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Finding Yourself Again When You Feel Lost in Life

We all have periods where we feel lost like we don’t know who we are. These periods can follow a bad breakup or when you get fired from a job. Suddenly, your idea of yourself is diminished, and your self-esteem takes a nosedive. Something you once defined yourself by is suddenly gone and you feel adrift. Perhaps you’re struggling with this right now, not knowing how to find yourself again after losing your sense of identity. Getting back to your true self is possible; it just requires serious introspection.

Life changes are often accompanied by uncertainty. It doesn’t always have to be something negative. Maybe you’ve recently started college or you’ve just entered a new romantic relationship, and you’re now feeling out of sorts. Any major shift in your personal state of being can cause you to feel lost. Life is, as they say, a journey, and every journey involves wandering into unknown places and unfamiliar situations. Feeling out of sorts is to be expected from time to time. Everyone experiences self-doubt.

That doesn’t make it any easier when you’re feeling lost. Losing your sense of self is like losing your footing. Everything else starts to feel like it’s crumbling around you. Suddenly, your whole worldview feels untrustworthy. It can be scary, but it can also be freeing. Periods of uncertainty offer you an opportunity to reevaluate your priorities and determine what really matters. When you come out on the other side, you can not only be more surefooted, you can be happier. I’ll tell you how.

Don’t Let Your Circumstances Beat You

When major life changes throw you for a loop, it can be like being on a boat in a storm. Just because you know why you’re being tossed to and fro doesn’t make it any easier to stand up straight. Major life events are most often the cause of this existential instability. When you’re young, it could be the result of leaving home. Later in life, it might be getting a divorce or a health scare, or retiring. Whatever the event is, it can make you question yourself and every decision you’ve ever made.

Feeling lost in life can happen at any moment, though, not just because of a big change. A “midlife crisis” is a common example. Usually, there’s no specific reason other than aging. Hitting an arbitrary age marker is often all it takes to disrupt a person’s self-identity. Whether you’ve just gone through a big change or nothing particularly notable has happened, perhaps you feel lost right now. And now you’re wondering if you’ll ever find yourself again.

Here’s how you can do it.

Accept that feeling lost is just part of life

The first thing you need to know is that everyone feels lost from time to time. It’s the universal human experience to question one’s purpose and value. Yes, even global superstars like Dwayne Johnson and wealthy businessmen like Elon Musk go through periods of self-doubt. Just because someone has “made it,” though, that doesn’t mean they can’t still be wracked with doubts. It’s a phenomenon called “imposter syndrome,” and even the most successful people in the world experience it.

For the sake of this article, though, I’m going to assume you aren’t Dwayne or Elon. You’re probably a completely normal guy living a completely normal life. Now, though, you’re feeling lost. That’s also completely normal. The only people who never experience self-doubt are sociopaths, and that’s not really a viable way to live. In fact, to a certain degree, experiencing self-doubt is healthy. It’s good to be humble. The danger is when self-doubt turns into self-loathing.

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Don’t become too self-critical

I’ve emphasized the commonness of this experience because, too often, along with this self-doubt comes depression and self-loathing. When you feel as though you’ve lost who you really are, you can start to hate yourself. It’s very common after a breakup or after you’ve lost a job. You start looking inward and picking yourself apart, focusing on the things you don’t like about yourself. While the ability to criticize oneself can be good, being overly critical can indicate a mental health problem.

When you can’t figure out how to find yourself again, you can start spiraling. Spiraling is when a setback in one aspect of your life leads you to tear yourself down in other aspects. It’s like when a small crack in the windshield begins to spread. This is often fed by negative self-talk, where your mind bombards you with repetitive, harmful thoughts. Your mind starts saying things like, “You’re worthless,” “You’re unlovable,” and “You’ll never be happy.” Those are lies, but when you’re spiraling, they feel true.

The first step to fighting those negative thoughts is recognizing what they are: symptoms of depression. And like all mental illnesses, depression is a liar. It’s a self-perpetuating trap that can be hard to escape, especially if you don’t recognize it for what it is. If your girlfriend left you, that doesn’t mean you’re unlovable. If you lose a job, that doesn’t mean you’re untalented. If your dream isn’t coming true, that doesn’t mean it never will. Brush yourself off and get up again.

Remember your strengths

A major life development can end up shining a light on your insecurities and personal shortcomings. You will at times experience a challenge along your journey that will reveal personal weaknesses. No one likes having their inadequacies thrust in their face; it can lead to those depression spirals. But, if you nurture personal humility, it doesn’t have to knock you down. There will be things you aren’t good at, especially initially. That doesn’t diminish what you are good at.

If you’ve ever been dumped, you know how easy it is to get down on yourself. After all, if this person who you loved decided to leave you, there must be something wrong with you, right? Not necessarily. One of the most valuable life lessons you can learn is that timing is often more important than anything else. You might have been the right guy at the wrong time. Or maybe your ex was in a transitional phase of her own. There will always be factors beyond yourself that you can’t control.

