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How to find yourself when you realise you've become truly lost

We can all wake up one day and realise that so much has changed that who we thought we were no longer exists. I guess this used to be called a mid-life crisis by many and perhaps it still is - but even that goalpost has changed.

So what happens if you do get that dawning realisation that you don't know who you are, what you like, what you don't like? You've spent most of your time pleasing others at the expense of yourself, often to the point that you no longer even know your own preferences.

Influencing factors to becoming lost

There are many influences that can lead you to this time and place of uncertainty about yourself of a lack of self 'knowing'. The most obvious is trauma, often in childhood; this seems to be pertinent probably due to us usually being more able to deal with traumas as adults. It can also be from having an involvement in coercive or controlling relationships where you've spent much of your time trying to please the other person or persons (for this isn't limited to intimate relationships).

Spending time routinely 'escaping life' is also a factor, wherever you try to create an alternate existence means that you often end up in this place of limbo, not knowing which version of you is authentic.

How to recognise that you have become lost

The most obvious indicators that you might have become lost can be found in how you express your preferences, or rather the lack of them.

  • Frequent use of 'I don't know' especially in the context of your own life and decisions.
  • Placing decision making in the hands of others, then feeling disappointment when it isn't what you wanted.
  • 'I don't mind' can also be another version.
  • Routine and limited choices are the norm because having self-defined options isn't something that is within your confidence to naturally do - it scares you.
  • Choosing a holiday, car, day-trip, even down to clothing choices are led by others opinion of what you should/should not choose.
  • You don't see other people's opinions as just that, their opinion or information that they convey. You see it as something that you should do because that is what they have said you should do.
  • You have a fear of getting things wrong, therefore you don't make decisions.
  • You don't think that you are equal to others, you perceive that they are more important, valuable than you are.
  • Consistently prioritising the needs of others over your own.

This list isn't exhaustive, but you can begin to see the patterns emerging - especially the 'should' word.

Man looking outside window

A bit about how I overcame being lost

Finding your own journey to being found is the most important key to unlocking you. I can share how I did it for me, but this is one of many ways that you can change how you perceive yourself, become more self-assured, confident and authentically you.

Firstly, I started on the conversations I was having in my own mind, about me.

I began to recognise that my internal language was very negative, very harsh and often untrue. I had set very high standards for myself that were mostly unachievable to the mere mortal and constantly berated myself for not achieving them.

I learnt how to change that inner dialogue, unearthing each destructive conversation I habitually had with myself and changing it to something that was constructive and more accurate about myself.

I started working on my own beliefs about me - deciding to ditch those that were never mine in the first place but I had somehow agreed to believe them along the way (many of them were from my parents).

I started recognising my achievements and giving myself a pat on the back for them - something that was deeply unfamiliar, to begin with.

Once I felt I was discovering who 'me' was, I then started on my physical self. Improving my fitness and health in general, for I had neglected this for some years. Following programmes set out by others, I realised that although I did benefit from them, they weren't quite 'me'.

The final part was to understand what food really benefitted me as this was the last missing link. That then set me on a journey to discover what really was good for me in mind, body and soul. 

In order to find yourself, you have to look at every part of you

Mental, physical and 'spiritual' (this does not mean religious, more the bigger perspective that is beyond our own consciousness) health are all complexly linked.

One feeds from the other and this can be a constructive co-existence or a destructive one.

Woman sat on mountain

Some science behind the meaning

We have three parts to our human brain, we have a gut-brain and a heart-brain. That's five aspects of you that need to be nurtured and cared for that doesn't even include the physical self. Starve one or some of them and they will draw upon the other aspects of you for sustenance - you will not feel your best.

Our thoughts affect our emotions, our emotions affect our brain's chemical output which then affects our gut-brain and heart-brain. 

What we eat affects our gut-brain which affects the messages sent to our brain and is the foundation for our cellular body.

Our emotional attachments and environment affect our heart-brain and our thoughts which affects our chemical output and so the cycle of interconnectivity continues.

It's a bit like the chicken and the egg, nobody knows what comes first, input/output and from what aspect of you that starts the domino effect.

Changing how you respond so you can find you

So how can you start rediscovering who you are? How do you 'find' you'?

Well, here is how I did it and how you can too.

  • Begin to make some decisions that solely benefit you (that don't harm others of course).
  • Begin to answer honestly when asked what you want.
  • Begin to set clear boundaries and stick to them.
  • Get comfortable with other people's discomfort, (I was changing and not everybody liked it).
  • Choose wisely who you spend your time with. Recognise those whose intentions are purely self-centred and make a choice to limit or end your time with them.
  • Give yourself permission to stop nurturing relationships which aren't mutually beneficial.
  • Spend more time doing the things you love doing and be content.
  • Be more adventurous, curious and try new things that feel out of your comfort zone yet achievable.
  • Ditch the perfectionism and embrace 'being human.' (This allowed me to be more open, honest and vulnerable to myself).
  • Learn how to constructively deal with criticism and conflict, instead of seeing it as a threat, learn how to see it as an opportunity to grow.

Along the way, I've read many books, and found many resources that have allowed me to explore the intricacies of what makes me 'me'.

Some of the most notable books/resources that have had the greatest impact on my own self-development have been:

The Power is Within You - Louise Hay

The Four Agreements - Don Miguel

Untamed - Glennon Doyle

16Personalities

The Enneagram made easy

Words that Change Minds

The latter three have helped me work out my own unique patterns, something that I value, it may not be for everyone, as I mentioned earlier:

Finding your own journey to self-discovery is key, don't put the key to your happiness in somebody else's pocket

As a result of my journey, I created a programme designed to help others discover their lost selves.

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 3BN

Written by Nikki Emerton

Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 3BN

Having spent the majority of my adult life not really knowing how to be resilient to life's ups and downs, I discovered NLP, hypnotherapy and coaching. I've found this invaluable in my own life and now use the skills I have learnt and the experiences I have had to help others change their thoughts and behaviours to achieve health and happiness.

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