There might be times in your life when you start to realize you’re aimlessly drifting through the days. After a traumatic event, it’s common for a person to feel lost in their own lives. Suddenly, things have changed, and you’re no longer sure who you are anymore. I’ve been there. I understand. Here are some tips on how to find yourself again.
How You Lose Yourself
Life goes by in the blink of an eye. I remember when I was a teenager, which felt like just yesterday, thinking how lame adults were for telling me to slow down. Don’t rush to grow up. Of course, in typical teenage fashion, I ignored all the warnings and jumped at the chance to break out on my own.
Now, decades later, I regret all the things I didn’t give myself time to experience. I took on responsibilities at a young age. A mother by 19, a single mom with two infants by the time I was 21. My priority from day one has always been the happiness and well-being of my children. Unfortunately, life never goes the way we want.
Fast forward almost twenty years to the present day, and we find that I’m just now getting the hang of this horrible thing we call “adulting.” It’s easy to get lost in the day to day living. Time goes by, and suddenly, here you are with your world turned upside down. You realize you’ve completely lost sight of the person you used to be. And this new you, well they’re a stranger. It happened to me when my marriage of 11 years crashed and burned.
Life is a Journey
My marriage was in trouble from the start. It was no surprise that things ended. It’s shocking that we lasted as long as we did. But I was dedicated to my relationship, and I found myself doing things I didn’t enjoy, just to make my ex happy.
But once I was alone, I found myself at a crossroads. Should I keep doing the same things I had been, just because they were familiar? Or should I try living my way? When your life changes in an instant, it can be one of the scariest things you’ll ever have to face. Now, you have to figure out how to move on with your life and embrace these new differences.
At first, I tried resuming my old life. I hung out with the same friends, did the same things, even watched the same shows, which I didn’t like. I’m a simple person. I like routines. I know that change is a normal part of life. It’s the one constant we have to look forward to. As country music legend Tracy Lawrence once said, “The only thing that stays the same is that everything changes. Time marches on.”
But just for the record, let me say that I hate change. There is nothing worse than one day waking up and realizing you’ve lost your way. That you’ve transformed yourself so much to please other people that you now have zero identity of your own.
A few months after my breakup, I was still in a tough spot. I hadn’t figured out how to be happy yet. A friend of mine helped me figure out why. One night when we were getting ready to go out for our monthly mom’s night, I made a recommendation to go to a local bar. My friend was fed up at this point by my insistence to cling to my old life.
She pointed out that I hated bars, clubs, basically anything where there’s a lot of people and alcohol. PTSD is a real thing, and the smallest triggers, such as someone yelling, can trigger a full out panic attack for me. But going out to a bar was something my ex loved to do, so it’s something I fell into the habit of doing.
My friend made me pull my head out of the sand. “That part of your life is over. It’s time to move on. Remember who you are.” Let’s just say the rest of the night was pretty dull as I turned my attention inward. I realized she was right. Throughout my life, I’d been so busy trying to be the person everyone wanted me to be. But I forgot to care about the person whose opinion means the most: myself.
Once I realized that I was no longer sure about the person I was, I panicked. Suddenly, I was without an identity. Sure, I was still momma to my kids. A daughter to my parents. A loyal friend to my crew. But who was I as a person? What did I stand for? What did I want people to remember about me when I was gone?
Life is busy, and it’s messy. We get so caught up trying to keep up with the day to day living that we forget to truly live. Relationships fail. You’ll lose contact with friends. Family members will pass away. And your kids eventually grow up. At the end of the day, you need to be happy with yourself. There may come a day when you are all that you have left.
Five years ago, if you would have asked me what scared me about my future, I would have said starting over. I was terrified to let go of my old life. What if those were the best days and the future never compared? But you can’t live life scared to take a chance. You never know what tomorrow will bring, so you have to be happy with what you have today.
How to Find Yourself
I’m happy to say those were nowhere near the best years of my life. Since my breakup 16 months ago, my life has become amazing. And it all started when I fell in love. I met the perfect person to complete my life using the suggestions I list below. That person was the real me. Here are some tips on how to find yourself. Follow them so you can be happy too.
