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The human need for significance

There are six basic human needs that every single person on the planet tries to fulfill: Certainty, variety, connection, growth, contribution and significance. Each person prioritizes these needs differently; some people may value variety and growth above all else, while others may rank certainty as their most critical human need. These needs shape our every thought and action, and drive us to either succeed or fail.

“Everybody has goals and desires that are different, but we have the same needs.” – Tony Robbins

Let’s talk about one of the most sought after human needs: The need for significance. There’s not a person alive on the planet who doesn’t want to feel important or needed. Why is feeling special such a compelling force? Why does feeling insignificant make us feel so devastated? Once you understand why you’re driven to feel significant to those around you, you can better interpret your own actions and use this desire to help you work toward your goals.

Ways to feel significant

feeling significant

There are two ways to feel significant: productive means and destructive means. Feeling significant through productive means entails trying to stand out for your accomplishments, such as being recognized at work for doing an incredible job or feeling special in the eyes of your partner for your valuable contributions to the relationship.

If you’re unsure of how to feel significant, you might go about it in destructive ways. You resort to self-sabotaging methods that present themselves in the form of reckless behavior because you know it will get you attention, and you’re unsure how to receive praise for doing something positive. If you lean toward destructive means as you seek significance, it’s time to examine what you’re doing. Many people find ways to be significant by creating significant problems.

Rewrite your story

The need to feel important is something all human beings share, so why not use your significance to your advantage? Think about what your strengths are: What do you contribute to the world that no one else can? How do you approach situations in a unique way?

Feeling significant can lead to major accomplishments. Think of leaders like Michelle Obama. Michelle’s father was a city water plant employee and her mother was a secretary. She was raised in a middle class household in Chicago, and her father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when Michelle was a child, which devastated the family. Although she was always a tenacious, hardworking student, her teachers discouraged her from dreaming too big. They cautioned her that it would be too hard to get ahead, so she should set her sights on smaller goals.

feeling important

Despite those around her telling her she would never get into an Ivy League school, Michelle went on to graduate from Princeton University, then went on to get her law degree from Harvard University. Michelle could have looked at the things that made her different in a negative way; she could have said her family wasn’t wealthy enough for her to go to an Ivy League school or that because her parents hadn’t gone to Princeton that she wouldn’t get in either. Instead, she learned to value the things that made her different, which ultimately led her to become one of the most influential first ladies in American history. Although your dreams might be different than Michelle Obama’s, you, too, can rewrite your story if you learn to view what makes you different as a strength instead of a weakness.

Finding fulfillment

fulfillment to feel important

There are two things that every person should strive for in life: to achieve their goals and to feel fulfilled. The six human needs are the ways in which we aim to accomplish our goals and feel fulfilled. Dysfunctional, limiting behaviors arise when you’re unable to meet your human needs, but if you’re someone who values significance above all else, and you’re able to reach your goals and feel that special sense of significance, you’ll ultimately feel fulfilled.

There’s nothing wrong with the need to feel important – everyone wants to feel significant to some degree. What matters more is how you go about achieving this feeling. Will you choose to be productive or destructive on your path? Will you allow loved ones to comfort you along the way, or will you refuse to let others in out of fear of getting hurt? Recognize which behaviors are beneficial to your goals, and ultimately to your life, and understand how this need can help you to find fulfillment in your lifetime.

Discover Your Top Human Need

Learn what your #1 driving force is with this quick quiz.

Once you understand the needs that most drive your behavior, you can work on recognizing these needs and making choices accordingly.