The Mattering of Matter – how to make yourself and others happier
In the letters I’ve gotten over the years, I’ve seen you pack members happy, furious, sad – and occasionally really depressed. Sometimes that’s been for big reasons: a boyfriend broke up with you, a dear friend passed away, you failed at something you’d devoted yourself to. But sometimes it’s been for something much less.
Maybe you went to a party and felt that no one really cared about having you there.
Maybe you got into an argument with a friend who simply didn’t listen to your side of things.
Maybe someone who’d been hiring you just stopped calling, without explaining why.
Now those might not seem enough to freak out about. But I’ve seen you get just as blue about those as you do for those bigger reasons.
After all, those other guests at the party may have had very good reasons to focus on other people, and maybe your friend was so scared or angry or obsessed that they just couldn’t listen to your viewpoint at that time, and maybe you’d done such a good job for those people that they didn’t need your services anymore, and think you’re great. But still, you feel crummy.
I think there’s one quality that every one of these, the big and the small, have in common. Each gave you a message that You Don’t Matter.
And it can even be a smaller cause. Have you ever dated someone who said they loved you like crazy, but paid no attention to what you wore, or told them about? Leaving you to feel, “They don’t care so much about me; they’d just like being treated well – by anyone.”
This tiny issue means SO MUCH to so many of you! Maybe it’s, emotionally, the most important thing of all.
Is that crazy of me to say? I don’t think so.
A baby is devastated when left alone, and then ecstatic when their caregiver returns. A child will misbehave to the point of punishment, just to get attention. And teenagers will do things they really don’t want to (such as sex, drugs, or crime) to feel “in” with the other kids. Because if you’re not in, you simply don’t Matter.
Then with adults, we hear every day about someone hurting or even killing the person they love, out of feeling they don’t matter. A popular movie told of a woman going crazy from that feeling, attacking the family of the man she loved, swearing out “I will not be ignored!”
And today we hear of people all over the world voting against their interests, or even risking their lives to rebel against their governments, not necessarily because they want more money or rights, but because they feel no attention from them.
It’s that painful.
Now I don’t imagine a whole lot of my pack members are setting fires or attacking families. But I know a lot of you feel these feelings. Especially about Mattering to someone who Matters a lot to you! Even if they tell you you’re great, but don’t seem to really value you, you’ll feel crummy, “I guess I have no actual personal value.”
But what about when you feel you do Matter? Then you feel like you’re on top of the world! And how do you get to feeling that way? Well, usually, it’s because someone who you think Matters says that you do too. How many teenage girls have fainted when their musical idol looked at them and pointed! It’s just too much ecstasy to take, that Frankie or Elvis or Paul or Prince or Sting or Usher or Justin noticed me!!!
So just think about it – how much power this gives other people over you. Especially manipulative people. If someone you’re dating ignores you, making you feel you don’t Matter, and then adores you, making you feel like the center of the universe, they absolutely have you in their control. And probably will get you to fall in love with them – for telling you you don’t Matter! Which creates SUCH a mess!
I’ve talked here before about the wonderful bestseller The Five Love Languages. But maybe we should talk about Mattering messages instead – how different people can feel they Matter, and what activities fail at doing that.
For example, you know how, when you’re first dating someone, you don’t want to alienate them by overwhelming them with all your insecurities, but you also don’t want to ignore them?
Well, think about it – both of these tell that other person they don’t Matter!
Ignoring, of course, makes them believe you never think about them. But sending them a hundred anxious texts an hour just shows you’re thinking about your own worries, and not about them.
While making someone feel they Matter is just about the kindest thing you can do.
Here’s what I see: If you feel like you Matter, being stuck in a two-hour traffic jam is bearable. If you don’t, red lights make you angry.
Now we dogs don’t have this issue. For the same reasons we don’t have shame or write symphonies – we don’t have the self-reflecting brains you guys do. If a person or a dog tells us they don’t want us around, we just feel rejected. We don’t make the connection “I don’t Matter” the way you do. We don’t like it, but it’s not the same amount of pain.
But we sure love Mattering, and we sure love telling others that they Matter. Which is why I love doing what I do – you do Matter to me! But I’ll get more to that later.
For now, I want to offer you a couple of suggestions on how not to be controlled by this!
