How to Know if You Matter

Rosenberg's 5 item Mattering Scale

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At the heart of all disagreements, fights, and war is the need to matter. Every one of us wants to be seen, and we’re triggered by suggestions—implicit or stated—of erasure.

To live, we must matter.

To thrive and grow as infants, we must matter to our parents to care for us; to prosper and attend to others as adults, we need to feel that we are worth helping.

One cannot matter to themselves when they believe they don’t matter to others. 

To matter means to live freely without fear of extinction. To matter means to have our truest selves reflected back by loved ones. To be validated, confirmed, and seen is to matter.

Collectively, this sense of being valuable and important to others is called Mattering, and it’s a core component of self-concept (one’s internal sense of who they are as a person).

To matter is to be visible and seen. 

Sociologist Gregory Elliott, who researches and investigates the self-concept, contends that there are three components of mattering:

  1. Awareness: Do people pay attention to you? Or do they pass right by you?

  2. Importance: Are there people in your life who take a real interest in your well-being?

  3. Reliance: Are there people who would seek you out for help, support, or advice?

Elliott believes that the sense of mattering begins in childhood, and children raised to feel insignificant grow to feel unworthy and without value. The consequences for those deprived of early reflection and significance are steep.

A 2003 study examining the personal writing of 10 mass shooters called What Have We Learned from Columbine: The Impact of the Self-System on Suicidal and Violent Ideation Among Adolescents revealed that not mattering gave rise to suicidal and homicidal thinking.

“There is no other construct that gets at people’s need to feel valued and seen by others as important,”

Gordon Flett, author of The Psychology of Mattering

To matter is to feel significant and valued by others. When people feel they matter, they feel visible, seen, and heard. When people feel they don’t matter, they feel invisible, unimportant, and unheard. Mattering builds a person’s sense of self-worth and equips them with reserves, resources, and the resilience to grow and achieve.

But when you believe you don’t matter, that the world overlooks you, you become drained of the wherewithal to face challenges. A person who feels unworthy lacks the reserves and resources necessary for resilience.

Those who feel they matter to others can call on their own strength when they feel vulnerable. Those who feel they don’t matter feel vulnerable and fragile, all the time.

Morris Rosenberg, a social psychologist and pioneer of the study of self-concept, believed people experience mattering in two arenas: interpersonal (immediate world of friends, siblings, parents, and romantic partners) and societal (the circle outside the interpersonal, including colleagues, coworkers, classmates, clubs, teams, and community groups). Morris wanted to quantify the degrees and levels to which people feel they matter.

In the early 80s, Rosenberg and psychologist Claire B. McCullough created a five-item scale called The General Mattering Scale.

Here are the five questions they came up with:

How to assess whether you feel you matter…

  1. How important are you to others?

  2. How much do other people pay attention to you?

  3. How much would you be missed if you went away?

  4. How interested are others in what you have to say?

  5. How much do other people depend upon you?

Response categories are:

  1. Not at all.

  2. A little bit.

  3. Somewhat.

  4. Quite a bit.

  5. Very much.

Higher scores signify higher perceived mattering to others. The highest score is 20. The lowest is 0.

Do you feel you matter? Let me know in the comments!

Until next week, I will remain…


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Cover image Ida’s Interiors

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