The Quest for Relevance. Are you relevant???

Relevance is like a lamppost - without the lamp we are bumping into things in the dark - The lamppost is relevant to our life

Yesterday a kind reader to my blog mentioned the subject of relevance in their comment.

I think about relevance a lot.

You see, we all want to be relevant.

Relevance is like a lamppost – without the lamp we are bumping into things in the dark – The lamppost is relevant to our life

Do you have parents? You want to be relevant to them;

1) you want your parents to love you

2) you want your parents to listen to you

3) you want your parents to value you for your opinions and not to walk all over you

Do you have children? You want to be relevant to them;

1) you want yourΒ childrenΒ to love you

2) you want your children to listen to you

3) you want your children to value you for your opinions and not to walk away when your talking to them

Whether we actually think about this, its a very true element of life.

Some psychologists call it ‘significance’.

In the blogging world we like to be relevant too!

Sure, I don’t think every blogger wants to have a million followers (BTW don’t forget to Like my Facebook page lol, just kidding….(no really please Like my Facebook page lol))Β  but when you put work into a blog you hope there are a few people out there who care to read what you have to say.

significance 2

Relevance is like a lamppost – without the lamp we are bumping into things in the dark – The lamppost is relevant to our life

When we don’t feel like we are relevant to someone….it can open up the door to depression….we can feel isolated….lonely..

Imagine what its like when your spouse, or boyfriend or girlfriend no longer feels your relevant to their life? I suspect it can play a role in the many divorces and breakups we see in the Western World.

So where do you find relevance from?

Do you feel relevant? Why/Why Not?

Working as a counselor for so long, I have seen way too many cases of depression. Counselors and therapists are overburdened with the number of people struggling with depression; its become an epidemic.

While medication can help……most often what people need is to be loved; to feel relevant.



Categories: Culture & Society, relationships

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57 replies

  1. Seeking relevance from others will not work to keep depression at bay or to make you feel happy and alive unless you feel relevant to yourself. Sometimes that takes a lot of work.

    • Yup…ultimately we have to be confident in who we are as a person.

      For the person in the midst of depression, one of the best medicines is to have their friends and family ‘be there for them’…it can help a lot πŸ™‚

  2. Social media has a lot to answer for! Ha. I think that whatever people say are there reasons for being on social media (FB, Twitter, Blogs etc) it’s all about wanting to be relevant in whatever their context is – it’s about looking for acceptance and approval. This isn’t a completely bad thing but it does lead a change in the way members of modern society behave and it sets new boundaries for how we’re made to feel about ourselves.

    Was that comment relevant enough?!

  3. thank you so much for talking about this! one of my last posts on facebook was similar. here i have a facebook page for the purpose of keeping in touch with family and friends and be “social” right? very few friends were commenting, liking or in some other fashion being “social” with me on facebook and it was hurting. how can i know they’re even reading or paying any kind of attention to me if there isn’t a response? anyway, i know it seemed like a feel sorry for myself moment but knowing i am struggling with some things the last thing i needed is to feel unimportant and ignored, so i’ve been unplugging from facebook for a while, at least until i figure things out for myself and find my “relevance” in some other fashion. i suppose part of the issue is i’ve always put myself second to my friends so when the communication stopped, it’s been hurting. i guess you could say my relevance was so based on being a good friend i forgot to be good to myself somewhere along the way. so it’s time to take care of me, do things for me, put me first and then if i have time for them we’ll talk or whatever. i think that’s possibly what happens with many folks as you were saying and your commenters were saying – relevance can’t be based on others (as i now know first hand). it happens and yes to a point relevance in others is okay but to become dependent on others for it is not healthy and can lead to depression when it’s not found there. that’s why im doing what i must for me. thanks for your insight!

    • Jen, lots of good thoughts there….

      whether it surprising or not, I’ve had at least 5 people express (almost word for word) their same experience with Facebook in relation to getting little to no response….

      For the most part people probably don’t think of Facebook in connection with the things you’ve mentioned…

      but as you said, when someone is struggling with something; to get no response can lead the person to feeling like they are unimportant or even worse, all alone.

      As our country becomes more digital and more dependent on social networks…i suspect the need for us to emphasize real life connections outside of the Internet will be of the utmost importance.

      BTW, I care about what you have to say πŸ™‚

    • thank you! that means a lot! πŸ™‚ im also, oddly enough, glad to hear im not the only one who sees the disconnect between social media and being well social haha. i was beginning to think i was being foolish or something so that’s totally reassuring. thanks!

