“The worst kind of loneliness is not being alone, but feeling invisible in a world that doesn’t see you.” – Criss Jami.
Have you ever found yourself feeling lost in the chaos of life? Unable to recognise the person you once were, questioning your purpose and identity? I know I have. It is in these moments of confusion and despair that we find ourselves on a journey to rediscover who we truly are.
From a young age, I was conditioned to believe that success meant conforming to societal expectations. I played the roles assigned to me, trying to fit into the molds society set. But in the process, I gradually lost touch with my true passions and desires.
The turning point came when I hit rock bottom. The realisation that I had lost myself became too powerful to ignore. It was a wake-up call, forcing me to re-evaluate my priorities and embark on a profound journey of self-discovery.
Losing myself forced me to confront my fears, insecurities, and the external influences that had shaped me. It was a chance to strip away the layers of expectations and uncover the authentic person hidden beneath. I had no choice but to start from scratch, redefining my values and goals based on what truly resonated with me.
What Is Losing Yourself?
Have you ever felt like you were losing sight of who you truly are? Feeling trapped in a life that no longer aligns with your values, passions, or desires? This phenomenon, aptly called “losing yourself,” is a deeply personal and transformative experience that many of us may go through at some point in our lives.
For me, losing myself was an overwhelming and disorienting process. It started with a gradual erosion of my own identity, as I began to prioritise the expectations and opinions of others over my own intuition and inner voice. I found myself morphing into the person I thought I should be, rather than embracing my authentic self.
Over time, I realised that losing yourself is not a sudden occurrence but rather a continuous state of disconnect that creeps into your life unnoticed. It can manifest in various ways, such as sacrificing your dreams and aspirations to meet societal standards, conforming to the expectations set by family and peers, or succumbing to societal pressure to fit into a predetermined mold of success.
Losing myself meant compromising my own needs and desires in order to please others. I was constantly seeking validation and external approval, fearing rejection or judgment if I strayed from the path prescribed for me. In doing so, I lost touch with my own passions, dreams, and unique perspective on life.
Examples of Losing Yourself
Losing yourself can manifest in various ways, unique to each individual’s circumstances and experiences. Here are a few examples of what losing yourself might look like:
- Neglecting your passions: One of the most common ways of losing yourself is neglecting the passions and hobbies that once brought you joy. As life becomes more demanding and responsibilities pile up, it’s easy to let go of the activities that once fueled your soul. For instance, I found myself gradually drifting away from my love for painting as I prioritised my career and other external obligations.
- Prioritising others’ opinions: Losing yourself can also occur when you prioritise others’ opinions over your intuition and desires. Whether it’s succumbing to societal pressure, seeking validation from family and friends, or conforming to societal norms, continuously putting others’ opinions ahead of your own erodes your sense of self. This was especially true for me as I often found myself making choices that pleased others rather than following my own heart.
- Settling for a life that doesn’t align with your true self: Another example of losing yourself is settling for a life that doesn’t align with your true self. It can be staying in a job that doesn’t fulfil you, being in a relationship that lacks emotional connection or sacrificing your personal goals and dreams for the sake of stability or comfort. I experienced this firsthand when I found myself in a career that didn’t spark joy or passion within me, simply because it seemed like the safe and responsible choice.
- Losing sight of your values: Losing yourself can also involve losing sight of your core values and beliefs. It’s easy to get swayed by external influences or societal norms, causing you to compromise your values in order to fit in or avoid conflict. I realised that I had started compromising on my values in the pursuit of success and acceptance, which led to a misalignment between who I truly was and how I was living my life.
- Ignoring your physical and mental well-being: Losing yourself can also manifest in neglecting your physical and mental well-being. When you constantly prioritise the needs of others or succumb to the pressures of society, self-care tends to take a backseat.
Signs of losing yourself
Losing yourself is not always easy to recognise, as it often happens gradually over time. However, certain signs and indicators can alert you to the fact that you may be losing touch with your true self. Here are some signs to look out for:
- Feeling a lack of fulfilment: One of the signs of losing yourself is a persistent feeling of emptiness and lack of fulfilment. You may feel like something is missing from your life, even if you’re going through the motions and meeting your responsibilities. For example, I would go through each day feeling like there was a void within me despite seeming successful on the outside.
- Having a diminished sense of joy and passion: Losing touch with your true self often results in a decreased sense of joy and passion. Activities that once brought you excitement and happiness may no longer have the same effect. You may find yourself going through the motions without genuine enthusiasm.
- Experiencing a disconnect from your desires: When you’re losing yourself, you may notice a disconnect from your desires and preferences. You may feel unsure of what you truly want in life or constantly prioritise the preferences of others over your own. I found myself constantly saying yes to things I wasn’t genuinely interested in, simply to avoid disappointing others or fearing their judgment.
- Feeling trapped in a life that doesn’t align with your values: Losing touch with your true self often means compromising on your core values. You may find yourself living a life that doesn’t align with your beliefs and principles, leaving you feeling trapped and inauthentic. This can lead to a sense of inner conflict and a feeling of being disconnected from who you truly are.
- Experiencing physical and emotional exhaustion: Losing yourself takes a toll on your physical and emotional well-being. You may find yourself constantly feeling exhausted, both physically and emotionally, as you navigate a life that doesn’t truly fulfil you. I often felt drained and overwhelmed, struggling to find the motivation and energy to engage with life.
- Struggling to make decisions: When you’re losing yourself, decision-making can become a challenge. You may find yourself second-guessing your choices, seeking validation from others, or feeling incapable of making decisions that align with your desires and values.
