When Do You Feel Most Important?

According to Sigmund Freud, humanity is motivated by two desires: sex and to be great. I read that in a book called How to Win Friends and Influence People, which was originally published long before BuzzFeed made its case for the viral potential of a bait-y headline, in 1936.

But back to the initial point.

Sex and greatness.

Greatness and sex.

I think by the rules of the aforementioned theory, if you can umbrella sex under indulgence — erotic and not — that portion makes perfect sense. More interesting for me, though, is the piece about greatness. To understand it, we must first ask what makes us feel great, right?

What Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends, explains is that our respective senses of personal greatness are directly correlated with how important we feel. Think about that for a second. Even love — the centerpiece pursuit of so many of our lives — is in a way motivated by our wanting to feel important. Isn’t that, after all, what it means to be loved? So I’ve been thinking, what makes us feel important? When do we feel most important?

I know that for my husband, it’s when he feels like people (I?) need him. Sometimes I think that’s the reason he fell in love with me: I will honestly forget to apply basic human tendencies, like to shower, or brush my teeth or blink my eyes if I’m not reminded to. I definitely would not open my mail and therefore neither would I pay my bills if it weren’t for his meticulous attention to detail (or what other people might call, a pretty common sense of responsibility).

For me, it’s when I feel like I’ve done a good job. It doesn’t matter at what, but I like the appreciation. As in, “Well done with the chicken you prepared, Leandra. You did that all the while wearing that fantastic outfit? Wait a second, were you cooking while we were on that conference call earlier and you were delivering a sparkling spiel about the future of digital media?” So I guess I feel important when I feel like I am being appreciated. This is the first time I have said that out loud. Or publicly. It no doubt makes a stronger case for my being an insufferable narcissist but one thing I am not is a liar, so it also just is what it is.

But in the spirit of change, let’s turn the flashlight over to you. When do you feel most important? What makes you feel that way?

Photograph by Thomas Hoepker via Victory Journal. Carousel Photograph from Getty Images via Daily Mail.


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  • Mary

    When a student knocks on the door during office hours and I get to say, “Hi, Brian. Mind if I finish up this **urgent** task before we meet?” Then I focus on computer screen, eyes narrowed because I am very serious and important, while student waits. Three minutes later: “Yes, Brian. You have a question about your paper?”

    [JK JK Brian you’ll never know I was just sending my mom an email with the subject line: Should I trust the vet re: cat teeth cleaning or no?]

    • Sam

      This made me choke on my morning coffee. You win.

  • Quinn Halman

    Wow, very good question, can’t wait to read some very insightful answers.
    This past summer, I worked as a counsellor at the sleepover camp I grew up attending, and I had the same fourteen 13 year old campers all summer. From tampons, to kissing, to lice, to time swims and every little drama in between, I felt important because I got a sense of serving a very rewarded purpose. I felt the same way about teaching english in rural India when I would get letters from my students or hugs with other kids in the village.
    On a totally different side, I feel important when I am not heard, but listened to. Whether it’s proving a point in a dorm-room discussion about socio-cultural issues or making a speech at a wedding and having people approach me after.
    I guess both come from somewhat of a narcissistic/full-of-myself stand point but I truly feel as if you can’t feel important without a whisper of a form of self-love.

  • Meredith

    Great question! I think I feel best when I’m known. I’ve lived in the same area my whole life (Dallas) and I get a rush when I go places, particularly with large crowds, and see several acquaintances. It’s so satisfying to be well known by many. I guess it’s my ever-present desire to be popular and loved by (lots of) people. And it feeds by extroversion. 🙂

  • I feel good when something I’ve done turns useful to other people without my intending so in the first place (but rather doing it for its own sake). And no, this is not a brand new, perverse kind of humblebragging (“I am important even when I don’t try”) but simply my way of living introversion and still finding/getting meaning out of it.

  • maggieroseregan

    I feel great/important when I’m needed by others. NOT in an attention-seeking way, but in a “I can rely on her for support and strength” kind of way. I think this is why I’m not very good at ~feelings.~ I never want to have someone take care of me, I want to be the strong one and take care of others. I care more about BEING a support system than having one myself (although, I know I have a great one!) When someone actively says they don’t need my support or help, that’s when I feel the most down. I want to be everyone’s port in the storm!

  • Aubrey Green

    When someone asks for my advice/opinion/support.