    • I had a similar “facebook” situation. No one “liked” or commented on any of my posts or photos. I thought no one liked me anymore 😦
      Turns out, somehow my settings got changed and the only people that were seeing my posts were a “group” with only one person in it!
      People still love me!!
      I, too, have taken a step back from FB, because of that.

  4. I think service can do a lot to make people feel more relevant. When you are seeking someone else’s good, you definitely become relevant to them. Plus, it makes you feel all warm and squishy inside, too. A win-win situation! πŸ™‚

  5. I have found that being relative to a few key people in my life easily makes up for all of my lack of blog’o’sphere relevance. πŸ™‚

  6. “While medication can help……most often what people need is to be loved; to feel relevant.”

    OMGosh yes. I’ve been dealing with depression on and off since my divorce 9 years ago (that man broke my heart). Some days are better than others and for the most part, I can go months without going into serious depression mode. But when I do fall into depression, it gets harder and harder to get out of it.
    I think, for me, its mainly because I am not loved nor relevant to a siginificant other. Yes, I’m a mother and I am certainly relevant in that aspect and honestly, if I didn’t have the job of a mother, who knows where I would be.

    Being alone is turning out to be a worse fate than death, for me.

    • Claudia, my heart goes out to you….

      Depression sucks….

      feeling alone sucks…

      I have a cat, and while he definitely loves to snuggle up to people, he can go weeks and weeks with barely any physical or social connection to others.

      We humans aren’t like that

      We are social creatures and when that connection is severed it can lead to the things you mentioned.

      When I was working as a counselor I often got frustrated because I couldn’t be a friend to my clients…

      so often that is what they needed/wanted; a friend to be there, to love them, etc.

      the client/counselor relationship is very limited.

      I wish I had more answers than observations 😦

    • You made me giggle at the cat observation because my cat is that way to. He can go days without even coming near me and I think he just keeps me around to fill his food bowl…then one night, as I’m sitting on my couch, he decides to come lay on my lap and its all better. πŸ™‚

      I am much better today than I was Monday. I have always wanted to get my degree in Psychology as that subject always fascinated me. I think mainly because, in a morbid kind of way, I became fascinated with my own mental state.

      But I am better today πŸ™‚

  7. In the overall scheme of things, I am as relevant as anyone else. But, if one is using any form of comparison to determine one’s own relevance, it becomes totally subjective, depending on who you ask. It is a difficult challenge – even the greatest “spiritual” giants have wrestled with it – but the only relevance that will see you through is to to what you can do, and let it rest. Be “self-relevant.”

  8. Now that I have had time to think about it, I do not think it is for me to say if I am relevant! I am not sure it is relevant that I be relevant. If I think about it much more, I will probably get a headache! LOL

  9. You really put your finger on something here. I think a big part of my husband’s depression and eventual suicide had to do with his not feeling relevant. I tried hard to help him see that he was, but things like comments (or lack thereof) on Facebook or Twitter played a big part. I’m not saying that’s why he ended his life, but I’m saying that his depression and lack of feeling relevant put an inordinate emphasis on things like people liking and commenting on his posts and things. In the end that was only a small part of the many things that were going on with him, but I would be doing him a grave disservice if I didn’t acknowledge that was part of it. Thanks for talking about it — it’s an important subject. Aimee

    • Aimee, gosh…I can’t imagine what all of that must have been like…

      I know from working one-on-one with clients that there are a lot of people who just don’t have very many friends who call them on the phone or who they hang out with in person….without betraying the confidence’s of my clients; social media became a major crutch in their life that without people interacting with them via FB, Twitter, etc, it would send them spiraling into a lot of self-doubt…..

      Another thing that doesn’t get discussed too much in our culture is that men need male friends. I don’t know whether its connected to men being too homophobic and afraid of developing deep connections with other men….but I believe its healthy for men to have good male friends (as well as female).

      I believe there are positive things about both genders and that having people of both in our lives is positive.

      I can’t express how much my heart goes out to you over your husband’s suicide.

    • Thank you. I agree with you about men needing male friends. My husband struggled with friendship. I honestly don’t think he understood it. That sounds like a strange thing to say, but he did this math in his head where if he sent an email or made a phone call, the next contact *had* to come from the other person. I have several long-term friendships (two that are at 30+ years and counting) and those relationships have never been 50/50 exactly. Probably in the long run they’re pretty equal, but… I don’t know. I think he just struggled to relate to people and had a really hard time with trust. When I look back with the benefit of hindsight — and therapy — I guess I think it’s pretty remarkable that he trusted me. It makes it a little tiny bit easier to cope with what happened. I think he tried so hard. He was a gifted writer and worked at home, he’d talk about being lonely and missing human interaction but then resisted any suggestions I made that might have helped.

