How to Cope When You Lose Your Sense of Self
Ever feel like you’re wandering aimlessly through your own life? Or that your life has been turned upside down? This might be happening to you, especially if you’ve been temporarily laid off or told to stay home from work. You may be in a state of panic, losing a sense of self and who you are. I want you to know that how you’re feeling is both very real and temporary.
First, understand that you’ve probably been defining yourself by the work you do and the roles you play. We all have a tendency to find personal value via productivity, connections, and accomplishments. Almost everyone does it and there’s nothing wrong with it per se as long as you hold this awareness: the way you define yourself is not permanent, it’s malleable and ever-changing.
We are not our jobs, or our roles, or our incomes. We know that, but it’s easy once all of it’s gone to feel a great sense of separation and isolation from who we think we are. When change makes us feel not needed there’s a part of us that also feels un-wanted. I understand.
So how do we cope when we lose our precious connection with who we are?
Well, I have a few suggestions that can get you through the darkest of times if you’re brave enough and willing to face the truth.
Begin with taking an inventory of all that makes up your life so you have a good understanding of the scope of why you’re here. Create an exhaustive list of everyone you interact with and all the activities that take your time, the people and things you give love to, those you help and those you rely on, in turn helping them feel needed. Don’t downplay yourself or undersell your impact. I bet there’s more to you than meets the eye. I bet your value and necessity go far beyond what you initially imagined.
Make a list of all the ways you’ve grown and changed over time. Through schools, homes, careers, relationships, and hobbies you’ve moved through and beyond, you’ll be able to see your natural inclination toward resilience and change. You keep changing on the outside, but your essential self, the seed you’ve developed from is still ever-present as the source of your purpose here at this time. Keep acknowledging that. Learn to become a little more comfortable with your unstoppable transformation.
Bask in the light of your unique possibility. Every time we distance ourselves (even a little) from our current definitions of self (either intentionally, or accidentally) we open up space inside for the creative possibilities of our pure potentiality. When we let go of who we “think” we are, we can witness more of who we really are. It only requires a sense of curiosity and trust that you will not disappear.
Take inventory of your dreams, those realized and those still in the running. Could it be possible that you’re in the starting gates of some new venture in your life? Is it possible that the Universe is making room inside of you for more of your purpose to unfold? Is there something you’ve been holding yourself back from? If you shifted your energy from trying to hold onto an old sense of self, perhaps you could use that energy to launch into something new and exciting.
Do one thing new or different. Sometimes we have to prove to ourselves that we’re resilient and capable of embracing and embodying new ways of doing and being. It doesn’t have to be big, but choose something that reflects your ideals. Engage your creative nature or learn something you’ve been dying to know about. Plan a road trip for the summer, someplace you’ve always wanted to go. Begin a home yoga practice or adopt a habit of taking a walk after dinner. Surprise yourself. Experiment. Have fun. You are an agent of change.
Your sense of self is like a full-body mask you wear and it’s so normal to feel naked and vulnerable without it. So I’m not saying get rid of it. What I am saying is to become intimately aware of it. Your sense of self is how your ego makes you useful in the world and you need it. So if you feel lost, evaluate how you currently use it. Make whatever shift is necessary to use it to your advantage, instead of against you. Don’t let your sense of self (or lack of one) make you feel bad or incomplete. This feeling you have, lost and without purpose, is part of your transformation, not your annihilation. Don’t resist it. Try to learn from it. Try to work with it.
Although losing your sense of self sometimes feels like dying, you’re really just breaking open and expanding. Be patient. Be loving and kind toward yourself in the process.