this factors in to why I feel motivated to practise every day. I’m getting stronger and I feel happier. But I think it’s worth considering that my practice might be serving more than one need, one of them being significance, for three reasons:

  1. What if people stop venerating yogis in popular culture? My need for significance would not be served and I would need to find a different avenue. I’d much rather do this consciously than risk engaging in rash or unhealthy behaviours.
  2. I want to be honest with myself and always evaluate the value of something independently of whatever significance I think I’m finding from it.
  3. I feel very sad to consider the possibility that I am missing out on activities that could bring me so much joy, if I were only able to open myself up to them without concern for how they would make me look to others. I want to be able to do what is good for me despite what other people think, and trust the nudges that I get without first judging them for how much recognition they will get me.

This work is so subtle, but so essential. I want to not only be open to appreciating my own intrinsic value, but that of the bazillions of opportunities in the world that have the potential to be magical.



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