Do I Matter? Emotional Abuse And Little-t Trauma

I am assuming that in clicking this article title and reading so far, you may be asking yourself this question, ‘Do I matter?’. Please know that you are not alone. The reason why so many different religions, publications, and authors have all provided their own answer is because so many people are feeling this way and asking this very question! I am going to provide some understanding of what brings someone to ask this question and ways to move forward so you do not have to live in the unbearable pain of asking ‘Do I Matter?’  

This article is based on scientific evidence and clinical experience, written by a licensed professional and fact-checked by experts.

About the Author

In this Article:

  1. Who Asks “Do I Matter?”
  2. Why Do You Ask?
  3. What We Can Do About It

Do I matter?  It’s a question I am frequently asked during sessions.  It’s a question that many different people have tried to answer. I even Googled this to see who has attempted to address this and found all kinds of people have tried to answer it.  Even Huffington Post has content on this matter. I found their answers were focused on reassuring and building you up or talked about your role in this big world. I am not going to do either. Sorry, if that’s why you clicked this article, but hold in there really quick!!!!

What this article is going to be about is identifying who asks this question, ‘Do I matter?’, and why they ask. I am assuming that in clicking this article title and reading so far, you may be asking yourself this question, ‘Do I matter?’. Please know that you are not alone. The reason why so many different religions, publications, and authors have all provided their own answer is because so many people are feeling this way and asking this very question! I am going to provide some understanding of what brings someone to ask this question and ways to move forward so you do not have to live in the unbearable pain of asking ‘Do I Matter?’

We are going to look at who asks this question, what it is about their story that leads to this question, and we will hopefully have an understanding of the impact that trauma has on us today in how our attachment style leads to how we relate to others, and what we can do about it.

Who Asks Do I Matter

This question is a deep cry of the soul, screaming for answers and to be loved. I have observed that anyone who asks this question usually isn’t seeking attention on a surface level just from anyone, but seeks attention, care, and love from the key people in their lives. Unfortunately, this question is met with feelings of emptiness, being forgotten and utterly alone.

A common experience of those who ask Do I Matter? might include some of the following. You might be perpetually single, asking why you can’t find a good partner, someone that will love and choose you. You might be the wife begging for her husband’s love and continuing to come up empty. You might struggle with making and keeping good friendships. You might have been engaged and then left right before the wedding. You might be the aging man who has felt alone his entire life but surrounded by people. Instead of having people turn towards you, they turn away from you when you need them most, leaving you with the question of ‘Do I Matter?’ that leaves a mark on the core of who you are.

Something I want you to all remember is ANYONE can have this question echoing through their hearts. It’s not just one group of people, but spans through the ages, relationship status, socioeconomic levels, religious beliefs, and popularity.

When I have worked with clients who have asked me this question, I have found there is some shame about asking it because of the image of the kind of person who generally asks it. I want to challenge this perception, so that we can show some more kindness to ourselves in the most hurting parts of our heart.

Here’s the image that I get often….hitch


The movie Hitch tells the story of the man that is often described to me in sessions. The person who asks ‘Do I Matter?’ is usually overweight, low self confidence, no friends, not married, not succeeding professionally, clueless socially, and dependent on others. I really like Hitch, as I have had a similar moment with allergies as Will Smith does in the movie….yes it was bad.

BUT FRIENDS! God made us all so unique, with our own strengths, limitations, and stories, that this image above does not represent those who ask ‘Do I Matter?’ We are way more diverse and dynamic than this.

Hitch teaches us that not matter how much we try to change the how we look and our behavior, we do not feel better and heal unless we learn to accept ourselves and our experiences.

So who asks ‘Do I Matter?’… anyone.

BUT WHY Do You Ask “Do I Matter?”

At the root of Do I Matter? is each individual’s story. To have this deep seated question in your heart, something had to have happened to put it there.

Most people think I mean the big scary word TRAUMA. And I do mean trauma, and those who have big traumas in their lives usually know why they ask ‘Do I Matter?’ I want to shed light on how there is something called “little t traumas.” These are events or relational dynamics that are distressing but often less disruptive than “big T trauma.” An example would be emotional abuse rather than being sexually abused. “Little t trauma” tends to be events or experiences with a key person in your life that fractures your sense of security and belief that you are lovable.

Often times, “little t traumas” are looked over and not considered, but have lead to the question ‘Do I Matter?’ It is also true that “little t traumas” focus on interactions that occurred and what was missing in your relationships more than what was there. For example, parents might have been overall good parents, providing you with food, education, transportation, finances and access to things, but did not know you and nurture you emotionally.  Ask yourself not what you received but what you missed growing up or even now. This all creates our attachment styles. There is a lot to know about attachment styles, so much that I won’t cover here. What I want you to know about attachment styles is that it is how you currently relate to others and is formed by the way your parents interacted with you- not if there was something wrong with you. But how they interacted with you either gave you the feeling that you were perfectly lovable or left you asking yourself ‘Do I Matter?’

I’m going to provide some examples of this below, but before I do, I must ask please take care of yourself. As you read through these examples, practice curiosity and kindness, “Did this happen to me?” “Does this characterize what I experienced with my family?” and feel, yes FEEL, your way through it. Your nervous system may show you which ones are true for you. As you do so, please allow the Holy Spirit to bring comfort to you as you learn something new about yourself.

Here is a list of a few reasons why you may be asking yourself Do I Matter?

  • Key people in your life could not emotionally engage with you
  • Key people in your life did not know you and did not try knowing you
  • Key people in your life made you feel bad for needing them
  • Key people in your life did not notice when something was wrong and never asked
  • Key people in your life inconsistently showed you care, so you didn’t know which version you’d receive.  You always desired their attention but you were equally afraid of them
  • You were made to feel like something was wrong with you, even if you did nothing to prove that

(key people: those who we have the greatest attachment and desired sense of belonging too. i.e. Mom, Dad, Siblings, Husband, Wife)

So What Can We Do About It

Therapy… I believe in therapy because I have seen how the Lord transforms wounded hearts to wholeness through people’s hard work and restorative relationship with their counselor.

Curiosity and Kindness… I say this every article, and I mean it. Begin to ask yourself about your story, see if you can get new perspective on it and get help if you can’t. Ask yourself “What did I miss growing up that I really needed?” How might what you are going through today in current relationships be because of what you missed out on as a kid?  Some tools that might be helpful is listening through Adam Young’s podcast The Place We Find Ourselves or many churches provide a group called Mending the Soul that follows a workbook and is guided by a trained facilitator. These might be good starts if you aren’t ready yet to think about therapy. Please do not go through any of this alone!

Find Loving People… Cloud and Townsend are amazing authors and they wrote this awesome book called Our Mothers, Ourselves. They learned through their research and providing therapy, that people who missed these key relational qualities growing up are very hurt people as adults and struggle in their relationship. BUT they also found that God made us relational, meaning that what you did not get from key people growing up or today, you can get from someone else significant in your life. For example, if you missed care, love, and attention from mom growing up, building a strong relationship with a healthy maternal figure now, who can provide you with care, love, and attention, can heal the parts of you that have felt forgotten, ignored, and alone! How cool is that?!

So friends, if you’re asking yourself Do I Matter?, please don’t stay in this state of pain. Please reach out to someone who loves you and consider finding a good therapist who can help. You do not need to suffer any longer than you already have!


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