What you can control is how you react to the circumstances of your life. The end of a relationship doesn’t have to define you. The person you were dating must have been attracted to certain qualities within you; those qualities still exist. Potentially, a breakup can be a wake-up call that you’ve grown lazy or complacent. Maybe you should return to the gym or get back to working on your art. Just because there are things you can improve, though, doesn’t mean you should doubt your self-worth.

When a life change gets you doubting yourself, refocus back on what you do well. If your new job has you feeling overwhelmed, use your free time to pursue a hobby you’re good at. If you’re feeling bad about your physical appearance after a breakup, focus on what you do like about your body. If a missed opportunity makes you doubt your talent, double down and work even harder. When you experience disappointment, it’s okay to sulk for a bit. But eventually, you have to get back up.

Your journey isn’t over.

How to Find Yourself Again

Reaffirming his core beliefs

When you start to feel lost in life, getting over the hump is the first step. Circumstances can knock you to your knees and make you doubt everything about yourself. Not allowing yourself to sink into a pit of despair is essential. But even if you do manage to avoid a depression spiral, that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically feel right as rain. Sometimes, those big life changes require modifications and hard growth. That can make you feel disoriented and hamper your ability to find yourself again.

These transitional periods in one’s life are necessary but not always easy. If you didn’t have them, you’d still have the same perspective and personality as a 13-year-old child. Part of being a man, at whatever stage you’re in, is embracing changes and maturing. And, no, this doesn’t stop in your 20s. You won’t be the same man at 30 as you were at 25. Nor will you be the same man at 45 as you were at 35. That’s not something you should fear; it’s a good thing. It’s growth.

In the process of growing, you will feel lost at times. You will question where you are in life and doubt the decisions you’ve made. You might start to believe you don’t really know your true self. It can make you feel like a hypocrite because you don’t believe what you once did. You might even feel embarrassed or ashamed about the person you once were. That’s okay, those are natural growing pains.

When you go through these periods of growth, understand there are ways to find yourself again that don’t involve self-recrimination. The most important thing is knowing who you are.

Hold on to your core beliefs

If I was still the same person I was half a lifetime ago, I would be unbearable. That’s not (entirely) a statement about who I was at 20, but a recognition that I’m older and more experienced. I’ve done so much in the last two decades, I couldn’t possibly still be the man (boy, really) I was. Yet, despite the tremendous changes I’ve gone through, I can see my natural evolution. I changed, but I didn’t abandon my true self. That’s because I have held onto certain core beliefs throughout the years.

My personal core beliefs aren’t that important to the discussion here. What is relevant is the concept of establishing bedrock beliefs that will guide you through life. Core beliefs, as I’ve written previously, are our beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world. You might hear them referred to as a worldview or personal principles or just values. Whatever you call them, these beliefs are the lens through which you see the world and make decisions. They guide you.

It’s possible to have rock-solid core beliefs and still fundamentally alter your views on issues. It’s, in fact, the hallmark of intelligent people that they can learn new information and adjust their positions. That can involve changes to political, religious, social, or even relational views. And when you do make such changes, it’s likely you’ll feel a tad discombobulated for a time. You could even lose friends or experience judgment from people you were once close with. It won’t always be easy.

As I’ve acknowledged, making major changes in life can be difficult, even scary. But if you hold onto your core beliefs, you can feel confident in your evolution as a person. Hopefully, if your changes do cause friction in personal relationships, those people will at least respect your convictions.

Introduce yourself to all of yourselves

Along with core beliefs, having a strong sense of yourself is crucial to making it through transitional periods. It provides you with a compass when you’re navigating the unexplored realms of life. But what does it mean to have a sense of yourself? And if you’re struggling to find yourself again after a major change, what does a “sense of self” even mean?

The concept I’m referring to is not just about who you are at any given moment. It’s the totality of who you are, from the child you were to the person you aspire to be. Too many people define themselves by their current circumstances: their job, their relationships, and their possessions. This is why, when those circumstances change or disappear, they feel lost. You need to recognize that you are on a path. It’s just as Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

If that sounds like a cliché a life coach or spiritual guru would say, that’s because some truths are universal. You are an ever-changing, ever-growing human, not a static cardboard cutout. If you feel lost in life and uncertain about your path, that’s evidence of change, and, hopefully, growth. With a strong sense of self, though, you can find yourself again. Just trust that the person you aspire to be is still out there, and aim for him. Be guided by the person you aspire to be.

If you start feeling that person is no longer in reach, that could indicate you’re on the wrong path. Or it might indicate you’ve matured beyond that version of yourself, and you need something new to aspire to. In that case, finding yourself again might mean starting from scratch and embracing something new.

Embrace a new perspective for your life

In addition to allowing for personal growth, a major change is an opportunity to reassess your life. A breakup could be an opportunity to look inside yourself and really consider what you’re looking for in a partner. Being laid off could be the impetus you need to start a new career direction. Moving to a new city can offer you the chance to completely reinvent yourself. The point is, a change is not something you should just passively go through. Make it meaningful. Embrace the new.