  • Jamie Leland

    Noticing that, in this discussion, feeling important is being a) interpreted as narcissistic b) defended as not narcissistic. Why?! Everyone enjoys appreciation, admiration, respect and accomplishment. There is literally no reason to apologize for feeling good about yourself.

  • Elizabeth Tamkin

    Feeling best when I’m feeling loved and wearing a turtleneck. Because you know, that’s love.

    • It’s the most intimate hug that only a piece of cloth can satisfy.

    • Lua Jane

      I envy all you guys with turtleneck wearing ability. It looks so cool, yet every time I wear a turtleneck I end up acting like an infant pulling it from my neck because I feel like being choked, and even when fabric in question is silk or cashmere it itches. Still I desperatelly want to channel that parisian intellectual look.

      • Leandra Medine

        Lua. I need to see a picture. Please put one on and dutifully selfie

        • Lua Jane

          Here is the look in all it’s repelling glory. Yes, there’s a turtleneck, and a jacket on top of it, and dutiful attempt at the turtleneck hair, that my long and not very clean mane (dry shampoo queen here) refused to comply. Also there are spectlacles that do wonders in emphasizing my schnoz. Despite the attempt and certain fail prof elements, I don’t look French or intellectual, more like Groucho Marx post gender reasignment surgery. Also I should note that the bottoms were wide legged black pants, but the pic is taken at home, where I strictly adher to no pants policy, so they were dutifully removed.

  • Lucy Korn

    For me, it’s probably when I feel believed in. I know, deep down that my parents believe in me, but they are not particularly vocal about it. Just the other week, though, while deep in a conversation about my impending move to London and the expenses of living there, I sighed and said, well if I was a millionaire I’d live in a giant loft in Shoreditch and my dad stopped me and said, WHEN you’re a millionaire. Such a small thing, but it made me feel like I was believed in, and thus important.

  • Carlotta

    Shouts to your honesty and the fact that you’re so down to heart. Anyone who’s achieved even the smallest portion of success and accomplishment knows how hard it is not to feel like the effing queen of the world, which calls for narcissism and – in some cases – presumption. Your slightly narcissistic nature is totally justified as you have managed to channel your inner life coach (or your husband?) and create something so special out of it, a platform for all women and narcissists!
    I don’t know if this comment is going to count among the ‘things that made you feel good today’, but I hope so and that probably means that I found out what makes me feel good: making other people feel good.

    (I promise I’m not always as nice as I sound here, just trying to build some better karma than the one I’ve had in the last few days! ? )

    • Leandra Medine

      that’s the crux it all, really! i think the thing about happiness is that we look for it in the wrong place — the pursuit to take, take, take, make, make, make instead of give and change

  • Mariana

    I guess I feel most important when I feel purpose about what I am doing, either professional or personal. Because when I feel I am doing something with a meaning and with an objective, I feel more focused, I get better results and that absolutely make me feel more confident and appreciated about myself.

  • Ida

    I have have social anxiety but I’m beginning to understand that I feel the best when I’m being aware about doing things only for the sake of myself – that doesn’t mean being an asshole obviously – but it means that I trust myself enough to know whats right and what’s not and act according to my own sense of that instead of others. When I dare to feel great about myself, I can also express myself much more, wear things that I’m probably the only one in the universe who finds beautiful, be funnier and I speak my mind.. and hopefully that feeling of greatness or happiness will then rub off on people around me and also I will have more space in my otherwise anxiety clustered mind for them. So in a very instagram-quote-kind-of-way I guess you could say, that I feel the most important when I remember to be important to myself. And to be clear(er), that doesn’t mean that I think confidence is the secret ingredient to make this dish that is your life the tastiest, but more like – you have to grab things that you’re not confident about, like anxiety, by it’s balls and flaunt them. Actually my advice would be – wear your anxiety like men wear their ballsacks, just let it hang loose or put on speedos, its really ugly and some people will maybe be a little overwhelmed by it, but it also so very natural and a lot of people have it. I could go on with this terrible metaphor, but I think you’ve got it. If not, here’s another Freud quote that expresses what I mean in a much more eloquently: “Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise” – maybe the best exercise out there

    If everything else fails I always think about something Leandra said along the lines of “I was able to give all the love I needed to myself” when I feel like I need to remind myself who is the most important, kisses from Denmark