      Thanks again for this post, and for reading my blog, too. I look forward to reading more of your writing.

  10. I think our relevance is based on our existence everyone is relevant. We touch lives daily no matter how minute. The question is how relevant do we feel as individuals which is based on self worth. Also since we do affect people daily is our relevance based on positive or a negative contribution?

  11. I’m a counselor also, and I see so many teenagers (my kids are all under 18) that speak of “being empty” and “not feeling significant” and it breaks my heart. How do we, as counselors, let them seek their own relevance without teaching them to be self-centered? Some of my kids have more worth in themselves from how many retweets they get than the grades they make in school, or the drug test they did or didn’t pass. What an interesting concept!!!

    • Hey Jen,

      When we’re in college they teach us all these constructs, like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and many of the constructs are good…..but they don’t add up to a hill of beans when we are actually in the social work setting dealing with real life problems 😦 —two years working with inmates at the corrections facility taught me that my clients needed more than just me telling them what was wrong with them; they needed real, tangible solutions.

      Do you remember from your studies that Americans are 6-8 times more likely to struggle with depression than people from lower economic countries (many third-world countries)??

      It’s crazy; with all of our wealth and technology, U.S. adults (and children) are one of the most depressed nations on this earth.

      I have written more academic papers on depression than any other subject and its all fine and good that I can argue, “hey, if you move to a communal culture you’re more likely to have success in overcoming your depression naturally/organically”.

      The problem is; 99.9% of U.S. people who are struggling with depression can’t just pick up and move to Costa Rica.

  12. Thank you for letting me find you!

    And while I agree that most of us just want to feel loved…why not LOVE FIRST??

    Serve others? Do for others, charity work, volunteer work…and the relevance in your life will come. You will become relevant, significant, you will MATTER to others πŸ˜‰

    Instead of being passive about it, we could be a bit more active πŸ˜‰

    IMHO of course πŸ˜€

    • FromThePews,

      good thoughts….

      There are a lot of people in the U.S. that are struggling with mental illnesses like depression, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates the percentage to be just over 25% (1 in 4).

      Think about it; your sitting at Starbucks and there are 20 people in there with you; statistically 5 of those people are struggling with serious psycho-social problems like depression.

      If those people could be ‘active’ like the examples you gave, many of them would see a tremendous transformation in the state of their mental health.

      Unfortunately, its not always that simple.

      People who are struggling often have a difficult time finding the psycho-social strength to do what your suggesting….

      For many of them; they don’t even know why they are struggling or what is at the heart of their psycho-social problems.

  13. This post was nice. Thank you. It actually made my feelings from last night feel a little more relevant πŸ™‚

  14. This is crazy, I was just questioning mine and my projects relevance today… I’ve been trying to work on an art project that expresses the hard work, and current roles in men’s lives within this century, with emphasis on how we do very little to actually thank them and make them feel special. (ie, look at marketing for mothers day vs fathers day etc.) anyways I have been asking for people to send photos of them just doing what they do, work or recreational, just anything that is them or their voice…. I have had NO photos… makes me wonder if this subject is one that only I care about…

    Thanks for the post and the like!

  15. Seem relevant enough to me, but you may be subsuming relevance into subjective measures of accomplishment etc

  16. Very relevant topic! (and it goes extremely well with very relevant coffee πŸ˜‰

  17. an insightful reflection


    with so much change

    in our world

    so many people battle



  18. Great post! I agree 100% with what you said πŸ™‚ Judging by the comments this touched a chord in many people’s hearts. People were created to be in relationship and in a true relationship each person is relevant to the other. They know they are loved and that they are important… Thank you for this post πŸ™‚

  19. Have you read some recent studies that correlate depression, especially bipolar depression, with immune deficiency? Very interesting stuff. Thought it might be up your alley.

    • Lorene,

      Since the mid-2000’s there have been a number of studies that suggest depression may cause immune deficiencies (is that what your asking?) Clow & Lucklebridge (2003) discuss a meta-analysis of 180 peer reviewed articles and present pretty convincing findings….I could go on at nauseum but I don’t wanna bore anyone!

      ha ha so the short answer is yes πŸ™‚

      I’m very interested in the cultural components of depression; academically when I was studying in the field I felt there was plenty of attention to the biological components but that the societal and cultural components are largely being ignored by the scientific community.

