As your boss suggests, "true merit" sooner or later DOES rise to the top -- except, of course, when it does not!
Therein lies the rub.
Unmet needs -- especially like "feeling undervalued" -- can cause terrible distraction in the workplace. Even worse, it can negatively affect the work you do as you (inadvertently, but likely) shift your attention from doing exemplary work to getting more recognition regardless of the quality of work you do.
So know this: the workplace is NOT the place to try to get your unmet needs met. The point of one's job is to do the job, not try to use it to fulfill a personal need for greater recognition, or some such. Pardon the harshness, but if you want to be adored, get a puppy!
Then consider this: What, specifically, do you want to hear from whom about the value you (and the other managers) are providing to the larger organization?
• Is it a pat-on-the-back from the boss? A special recognition dinner hosted by your boss' boss? Something in between? What?
• Is it a note in your personnel file? A front-page story in the company's newsletter extolling your amazing contributions to the cause? Something in between? What?
• Is it some extra comp time? A seat on a high-level/high-visibility task force? Something in between? What?
Get as specific and granular about it as you can -- and then work to achieve that goal as creatively and diligently and professionally as you would any other issue you face.
But whatever you do, don't get all needy and whiny about it! That's just bad form. (Not that I'm saying you or the others ARE getting all needy and whiny about it, but IF you are, think: Puppies, ha-ha!)
Let me know if you'd like to talk through some of the follow-up questions you, no doubt, have.