I Matter

One of the things I battle with on a daily basis is that I matter, and whether I actually matter to anyone else.  Do I love myself enough to say I matter to me?  And does anyone else love me enough to say that I matter to them?  And will they show it by their actions?

Some of the struggle with this comes from the Christian upbringing I had which constantly told me to put others before myself.  Songs I sang in Sunday School taught me that I came last.  And I guess that’s where I always put myself.  As the youngest child in the family, my name always came last.  I’m not saying that my parents put my needs last, but that my brother’s and my parents names always came before mine.

In the school roll my name came near the end because my surname was Reddell, near the end of the alphabet.  I can remember wishing my name started with a A, so that I could be at the beginning.  But then the Christian upbringing  would no doubt have listed that as a sin.

Another thing I was taught was “pride cometh before a fall“.  That meant I couldn’t be proud of myself, I couldn’t take pride in my achievements, and actually no one else was ever going to proud of me.  It might not be what I was meant to learn from the statement, but it is what my young mind concluded.

My Christian upbringing even served to protect those who stalked me.  I was specifically told in relation to them that I should ‘love my neighbour and do good to them that hate you“.  What that meant in reality was I was supposed to be nice to them, and my needs for protection didn’t seem matter to anyone.  Christian love and compassion was what was called for.  When I was a teenager I thought that was just how life was.  My needs didn’t matter.  Now I am an adult I worry that teenagers might be taught this stuff now days.  I hope not.

Since my mental health ever became an issue (it’s interesting that it simply doesn’t matter until diagnosed with a mental illness) people have been telling me that it is okay to put myself first.  It’s okay for my needs to matter.  At this stage, after many hours of therapy I can tell you that I do matter, but I still find it hard to put it into practise.

At what point do my needs matter more than loving and accepting another person?  I still haven’t worked that out.  I still am not sure how to put this into practise in everyday situations.

I struggle with it in a number of places in my life, and still there is this little voice in the back of my head that recites ‘Jesus first, Yourself last and Others in between’.  It’s so ingrained in my head that I don’t know how to say ‘well actually my needs come first’.  Even as I type that, I’m thinking “selfish“.  I’ve done the textbook learning but I still don’t have it totally in operation in my life.  I don’t yet know how to strike the balance between me and the rest of the world.

Last week in What Matters To Me This Christmas Eve I told you about my family starting a family meal before I had arrived.  As I sat there that day my thoughts were “I don’t matter to these people“.  It seemed to me that I didn’t matter enough for them to think/say “We can’t start yet because Cate’s not here yet“.  Now I can see a number of logical reasons for why it might have happened, but it still hurts.  Not that they started lunch without me, but that I didn’t matter to them enough for them to think of me.

What makes it more painful is that I look around for people who I matter to, and actually most people have their own lives, their partners and children, and I am just me.  I know that I mattered to my father when he was alive, and so it makes his absence is more painful when something like that happens with my family.

The thing that I wonder is ‘who’s going to put me first?’  Will anyone?  Or has everyone got greater priorities than me?  I promise I’m not having some pity party for which I need huge doses of sympathy.  I don’t.  But I know that learning to matter to myself is helped when I can know that other people say to me “you matter to me“.

Maybe the psychology of that is all wrong, and I need to be able to just matter to myself.  But don’t we all want to matter to other people?  And surely knowing that I matter to someone else teaches me about mattering (Is that a word?  It is now.)  to myself.

I know I matter to some people, and yesterday I spent time with some of those people, purposely because I desperately needed to feel I matter to someone.  I knew with them, I would feel that, and I did.  It was in complete contrast to the lunch I nearly missed last week, simply because I knew without at doubt that I mattered to them and that my needs were important.

PS.  I need to say this isn’t at all a criticism of Christianity.  It’s not.  All it is, is my experience.

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the
person you are.” 

―    Marilyn Monroe

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.” 

―    Harvey Fierstein

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19 responses

  1. You’re certainly not alone in your feelings. I was raised Christian but I am not. The teachings never made sense to me. I understand the idea of showing compassion to others, forgiveness and so on, but I believe we are not truly capable of that until we learn that we ourselves are worth receiving those things, and that we must show them to ourself before we’re capable of honestly showing others. – - I’ve experienced that once we show ourself all that we deserve, we naturally, automatically show others. At that point, it can no longer be any other way. It simply is what it is. When we love ourself, then we love others. – - “Your only truth is your own path.” — Dani (Just my “2 cents”.)

