One book I've been reading talked about a person's need to feel important. How it's so vital to one's well-being, it's on the same level of hunger and thirst. The more I considered it, the less absurd I realized it was.
We've all seen people take drastic actions when hungry or thirsty: drinking dirty lake water, stealing food from others, or even something as extreme as killing and eating another human. But it's often a choice between extreme action or death, and death is almost always worse.
Death isn't on the line for the need to feel important, either to the world, a specific person, or anything in between. But there are plenty of examples of people doing something drastic to satisfy it.
- Chaining themselves to trees to save the environment
- Donating millions of dollars to help fund charities
- Routinely risking their lives as police officers or firefighters to save lives
- Setting themselves on fire to protest Buddhist persecution
- Organizing hunger strikes against unjust and cruel confinement in Guantanamo Bay
That last one strikes me the most. Peoples' desire to eat (which keeps us alive) was beaten by their desire to be part of something important.
All this isn't a bad thing since these activities push people to help others while giving people a sense of value and worth.
As long as we're self-aware enough to manage this urge and feed it in healthy ways. Otherwise, we may do something extreme, like the "need to feel important" equivalent of killing and eating someone.