      When we do cross-cultural studies and find depression rates dramatically lower in many non-industrialized nations compared to the U.S….it keeps leading me back to the belief that there is something fundamentally hazardous to our mental health in the way we live here in the U.S.

    • King of the Mountain Syndrome?

    • Ok, I gave a flippant reply, but I do have a take on this. One of the first things I wanted to know when I was young was: where are you from and where am I from? I desperately wanted to know the land of my origin so I could connect to that. We are a society of people displaced from their homeland generally due to a hopeless situation and the desperate need to seek another opportunity. Culture displacement created the “little Italies”, “little Germanys” everywhere. We are a melting pot that doesnt melt. We have persecuted since the first days we set foot here, the Indians first then the African slaves after that. And we seethe underneath the surface with tyranny and a casted-casteless system. We give all the glory to MONEY, the root of all evil, and the American dream is to “have it all”. We are too large with no central transportation system. It takes “a village to raise a child” but we don’t know the next person down the street. And those villages used to be all part of our extended family. Now many people don’t have any family in their state. We drive ourselves to the brink “getting ahead” and sacrifice the family and culture that we don’t know anything about anymore.To me it isn’t why are we more depressed, instead it is why do we think Americans shouldnt be depressed? Both too much wealth and too little wealth do great harm. Sorry so long, but I think our system is broken!

    • Don’t apologize…

      lots of good stuff in there!

  20. This is an excellent post. You are absolutely correct in that every person wants to feel relevant, whether they are willing to admit it or not.

  21. Hey thanks for dropping by.

    I agree that feeling “relevant,” valued, appreciated and above all, loved, is the building block that binds an individual to all those around him/her.

    Good entry and something to ponder about.

  22. Sometimes I feel people worry too much about relevance and tie it to their identity, I want my identity to be found in what God says of me not necessarily what I or the whole world thinks of me. This might be a altruistic line of reasoning. .


  23. Wow, I literary was just having this conversation with a friend in regard’s to myself and the people in my life. These words are so true and so many don’t understand, everyone is quick to say they don’t know anyone’s approval, but in reality we are always searching for some form approval. I suffer from depression and (OCPD) obsessive compulsive personality disorder and I know how life can be some time and your right, sometimes just knowing your loved, appreciated, and relevant can mean so much.

    Thanks for the right words at the right time.

  24. This is such a timely post. A friend of mine was just mentioning today that she doesn’t feel relevant. She feels as though all of her support systems are pulled out from under her each time she builds them and that she doesn’t feel relevant. While relevance has to begin with us, a little bit of fostering humanity goes a long way. Kindness costs nothing.

  25. Yes, yes, and yes. Kenneth, I am threatening to start rolling my eyes at the word “relevant” in much the same way as I’m sick to death of “authenticity,” but I hear you. As I wrote in the first post of my new blog, said blog was my small way of saying, “I was here.” And I was thinking just this week of how, as we age, we become increasingly “irrelevant” – at least to an extent.

    • Lucie,

      good thoughts,

      younger people & older people both look at relevance differently;

      when we are young, we often want to be relevant in the sense staying up to date with trends, and being relevant as a way of satisfying psychological elements of acceptance.

      when we are older, we are usually less concerned with being ‘accepted’ and we are comfortable with not agreeing with the crowd; but we want to be relevant in the sense that you hit upon; as a way of saying “I am here”.

  26. Being relevant is satisfying; but, I’ve walked away from it before – doesn’t make any special difference in my life other than how I arrange my passage through waking hours.

  27. AH–RELEVANCE. Hmmmmm. This is crucial. But I wonder if what people really want its to be truly, intimately KNOWN. This core human hunger seems now to be smothered by the new global hunger, and that is to be famous. Liked. Followed. Celebrated.

    And those things, as you’ll probably agree, are not the same thing as being known by even one person in the starkest and most comforting sense of the word. It far surpasses being relevant to a larger “Audience.”

  28. If relevance also means honor, I feel honored to have come across this post. πŸ™‚

  29. This is a very relevant post. It caught my attention because of my recent posts about things being relevant or irrelevant.

  30. My husband says he lacks relevance and it scares me. I love him very much and I believe he knows me. In our discussions about how he feels I try to let him know that he is very relevant to me and my sons. (From a previous marriage) But then he tells me he don’t make memorys anymore. I don’t understand what he feels since I have never felt relevant nor irrelevant. I don’t know how to help him or what to say to him.

    • Julie, I totally empathize with what your saying. Its a tough situation we are in when we are close with someone who is struggling to find that purpose or relevance in their life.


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