    • Thanks for your comment Dani. Actually I agree with your 2 cents worth although am inclined to think it is worth a whole lot more. I just have to get my head around it but I’m working on it. :-)

  2. Very blunt, because this is a long term “soapbox rant” of mine. I’ve come against this warped view of what being a Christian is before, not at home, but in school religious classes and in the mindset of some of my friends who mostly belonged churches that prefer to keep their flock easy to “herd”… as in mindlessly humble sheep.

    But if we go back to the actual Bible and to what it states Jesus said? Well…
    Matthew 19:16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
    17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
    18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
    19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    “love thy neighbour AS THYSELF.” In basic words – love others the same as you love your self. Jesus understood that you cannot give love to others in a healthy way unless you first love yourself in a healthy way, so why on earth do some churches insist on teaching the exact opposite of what Jesus himself suggested.

    Ugh

    the misuse of Christian concepts used in order to bully people into being doormat souls has got to be one of the more unforgivable sins!

    If we are made in God’s image… why would he want anyone to be a doormat? If we are made in His image… surely not loving ourselves and taking care of our needs is slapping God in the face?

    Jesus seems to be advocating balance – that we love ourselves and others the same, alike… no selfishness, but no senseless martyrdom and self-abasement either. I prefer to follow Him than follow any church.

  3. Of course you matter. Everyone matters, in my humble opinion. I tend to think of everyone as inherently equal too though, as well as important, so I’m not exactly representative of your average person. You must love yourself first and feel worthy in yourself before being able to accept other people telling you so and believing it. Otherwise, it is an infinite void never to be filled-that is until you love and value yourself! Then other people’s opinions won’t matter a bit. I’m still working on it myself but feel I’m a heck of a lot closer than I was a few years ago!

  4. It hurts most when it’s family or people that you had believed were your friends, but sometimes it really IS just them. Yes, you have to learn to matter to yourself, to put that into practice, feel it in your bones, but it also means you need to have people in your life who also believe that you matter. If the ones who are in your life won’t (or simply can’t) help, well, you have to find a way to let them go. No confrontations needed, really, just that in the recognition of your right to feel like you are a part of other peoples’ lives, that you aren’t to be taken for granted gives you permission to not spend a whole lot of time or emotional energy on those people. Give yourself the right to have a boundary around yourself regarding this. It’s not an agressive stance, just an understanding. You treat others with kindness and respect BECAUSE that’s what you expect from other people BECAUSE you know that you matter. If people are not willing to honor that, then they don’t need to hang around, period.

  5. I am so in agreement with your post and commenters! The counsel and teaching I received during my 20 years of psychological abuse from my Christian husband went a long way to paralyze me, fillet my backbone, and really damage any concept of mattering to a loving God. 12 years later, I’m REALLY trying to learn how to decide when “I matter” trumps “he, she, they matter” – how to allow myself to hurt or disappoint another in order to meet my own needs. My accommodation to others because I believe they matter MORE has been costly.

    Thanks for your really good post!

    Diane

  6. It’s one of the main reasons for me choosing to be an atheist but I could write a book on that so many things. Really I just hate how people think we are Christian just because we have “common Christian values” carnt I have my own? Yes they maybe very similar but their mine not the institutions and mine differ slightly as in I don’t get why I should have to be kind to someone that treated me like dish water or put up with them, I tend to ignore them and well avoid them is that so wrong it’s what they got for telling me I’am a well let’s leave it there. That is one of three reasons, my school was not a faith school but very well Christian, I was ridiculed just because I did not agree and I will be frank it was a racist school at that, people where tolled not to talk to the “foreign child” but I ignored and talked to him he was my only friend I just tolled him to ignore his treatment like I did. I got bullied at that school and my mum would come in and well go crazy may give the wrong impression but once the head teacher tolled her it was bonding well I was taken out from that school and went elsewhere and my only friend left too, lets just say that school is not in service anymore thank goodness. This is 1999-2003 so this is in the 21st century. I’am glad to say my next primary school expirence was fantastic well from the teaching side of things not the vast amount of my peers going back to the point if someone constantly bullies me for years how Am I ment to even feel sorry for them? Then again I do as they have practically wasted those years and overiously their home life is poor that is something I can always be thankful for.

    See not kidding I could write a book on this, that’s only reason one but the other reasons are too personal.

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