by Andrea M. Darcy
Not sure what you want anymore? Don’t like your career, can’t set a goal? Or just have feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness and feeling lost in life?
Why am I feeling lost in life?
It could be a big life change you didn’t expect and are struggling to recover from that has left you lost at sea, like a divorce or bereavement. In such cases it can be quite normal to have a period of ups and downs that sees you struggle to find meaning in life.
If there was no definable change, it can also just be that you have never taken the time in your life to define yourself, and what truly matters to you.
Caught up with going along with what is expected, or unconsciously hooked on pleasing others, you might not have noticed at first that you weren’t captain of the ship. Until suddenly you did, and you don’t know if you like where the boat is heading.
What can I do to start feeling less lost?
So what sorts of things might you learn in therapy if you are suffering from feelings of being lost and not knowing what you want?
1. Drop the self judgement.
If there is one thing that keeps us stuck in a feeling of hopelessness, powerlessness, and being lost? It’s judging ourself for feeling any of these things in the first place. The more our inner soundtrack drags us down, the more our self-esteem plummets, the less we are able to see the personal power we do have to change things.
TRY THIS: Sit down and write a letter to a friend who is feeling lost in life. What words of support and encouragement can you give them? Now change the name at the top to your own and read it aloud. What would life be like if you started treating yourself like a good friend? Take a tip from compassion-focused therapy and look at ways you can accept yourself just the way you are.
2. Define your personal values.
If we come from a close-knit family, or have always been in a relationship from the moment we left home, for example? We might never have had the headspace to notice the things we deeply and intrinsically value.
Instead, we have been living out the personal values of those around us, unknowingly going against ourselves. Eventually, we feel exhausted and lost.
This is what happens when someone suddenly quits their job and runs away to another country to volunteer – they left recognising what matters to them so long that it made them impulsive.
Existential therapy believes that knowing what we value is so important it is the difference between waking up glad to be alive or not. This type of therapy focuses on helping you to determine what life means to you personally, then find ways to live that out.
TRY THIS: sit down and start writing down any value that pops into your head – wealth, peace, freedom, friendship (or find lists online).
- Intuitively and quickly circle ones that matter to you.
- Narrow your list down to ten, then see if you can pick three of those values that feel good over ‘sound good’ to your mind.
- How have you been integrating those values into your life, if at all?
- What would your life look like if you did start living from those values?
- What three steps, no matter how small, could you take this week to claim those values as your own?
2. Identify and work to change limiting beliefs.
Limiting beliefs, or ‘core beliefs’, are assumptions we make about ourselves, others and the world when we are children.
Of course as children we don’t know so much about how the world actually works. Nevertheless, many of us carry these beliefs into adulthood, continuing to live from them without questioning them.
If we had difficult experiences or a trauma that gave us negative core beliefs — I am not worthy, I am unloveable, the world is a dangerous place ? We can live our adult lives unconsciously making decisions to ‘prove’ our beliefs right. We don’t realise we are perpetuating things, but feel a powerless victim as life once again leaves us feeling lost.
TRY THIS: Read our article on common core beliefs. It can be tough to admit to ourselves what our beliefs are at first, so see if you get a physical reaction when reading any. If so, where might you have developed a belief like that? Did an adult teach you this way of thinking, or a life experience?
If it was a difficult experience or childhood trauma, consider talking to a counsellor or psychotherapist who can help you safely process the experience.
4. Learn to listen to your own thoughts and feelings.
Love to impress others, or keep others happy? The problem with being a pleaser is that so much of our attention goes outward we can lose sight of ourselves entirely. After years of feeding into the wants and needs of others, we can have an identity crisis when we realise we don’t know our own.
TRY THIS :Two great techniques therapists recommend here are therapeutic journalling (read our article on how to change your life with journaling) and mindfulness (try our free how to guide to mindfulness).
5. Identify patterns you are trapped in.
Ever have a sneaky feeling you are living out your own ‘groundhog day’? The same thing again and again with a few small tweaks? And you are exhausted and lost because of it?
You might be living out relating and behavioural patterns from childhood.
These life ‘themes’ are called ‘schemas’ in schema therapy, which focuses on helping you recognise and change such entrenched ways of being.
A common one, for example, is the abandonment schema. We are so sure we will be rejected and abandoned at some point we are on the look out for it, reacting at the smallest slight. The result is that we are indeed abandoned.
TRY THIS: Sit down and write out a short timeline of your last three relationships. Can you see a pattern?
Starting to see that you are feeling lost in life for bigger reasons than you’ve wanted to admit to?
Sometimes the best thing we can do is admit we are feeling lost and reach out for help. A talk therapist creates a safe, non-judgmental space for you to explore the roots of the way you are feeling, and helps you see the inner resources you have to move forward.
Sick of feeling lost? Want to find purpose and move forward? We connect you with London’s top talk therapists in central locations. Or book a UK-wide therapist now on our booking site, as well as online counsellors you can chat with from anywhere.
Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert and mentor, with training in person-centred counselling and coaching. She often writes about trauma, relationships, and ADHD. Find her on Instagram @am_darcy