Analyzing why people do the things they do and how those things affect others is one of my favorite pastimes. I enjoy finding solutions.
The Meaning of Finding Oneself
What do people mean when they say, “I need to find myself?” Often, what people mean is that they’ve come to a crossroads in their lives (sort of like a four-way stop) and they feel confused about how they arrived at this place and/or what direction they should take. One of the obstacles preventing most of them from choosing which road to follow is the uncertainty of who they are and where they want to end up. They’re lost and their personal navigation system has shut down. Many people feel the need to find themselves when a strong desire to grow independently from their current lifestyle hits them.
Commonly, teens entering adulthood and adults entering mid-life question where their lives are headed. Teens, often, feel like they are losing their footing prior to graduation and as they transition into adulthood they may feel anxious about processing their options and deciding which ones would be best for them. In addition, as some adults age, the monotony of their everyday lives and fears of their eventual mortality sometimes motivates them to figure out their purpose in life.
What Motivates People to Move Forward
While some people feel flabbergasted that they suddenly lost their way, many people look back and realize they were lost long before they reached this point. In effect, they coasted along aimlessly on auto-pilot until a stop sign jumped out at them. If they sit there idling too long, they’ll run out of gas. Therefore, some people look in their rear-view mirror until they see the last road they were on when they knew they were following their chosen path. Then, they reboot their GPS to receive signals allowing them to see the big picture and plan their route. Other people won’t look back. They let go of who they were and forge ahead to reinvent themselves.
Revisiting the Past to Move Forward
Many people who begin their journey of rediscovery by reflecting back to their childhood and exploring the hopes and dreams they had, as well as, the hurdles they encountered and how they aspired toward or reacted to each embark on an emotional, yet revealing, ride. In an almost out of body experience, self seekers allow their minds to take them back to scenes in their lives that changed them. These scenes often include encouragement by some authoritative figure such as a teacher, coach, or religious leader. They may include interactions with friends, relatives, or classmates. Some scenes might include the loss of loved ones or memories of being victimized. Some might include places where accomplishments were made. All have this in common—they played a role in the view of the world seen by the onlooker and the onlooker’s perception of their place in it.
What Makes People Feel Lost
The reason many people eventually feel lost is that while in the midst of these experiences their focus is limited to what is in front of them. Like peripheral vision, contributors or contributing factors add an expanded explanation to their viewpoint but they still can’t see their eyeballs. As a people, they don’t come equipped with spot or rearview mirrors. They don’t have eyes in back of their heads. Therefore, they have blind spots. They usually can’t see what’s behind what’s happening to them, their interpretations of it or reactions to it, or how it affects their journey. During their experiences, they can only see the effects in part not in whole. They’re too close and likely too motivated to keep moving forward to fall back and examine the whole scene. In effect, they often leave important things unsaid, undone, and unfinished.
When You Feel Lost Because Life Is Not Satisfying
When they move too fast, they miss out on things—things they may not discover they missed exploring until much later in their lives. When they move too slow, they may lose interest and become bored. Upon rolling up to the four-way stop, the road that brought them to it may seem to have been one continuous linear blur like the image they see when they travel down the highway at high rates of speed. Or, it may seem to have been a neverending repetition of the same thing over and over again like the image they see when they slowly travel for hours and hours down farmland roads. Both situations have the potential to play with their minds and cause them to lose sight of their intended destination. As a result, they feel lost.
Exploring Who You Are to Change Your Future
On the other hand, when some people set out to find themselves, they have no desire or need to revisit their past. Their objective is simply to explore what their future may hold. Usually, they concentrate on discovering their interests, beliefs, and motivations right out of the gate, whereas, the aforementioned people arrive at this point only after having examined and rectified their past experiences and present lifestyle. Before moving forward, all self seekers should try to envision themselves in the place they’re headed. They should consider not only the ongoing effects of their choices on their own lives but also on the lives of loved ones and others.
Staying In or Leaving a Relationship to Find Yourself
Many people in long-term relationships fall into the daily grind of running a smooth ship or doing the things they normally do. Sometimes people in these relationships, especially people in the throes of a mid-life crisis, feel unappreciated, unloved, or unfulfilled. Usually, the path that brought them to this place started early on in their relationship when they gave up parts of who they were to spend more time pleasing their partner. Sometimes the parts they gave up were some of the things that attracted their partner to them in the first place. Over time other attractions may change resulting in an even bigger divide.
The problem gradually escalates most likely because one or both parties lose the feeling of being true to who they want to be or who they believe they are under their façade. In most situations, couples don't need to split up in order to reconnect to who they once were or discover who they aspire to be. If their partner's idea of who they want to be doesn't go against who they are, they might be able to support each other on a journey to reinvent themselves as individuals and as a couple. They may need to reflect on what attracted them to each other at the beginning of their relationship, what changed, and how they can ignite that fire again.
Why People Lose Themselves
Some of the most common reasons people lose themselves is because they let life happen to them without actively leading it in the direction they want it to go. Some of them begin on the right path but then they stop looking where they're going. Some might be so busy taking care of other people, they neglect to pay attention to their own dreams and aspirations. Many of them stop learning or doing new things. Some of them have unresolved issues from the past that they allow to bog them down and divert their attention from fully enjoying life and appreciating who they are and what they have to offer to the universe. To find themselves they need to start looking internally and externally.
Activities to Help People Find Themselves
Read any essay, story, or prose you think you might be able to relate to on a personal level.
Write down your interpretation of what you read and how you can relate to it.
Read two sides to a common societal issue. Repeat this process to learn more about your beliefs.
Write a debate in favor of each side to see which feels more true to you.
Look through a college course catalogue to find what interests you have
Enroll in a course or commit to learning something new.
Write a daily or weekly journal listing what made you smile, cry, annoyed, grateful, enthused, disgusted, intrigued, etc. Write how it felt to perform the positive act you did.
Do something positive that you would normally not do.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
H Lax (author) on January 15, 2019:
That's a writing style I enjoyed using and plan to hone those skills in the future.
Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on January 15, 2019:
I like how you use the car analogy to describe the issue with getting lost and needing to find oneself. The explanations you gave throughout this article were right-on. Very meaningful.
H Lax (author) on April 05, 2018:
Thanks for your outlook dashing, the areas you mentioned were also areas I was thinking about as I wrote this. I agree that people in these situations feel unhappy but I refer to it as lost as the problem to needing to be found by themselves, a play on words to fit the subject.
dashingscorpio from Chicago on April 05, 2018:
"Some of the most common reasons people lose themselves is because they let life happen to them without actively leading it in the direction they want it to go." - Very true!
Ultimately I believe people who are looking to "find themselves" don't necessarily feel lost as much as they feel unhappy.
Oftentimes we look around and believe everyone else is living the life of their dreams! They seem happy and certain about their future. Boredom, feeling as if in a "rut", not progressing, or falling behind one's peers can cause one to "question" their purpose.
Sometimes it's a matter of being so consumed with something like raising one's children and once there's an empty nest they're forced to evaluate their lives differently. The same is true for going through a divorce after being married for several years or being laid off from a job after many years. Life just threw you a curveball and now you have to adjust. We ask: "Where do I go from here?"
Very interesting topic.