Life changes are often the best way to gain a new perspective on your circumstances. Suddenly, you have the ability to look back on the decisions and actions you’ve taken and objectively judge them. In my experience, making one change often leads to others. It becomes a kind of domino effect where I suddenly realize I’ve grown complacent or uninspired. A new viewpoint will not only provide you with the ability to start a new chapter in life. It can help you launch a better life.

Building a Better Life

Turning his life around

On your journey to find yourself again, you may discover that the road you’re on was never the right one. In fact, if you’re feeling lost, it might have nothing to do with a recent life change. That feeling may be a sign that you’ve reached as far as you can possibly go on your current path. It might be time to end a relationship, leave a job, or move somewhere new. Or it could be time for you to give up bad habits that are holding you back.

When you’re feeling existentially lost, picture it like being physically lost in a forest. There will be times when the wisest choice is retracing your steps to get back to where you were. In other circumstances, however, the smarter choice is forging ahead and seeing what’s on the other side. Sometimes the best way to find yourself is to look somewhere you’ve never been before.

Don’t be afraid to start over

For many people, especially those of us with a few decades under our belt, starting over is terrifying. It’s okay to try new things when you’re 22 or 23, we think. That’s the age for exploring and discovering new things about ourselves. But by the time you’re 35, or 45, or (gasp) 55, you should be settled. Your days of trying new things out are far behind you, and you’re ready just to coast until you die. Right?

Absolutely not. Society often tells people in their 40s and above that it’s too late to start over. You’re too old to start a new career or pursue a fresh relationship. In my opinion, that’s an outdated perspective, one rooted in the idea that life basically ended at 65. In generations past, it was pretty much assumed that retirement age meant the Big End was just a few years away. But life expectancy has been getting longer for generations, and with it, what it means to be “old” is changing.

That’s not to say that our society has fully adapted to this new reality. Many companies still prefer their new hires to be young, for various reasons, including longevity and lower salary expectations. However, as Millennials and Gen Z embrace job hopping, there are opportunities opening up for everyone. I’m not claiming that starting a new job or career late in life will be easy. It’ll probably be scary. But if there’s one thing I believe, it’s that fear isn’t a good enough reason to not do something.

Similarly, with our longer lives, more and more people are questioning lifelong monogamy. If you’re feeling lost, it’s worth asking yourself if your partner on your life journey is the right one. I’m by no means suggesting you abandon your relationship because you’re bored or your wife has gotten a bit older. Too many men have a midlife crisis and split from their partner only to end up even more miserable. Divorce isn’t something you should do just because you’re feeling a bit lost.

That said, for couples who marry very young, it’s not uncommon to grow apart with time. If you’ve reached a point where you and your partner’s paths diverge, consider having a hard talk about your future. It won’t be an easy or fun talk, but it might be a life-changing one. For both of you. Who knows, though, you might discover that your partner feels the same. In this case, splitting might not be necessary. Maybe you can restart your lives together.

Find a guide for your new path

This article provides some basic tips so you know how to find yourself again in an uncertain period. My hope is that what I’ve written will spark something within you and help you move forward. But I don’t know your personal situation or what you’re going through. I can only offer you general advice; you should seek out someone who can speak to your specific situation.

That could be a life coach, or it might be a therapist or psychiatrist. If you currently have a romantic partner, discussing your feelings with them should unquestionably be the first step. Whoever it is, it’s often important that you have someone in your life who can act as a guide. There are two good reasons why it helps to have someone else offering you insights along your journey.

The first is that they will be able to provide a fresh viewpoint on your situation. More often than not, the problems in our own life appear much worse to us than they really are. We’re too close to the situation. As a result, we have a difficult time seeing it with anything close to an objective perspective. Having that outsider’s point of view will often let you see that your situation isn’t as dire as you thought.

The second reason it’s good to have a guide is that they can hold you accountable. Identifying the actions you need to take to get your life back on track is only the first step. Actually following through on those actions is the bigger step, and the place where most people drop the ball. A voice of support will not only push you to act, but it can also provide encouragement. If you’re someone who struggles with personal motivation, such an individual can be essential.

Believe in a better life

If you’re thinking, “I can’t do this, I can’t get my life back on track” then, sadly, maybe you’re right. In psychology, there is a concept called “self-actualization.” It’s the ability to realize one’s potential and accomplish personal goals. On occasion, there may be external factors that stand in the way of you achieving self-actualization. More often, though, the barrier in your path is yourself. The moment you decide you’re too lost to ever find yourself again is the moment you’ve doomed yourself to aimlessness.

You have to stop being the roadblock on your own path. A therapist or counselor can help you get moving in the right direction, but ultimately you provide the fuel. There are many hurdles that life will throw in your way. Frequently, though, the biggest one is just that negative voice in your head. Maybe it sounds like that disapproving parent or that ex-girlfriend or that critical teacher. But, ultimately, it’s still your own voice, and you don’t have to listen to it.

It comes down to this: Do you want a better life? Are you sick of feeling lost and not knowing how to find yourself again? Then, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to wallow in misery and despair, or are you going to make a move? It’s your life. It’s your choice. When you’re ready to get back on your path, you’ll find a road with infinite possibilities.

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