Once our basic needs for air, food, shelter and a few elementary others are filled, our attention turns to the need for self-significance. Personal significance is an ego driven need and demands to be satisfied at almost any cost. How we satisfy (or try to satisfy) this need, has a profound influence on our behavior and how we conduct our life. The tug in the ghetto and the dedicated teacher in the classroom are both after the same thing: a sense of self-significance.
We all need to feel that we are someone who matters, that we are important, that we make a difference, that we are a “somebody.” This need stems way back to prehistoric times when man needed to be accepted by the pack if he wanted to live. Food was scarce and danger many; to survive you had to be an essential member of the clan; if not, you were expendable and left to your own means and resources. Not a pretty prospect and life expectancy was considerably shorter.
Times have changed but we still maintain some original urges and instincts. The desire to climb the pecking order and its twin brother, the need for significance, are two of the most significant ones. Both of these needs are recognized and motivated by the ruthless beast that we call our ego; an internal force that often defies logic and reason to get satisfaction. On an even keel with the sex urge, the need for self-significance is one of the main motivator behind a great many of our actions.
To get attention and a sense of significance people will make a nuisance of themselves, they’ll set houses on fire so that they can play the hero, young girls became tramps to get attention and young men kill themselves by driving too fast in an effort to acquire an identity. On the other hand; nurses will devote their life to help the sick, soldiers will risk their life on the battleground and firemen will run into infernos seeking to fill the same need of self-importance.
How we fill our need for self-importance is the motivation behind many of the decisions we make and the path we decide to follow. The sad part is that we do most of these things without conscious thoughts. We are driven by a force that we don’t understand or recognize; just following our instinct. That’s the perfect recipe for fiascos. It’s like building an edifice without knowing why we are building it or what it will be used for.
Understanding the ego
The need to fulfill the sense of significance is an ego-driven compulsion therefore to understand the mechanism behind it all; one has to understand what the ego is all about. The ego is the result of the interaction between two opposite forces: the Id and the Super Ego.
The Id is the primitive and raw urge within us. It is animal-like; has no moral and no respect for anything. It could be said to be the beast within us. Not an aspect of our being that we like to recognize but one that exists just the same and has an influence in defining the kind of person we’ll turn out to be.
At the opposing end of the spectrum, we have the Super Ego which is in fact our conscience. It’s prime function if to hold our Id in check. The Super Ego holds our values, our morality and our decency. It’s what creates our humanness and it’s also its struggle with the Id that defines our Ego. In other words; the Ego is the result of the balancing act between the forces of the Id and those of the Super Ego.
All that to say that the person that we really are is our Ego. Well controlled, the Ego can be our best friend; left to its own volition, it has the power to destroy us. Our jails are filled with people with rampant Egos; and the same phenomenon is behind behavior that can turn out to be our downfall.
Using a need as motivator
For better or for worse; the need for a sense of significance is within us and constitutes a very strong motivator that can be used to our advantage. By choosing a lofty fashion to satisfy our need to be a “somebody” we can kill two birds with one stone; satisfy the need and grow as a person.
As we look back, we can usually see that we’ve used some pretty silly fashions to acquire a sense of self-importance. That’s part of the normal process of growing-up. Hopefully, we have learned from our mistakes and now we know better. Still, taking time to ponder on the ways and means that we use to fulfill our need for self-importance is one of the most constructive thing that we could do. Our life is too important to be left to chance or to outside influences.
We cannot control everything that happens to us but we can choose how we will react to our reality. That’s what conscious living is all about; having the courage of our convictions and the willpower to implement our values. We have but one chance to make this journey on Planet Earth; may as well take the high road and decide to become all that we can be. That’s where satisfaction lies and it’s also the ideal path to fulfill our need for self-significance.
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