How to Feel Important

I confess. I’m a total nerd. I love to read vintage self-help.

In 1937, Dale Carnegie wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People. It became an instant success, one of the best selling books of all time. You can still find it at your local bookstore.

Reading the book confirmed my suspicions – How to Win Friends and Influence People, is a book about approval seeking for approval addicts.

Everybody wants to feel important. Carnegie says it’s one of the greatest of human needs, up there with food, sleep, and sex. While the need for food, sleep and sex are easily satisfied (some of us might beg to differ), the need to feel important, he argues, is not.

Carnegie knew what many of us won’t admit out loud:

We all want a fan club.

I’ll save you a trip to Barnes and Noble and help you kick start your fan club. Here are Carnegie’s six steps for winning friends:

1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
2. Smile.
3. Remember that a person’s name is, to him or her, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
5. Talk in the terms of the other person’s interest.
6. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

These are all very lovely suggestions. I think genuine interest in others is a good thing. Remembering names is always an effective strategy when attempting to make friends.

I can’t help but notice though, amidst all the discussion about winning friends and influencing them, Carnegie doesn’t say much about…

Why so many of us rely on other people to feel important.

I have a client for example who mentioned difficulty at work. She was spending a lot of time worrying about a coworker. The client, a very charming person, admitted feeling frustrated because she just couldn’t seem to win her over. When I asked why it was so important to win her over, she said:

“If I can’t get her to like me then I would be open to the possibility that something might be wrong with me.”

Many of us go out of our way to please, please, please. All for the sake of getting the approval we never seem to give ourselves.

As author and coach Brooke Castillo points out, “when we aren’t giving ourselves enough love and approval, we look outside of ourselves to get it.”

Our need for approval comes from our own disapproval.

Some call it the inner dictator; others the critical voice. I’ve heard it called the critical storyteller. At any rate, recognize the little (or not so little) voice in your head that loves to criticize.

Trust me, unless you’re aware of it, you’ll believe everything it says. The inner dictator can be darn right mean. Here are some things mine says to me:

  • You loser! What were you thinking?!
  • You look fat, why would you even consider leaving the house like that?!
  • You’re too loud. Nobody likes you.

And so on…

How often do you talk to yourself in ways you would never talk to your friends, coworkers, family or even your worst enemy?

The good news is you can start giving yourself approval instead of seeking it from other people.

Once you recognize the voice of your inner dictator, stop believing it! Speak to yourself the way you might speak to your own child, your best friend, the love of your life.
Once you start approving of yourself, you’ll see that you never really ever had to look outside of yourself to feel important. You laugh because you really do think it’s funny. You speak up when you disagree. You say no to other people and yes to yourself. You teach others how to treat you.

The result? Your relationships become more authentic and you can finally focus on your true work in the world.

Be your own number one fan.  More fans will follow, I promise (and you won’t have to memorize a single name).

If you liked this article, please join me for my upcoming free class!


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3 Responses

  1. This is a great reminder to “fill our own cup.” It’s important and so often not made a priority!

    And I love the quote you gave from Brooke: “when we aren’t giving ourselves enough love and approval, we look outside of ourselves to get it.” SO TRUE!

  2. Amy Johnson says:

    I love this post. I always thought following Carnegie’s suggestions might make someone feel (and therefor look) a little needy. Not an attractive quality for winning friends, aside from the fact that it doesn’t feel good.

    I LOVE your spin on it. Be your own friend first. Approve of you and let others off the hook; it’s not their job.

  3. reSPACEd says:

    This is a fabulous article, Amy. I love the quote, “How often do you talk to yourself in ways you would never talk to your friends, etc.?” I’m going to remember this quote and use it with my mama organizing clients, who can be so hard on themselves sometimes.

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