If you examine the lives of the greatest, the most successful people, you will find one trait jumping right at you, a quality they held uncompromisingly, an aspect of personality they all possessed, they might have been humble, yet they all operated with a degree of self-importance, they held their work in the greatest esteem, sometimes even blurring the line between proud and pride, between affirmation and arrogance.
Confidence comes from making yourself feel important, conviction comes from believing your work is important, and, contentment comes from making others feel important. In fact, ability to instill a sense of significance in others is a primary differentiator that sets apart leaders from bosses, extraordinary from the average.
Self-importance is a term generally frowned upon, it is often held synonymous to ego, it may have certain negative connotation to it, however, it is a necessary ingredient for a successful living, particularly when it is leveraged properly. Allow me to categorize the subject matter in two parts:
1. Believing you are important
When you feel what you do is important, if you believe in yourself, you gain great inner strength. Believing your work is significant, however small, feeds your self-esteem, such morale boosts your confidence, and confidence, in turn, is a critical success factor in attaining your goals, be they spiritual endeavors or material pursuits.
How important you feel about yourself is greatly affected by three factors: first, how you see yourself, second, how successful you are in what you do, and third, how others see you. If you sincerely work towards what matters to you, the first one gets a boost automatically. As one and two improve, the third one ceases to matter after a while.
Elsewhere, I once quoted a story from the life of Rabindranath Tagore, a Nobel Laureate, an Indian philosopher and writer, I would like to share it here:
Tagore had a disciple who was very good at painting. However, he worried about what people thought about him, his work, and their opinions. So much so, it hindered his creativity. On multiple occasions Tagore told him to listen to his heart, that when it came to art, he should draw what he cared about and that the canvas was supposed to be his playfield and not a dumpster of others’ opinions.
One day, he drew a beautiful portrait of Tagore. It was perfect in every sense. Tagore himself approved it but the disciple remained unsure, he asked him if they should get others’ views on the portrait. Tagore thought it was a good opportunity to impart a lesson.
“Okay. If you really want to know what others think,” said Tagore, “go and place this portrait in a corner of a busy marketplace in the morning. Leave my original photo, a set of pencils and a note asking people for their opinion. Let it be there for the whole day and bring it back here in the evening.”
The disciple concurred. Two days later he went back to Tagore. He was visibly upset and downright pensive.
“I’m shocked at my painting skills. You said it was perfect, but I knew it wasn’t. That’s what everyone else thinks too,” he scorned and flashed the portrait in front of Tagore. It was full of black marks. In fact, black spots had completely marred the canvas. People had marked mistakes all over the portrait.
Tagore maintained quietude for a few minutes and said, “These opinions mean nothing. I still think it is perfect. What did you write on the note?”
“The note said, ‘Please compare this portrait with the original and mark wherever you see a mistake.’”
“Alright. Erase the black marks and take back the portrait. This time change your note to say, ‘Please compare with the original and correct any anomalies.’”
At the end of the experiment, he took the portrait back to Tagore and said, “There is not even one mark this time. How come? It’s the same sketch but no one corrected anything.”
“It’s easy to find faults, son. Most can’t distinguish fault from a feature. If they could, they would be busy making their own features and not finding faults in others. Trust your instincts when it comes to your own art.”
If you do not believe in what you do and who you are, how can you possibly expect others to endorse your proposition. Positive self-importance comes from being honest with yourself, your opinions about yourself and your work. Learn to love yourself, take care of yourself, treat yourself, believe in yourself, this is how you make yourself feel important.
2. Making others feel important
This is a quality all leaders possess, it helps create harmony and understanding in relationships. Irrespective of the nature of the relationship, professional or personal, if you wish to inspire someone, have them believe in you, make them your own, you need to make them feel important. When you make someone feel special, you create a special bond with that person, your relationship and the leverage you have from it becomes special, it is a sign of love, of care, you automatically solicit positive emotions from the other person.
There are three easy ways to make others feel important:
You will be amazed to see what a genuine complement can do. There is always some goodness in everybody, focus on such goodness and express it. That way, your complement remains true, genuine, a factual statement, and, its impact profound and long-lasting. It is easier to nurture any relationship when both sides are happy.
When you show care with your words and gestures, you make the other person feel special, closer, loved. Care does not mean you always have to do something grand, it could be simple little gestures to express your love and care, to show that they mean something to you, that, their well-being, their happiness, is important to you.
When someone is talking to you, all you have to do is give them your undivided attention. This is where, from my observation, most people fall short, especially in a close relationship. When the other person is talking to you, and you make it a point to listen to them, they feel significant, important, special.
When you make others feel important, they gain strength, composure, faith. In return, they are able to love you better, be there for you more. You must be genuine though.
Mulla Nasrudin went to a shop once. “I would like to buy a greeting card for a woman I love the most,” he said.
The shop owner showed a card that said, “You are the only one I live for, and the one I can die for.”
“This is beautiful,” said Mulla, “give me six of these.”
Ingenuity is transient, be real.
If you love yourself, you will find it easy to love others, if you feel important, you will make others feel the same. We make others feel what we truly are ourselves, deep within. If you want to feel all that you are not presently, all you have to do is start giving it to others, Nature will reciprocate.
Go on! help someone feel special, make their day, express yourself.