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People may face feelings of insignificance due to a number of causes, including having low self-esteem, being depressed, living in a huge, impersonal city, comparing themselves to wealthy celebrity success stories, working in a huge bureaucracy, or being in awe of a natural wonder.
A person's "...sense of personal insignificance comes from two primary experiences: (a) the developmental experience with its increasing awareness of separation and loss, transience, and the sense of lost felt perfectibility; and (b) the increasing cognitive awareness of the immutable laws of biology and the limitations of the self and others in which idealization gives way to painful reality." To deal with feelings of insignificance, "...each individual seeks narcissistic reparation through the elaboration of a personal narrative or myth, a story, which gives one's life a feeling of personal significance, meaning, and purpose." These "...myths provide the individual with a personal sense of identity, and they confirm and affirm memberships in a group or community, and provide guidelines and an idealized set of behaviors..., [and] endorse an explanation for the mysterious universe."
In modern society, people living in crowded, anonymous major cities may face feelings of insignificance. George Simmel's work has addressed the issue of how the "dissociation typical of modern city life, the freeing of the person from traditional social ties as from each other" can lead to a "loss or diminution of individuality." Moreover, when a person feels like "...just another face in the crowd, an object of indifference to strangers", it can "lead to feelings of insignificance..."
Individuals working in large, bureaucratic organizations who do not have "concrete evidence of success" may have "feelings of insignificance, disillusionment, and helplessness, which are the hallmarks of burnout. Some people in bureaucratic jobs who lack meaningful tasks, and who feel that institutional mechanisms or obstacles prevent them from receiving official recognition for their efforts, may also face boreout.
People facing an acute depression constantly have "[g]uiltiness and insignificance feelings". People facing issues of inferiority, due to the subjective, global, and judgmental self-appraisal that they are deficient may also have feelings of insignificance.
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