Causes of Self-Loss
Losing oneself can happen for a variety of reasons, and it’s important to recognise the underlying causes in order to address them effectively. Here are some common causes of self-loss:
- External expectations and societal pressure: One of the major causes of self-loss is the pressure to conform to external expectations and societal norms. We often find ourselves striving to meet the expectations of family, friends, or society as a whole, which can lead to neglecting our authentic selves. For instance, I constantly felt the need to live up to the expectations set by my family, and as a result, I lost touch with my desires and passions.
- Fear of judgment and rejection: The fear of being judged or rejected by others can significantly contribute to losing oneself. We may avoid pursuing our true interests and needs in order to fit in and gain acceptance. This fear of judgment can be paralysing, causing us to silence our voices and compromise our true identities. I experienced this fear, constantly seeking validation from others and conforming to their expectations to avoid disapproval.
- Prioritising others over oneself: Another common cause of self-loss is putting others’ needs and desires ahead of our own. While caring for others is important, constantly neglecting our well-being and happiness in the process can lead to losing our sense of self.
- Traumatic experiences and significant life changes: Trauma or major life changes can also contribute to self-loss. A significant event, such as the loss of a loved one, a divorce, or a sudden career change, can disrupt our sense of identity and purpose, making it challenging to find ourselves again. For example, going through a difficult breakup shook my identity and left me feeling lost and unsure of who I truly was.
- Settling for a life that doesn’t align with our values or passions: Choosing a path that doesn’t align with our values or passions can also contribute to losing oneself. Settling for a job or a relationship that doesn’t fulfil us can result in a profound disconnect from our true desires and aspirations. I once settled for a job that provided stability but lacked passion, gradually losing touch with my dreams and aspirations.
The Impact of Losing Yourself
Losing oneself can have a profound impact on our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Here are some ways self-loss can affect us:
- Emotional Distress: Losing oneself can lead to emotional distress, such as anxiety, depression, and a sense of hopelessness. Feeling disconnected from our true selves can leave us feeling lost and confused, and this can have a negative impact on our overall mood and well-being.
- Lack of Motivation: Losing oneself can also lead to a lack of motivation and energy. When we are disconnected from our passions, desires, and goals, we may find it difficult to find meaning or purpose in our lives. As a result, we may struggle with staying motivated and engaged with life.
- Relationship Strain: Losing oneself can also impact our relationships. When we are not in touch with our authentic selves, we may struggle with expressing our needs and emotions effectively, leading to misunderstandings and tensions in our relationships.
- Physical Symptoms: Losing oneself can also have physical symptoms. When our emotional and psychological well-being is compromised, it can manifest in physiological symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and even chronic illnesses.
- Low Self-Esteem: Losing oneself can also lead to low self-esteem and a lack of confidence. When we’re not in touch with our authentic selves, we may feel inadequate or not good enough. This can lead to a negative self-image and impact our ability to pursue our goals and dreams.
- Disconnection from Others: Losing oneself can also lead to a sense of disconnection from others and the world around us. When we are not in touch with our desires and values, we may struggle with finding common ground with others and connecting on a deeper level.
Reconnecting with Your True Self
Reconnecting with your true self is a transformative journey that involves self-reflection, self-compassion, and intentional steps towards rediscovering who you truly are. Here are some strategies to help you reconnect with your true self:
- Self-Reflection: Take the time to reflect on your values, passions, and desires deeply. Ask yourself important questions like “What brings me joy?” and “What are my core values?” journaling or engaging in self-reflection exercises can help uncover hidden aspects of your identity. For me, journaling became a powerful tool for self-discovery, allowing me to explore my thoughts and emotions without judgment.
- Set Boundaries: Establishing healthy boundaries is crucial for reclaiming your true self. Practice saying “no” to commitments that no longer align with your values or passions and prioritise activities that bring you joy and fulfilment. Setting boundaries was a crucial step for me in reclaiming my identity.
- Explore Your Passions: Engaging in activities that align with your passions can help reconnect you with your true self. Make time for hobbies, interests, and creative outlets that bring you joy and allow you to express yourself authentically.
- Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind and compassionate towards yourself as you embark on this journey of self-discovery. Acknowledge that it takes time and effort to reconnect with your true self, and be patient with yourself along the way. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a dear friend. Self-compassion became a guiding principle for me, allowing me to accept myself as I am and nurture my growth.
- Surround Yourself with Supportive People: Seek out individuals who accept and appreciate you for who you truly are. Surrounding yourself with supportive friends, family members, or a community can provide a safe space for self-expression and encouragement. Being surrounded by individuals who valued my authentic self helped me feel accepted and understood, further enhancing my journey of self-reconnection.
- Embrace Growth and Change: Understand that reconnecting with your true self is a process of growth and change. Embrace the opportunities for self-discovery and be open to exploring new aspects of your identity. Allow yourself to evolve as you uncover different facets of your true self.
Quotes on Losing Yourself
- “The worst kind of loneliness is not being alone, but feeling invisible in a world that doesn’t see you.” – Criss Jami
- “There is nothing more dangerous than to be in the right place at the wrong time.” – Tennessee Williams
- “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” – John F. Kennedy
- “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
- “It is what we think of ourselves that determines our fate.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
- “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
- “You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – André Gide
- “To lose oneself is to find all the others.” – Charles Baudelaire
- “The man who has no purpose to his life can find meaning by helping others find theirs.” – Aristotle
- “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
Final Thoughts on Losing Yourself
Do what you love, and it’s not a chore. Don’t be afraid of mistakes. So often, our best creations are born of mistakes; try something new, explore a new medium, experiment with different techniques. There is no better way to learn the nuances of your art than by doing it. Find your passion and never lose it, never stop learning and always try to improve.