Fear of Insignificance

The Fear of Insignificance: Searching for Meaning in the Twenty-First Century

Posted by on Mar 28, 2014 in Fear of Insignificance | Comments Off on The Fear of Insignificance: Searching for Meaning in the Twenty-First Century

The dreams of becoming doctors and lawyers several years ago have now noticeably shifted to desires of being the next Oprah Winfrey or Mark Zuckerberg. These days, a lot of people are into showing off a popular, noteworthy self-image which results to widespread undermining of self-worth. Over the past 10 years, people have become so concerned of significance, or the lack thereof, that they start to fear every major life decision they make. Many lose confidence in their choices and others grow to become fretful of what might become of their future. Majority tend to become obsessive of how their future will turn out that they fail to enjoy and live in the now.


 Dr. Carlo Strenger from the Department of Psychology of TelAvivUniversity conducted an extensive research on this particular behavior after recognizing that it occurred even in his own clinical practice. He presented his findings in his book entitled, The Fear of Insignificance: Searching for Meaning in the Twenty-First Century. In this book, you can find his philosophies as well as illustrations of his 10-year-long investigation on unprecedented depression and anxiety.


Global Angst

Global angst has always existed long before but perhaps not as wide-ranging as today’s times. In Dr. Strenger’s book, he reports several hundred research projects from economic models to experimental existential psychology and sociological studies which all concluded to people having fear of insignificance due to global access. With the advanced technology today and the flourish of social networking, it’s radically easier to find and compare ourselves with the popular people all over the world.

Dr. Strenger explicitly discusses in the book how global infotainment is the factor to blame. He refers to today’s population as comprised of homo globalis or global men who define themselves basing on how connected they are to the current world’s infotainment network. Such has turned rating and ranking of individuals basing on scales of celebrity and wealth into a mania or obsession.

Long ago, becoming a doctor or a lawyer was the reputable profession. Today, however, even excellent achievers think of themselves insignificant the moment they compare their success story to the success stories heavily promulgated by electronic and print media. As a result, many develop unstable self-esteem, leading to an unstable society.


Pop Spiritualism

Another factor tackled in the book is pop-spiritualism which promises instant relief and change to people. According to Dr. Strenger, such resources only create more disappointment instead of solution for the existential unease. As he worded out, cheap-fix guru books that promote instant spirituality do not offer long-term solutions.


What to Do


The best way to overcome the fear of being insignificant to the world is to stop measuring achievements based on the promulgated cultural fantasies of wealth and celebrity. Forget the media craze that is centered on rating and ranking people. This does not lead to genuine fulfillment at all.  The real remedy is the process of self acceptance. It’s not easy, but through sustained pursuit for self-knowledge and maturity, it will take place eventually. More than measurable achievement, people must learn to overcome such fear by recognizing their strengths as individuals.

Just as how people are spending time developing their careers, they should also try to develop how they understand themselves and how they relate to the world. Liberal education comes very essential for this. However, it should be kept in mind that this is a lifetime process. So one can live a worthwhile, fulfilling life, he or she must be willing to engage in a lifetime process of evolving and learning.


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