First, think of a dog or a cat you like. Imagine it’s playing – chasing a ball, or whatever that animal likes to do. You feel a joy at watching it play, right? And the more passionately it tries, the more it enjoys the playing, and the more fun it is to watch. So does it matter that it’s trying? Sure.
But in the big picture, in the grand scheme of what’s important in the world, or the universe, does it Matter whether that dog or cat catches that ball? Not at all.
Now think of a professional athlete. If they don’t try their hardest to catch that ball or make that basket or jump over that pole, it’s disappointing, right? You want them to do their best. It matters that they do. But does the result of the game, or whether they break that pole-vault record, really Matter in the world? Not really.
So do you see what I’m describing? On the most personal level, there’s a kind of mattering (do your best, try to succeed). And on the grand universal level, there’s another (it’s only a game). And both of those are absolutely true and real.
But most humans spend their time thinking in an in-between level. “I didn’t win the game, so I don’t Matter to anyone now.” “I didn’t make the track team, so I’m a failure and don’t count at all.”
And that in-between level? It’s NONSENSE! It’s simply not true! You Matter exactly as much, whether you win or lose, whether you succeed or fail.
And… believe it or not… you Matter exactly as much whether or not that person you’re crazy about even notices you!
You see, it’s all about judgment. You’re giving other people too much power to judge you, or you’re judging yourself too harshly. Yes, admit that you failed at what you were trying to do. That’s the only way you can ever improve. But that doesn’t mean you don’t Matter. Not at ALL!
And how do I know this? Because – remember I told you I’d get back to how we dogs see this issue?
Because, think about the word: Matter.
Matter is substance. Matter is something that exists. Matter is something that’s there.
We dogs are always interested in matter. We sniff everywhere. We lick everything. We say that if it’s matter, it Matters!
We don’t care if a tree managed some incredible feat or not, or if it lost a branch when it was struck by lightning. It’s Matter. It smells interesting. It has possibilities – that there might be animals in it, that it might be fun to chew on, or it just might be a good place for us to pee! Regardless, it Matters!
Now my second suggestion. I work so hard to convince you guys you Matter, because you do! All dogs work to do this.
In fact, those of you who’ve been around a long time might remember a couple of years ago when my website was hacked, and I found out that a number of letters had been sent to me without my seeing them? Which meant those members didn’t get responses from me?
I have never felt so awful. Because I had, without intending to, given them the message that they didn’t Matter to me! Which was completely untrue!
And I know that hurt many of them, a great deal. Which just makes me howl at the moon in pain when I think about it.
So next time you get told you don’t Matter, or you just feel it, please try to remember us dogs. We’ll always tell you that’s not true. And we’re right.
But wait… Even beyond letting our love for you in, can you be more like us? Can you do a better job of telling others that they Matter?
Imagine the following conversation over text, between Person A and Person B:
A: Hey. Yeah I’m free tonight.
B: I texted you about that three hours ago.
A: Don’t worry about it. See you at six.
B: You always do this. I know you were hoping Chris would ask you out instead!
Now what’s being said here? First of all, it’s taken a while for person A to respond, right? And by not mentioning that, they’re implying that Person B’s having to wait for a response doesn’t Matter to them, right?
Then Person B’s response doesn’t take into account that Person A might have had good reason not to respond earlier. In other words, it’s saying Person A doesn’t Matter either.
So what if the conversation went like this instead:
A: Hey sorry that took so long. Yeah I’d love to see you tonight.
B: Oh good. What was the holdup?
A: My parents are jerks and made me do all my homework before I could use the phone.
B: Oh man. Will they still let you out tonight?
A: Yeah, I mowed the lawn too, to make sure they’d be cool with it. I didn’t want to miss out on seeing you.
B: That is so sweet. Thanks! You’re the best!
See the difference? In the first scenario, those two are going to meet up at six feeling defensive and angry. In the second, they’re going to have trouble keeping themselves from covering each other in kisses.
ALL because they told the other one they Mattered.
So this is my big double-wish for you. Tell yourself you Matter, always. And tell others they Matter too. And your life will get so much better.
And then, if you can do that for a while… Whoa, think of what your life could be, if you stopped listening to these stupid voices in your head altogether! The ones that say you don’t Matter.
How would it be to Matter a lot more than you believe?
You can. Because you do.
I promise it’s true. Dogs never ever lie!
No Matter What!
All my love,