Create a Timeline
A lot of people struggle with learning who they are because it requires a lot of self-reflection. You have to be able to dive deep in your psyche and dig up painful memories if you want to be whole again. You can start by creating a timeline of your life.
There may be things that you’ve been through that you never want to think about again. But those experiences helped mold you into the person you are today. As painful as the past may be, it helps to remember that it’s all said and done. It’s over. Nothing you do now is going to change it. And thinking back on it can’t harm you anymore.
While it may have been a bad situation, it taught you something. Sometimes, life’s best lessons come from absolute pain. We often manipulate our world to keep ourselves away from stimuli we’re not comfortable with, whether it’s a stigma against a type of person or a dislike of a particular song or place. But when we put up shields to protect us against future harm, we’re missing the chance to find something beautiful instead.
How to Make a Timeline
Create a timeline of your life. Start with the goals you’ve accomplished up until now. Goals can be anything that you feel has been a success in your life, from a fun vacation to a career change. Even switching colleges or majors could be included. List everything you can think of, that is a significant life event.
Under each goal, write a few necessary details of the event. Who, what, when, where, how are usually good to use. Who celebrated the occasion with you, even if it was an ex? Where did it happen? When? How did it change your life? Are there ways it’s still affecting you now? Keep emotions out of it. List facts – names, dates, locations.
Next, list things about the future – your ambitions, your goals, your dreams. Each of these is a different thing. Your ambitions are the things you want to do with your life that will give you a sense of joy and fulfillment — running a marathon, backpacking through Europe, going on a cruise.
Your goals are the things you want to achieve in your life. Getting married, having kids, or owning your own company are typically goals people set for their lives. But if you want to do other things, go right ahead. No one should tell you how to live or what to do with your life. They aren’t the ones who will be looking back on your story from their deathbed, regretting all the what-ifs and wasted opportunities.
Dreams are powerful. They give us the ability to picture our future without actually being there. Some people say you shouldn’t be a dreamer, but I say, what’s the point of life if we don’t dream big? We’re all capable of something amazing. Something different from our peers.
Having a dream gives you something to strive for in life. It gives you hope of a better time. It inspires us to work hard and give our all to make our dreams come true. When you’re not inspired by something, you have no purpose. Find a purpose.
Break Free from the Crowd
Each one of us is different from everyone else. We all have different talents, different personalities, and varied interests. There is nothing wrong with not being the same, but unfortunately, people still don’t seem to get it. From a young age, we learn to censor ourselves to impress others.
Starting with school, you typically find a friend or two and start sharing common interests. Over the years, your taste in friends may change as you experiment with different things. This process will continue into your adult lives. Sadly, many people fall in with the wrong people and do things they usually wouldn’t.
Trying to be like other people is a slippery slope. When you start hiding your true self to fit in with the crowd, you lose a piece of your own identity. Until one day, you wake up and realize you’re a stranger. You’ve changed so much for other people that you’re now lost in a world that’s gone mad. You’re just one of the masses, another blank face in the crowd of consumers who go with the fad. And worst of all, you’re not happy.
How to Gain Your Freedom
If you want to be happy with your life, don’t be afraid to embrace your uniqueness. Who cares if you like to polka dance? Don’t be embarrassed by it (not entirely, anyway). Grab a few friends and take them along. Real friends won’t care how stupid you look doing something if you’re having fun with it.
It took me until my 30s to really accept who I am, flaws and all. Once my marriage was over, I did a total revamp of my life. I discovered that there were a lot of things I didn’t like about myself. And then I realized there were a ton of things I did like about myself that I’d been hiding for years.
The day I decided to stop hiding the fact that I am a weird, funny, nerdy dork was one of the happiest of my life. I was done making everyone else happy. I stopped saying yes to things I hated. I started trying things I’d always wanted to do but was scared to, like karaoke. It turns out I’m pretty good.
Now, I have found the most amazing man who adores all the weird traits I used to be so scared to show. He loves my children like they’re his, and he encourages them to be as unique and strange as their mother. I’ve had plenty of people tell me that my children are unlike others their age. They’re real and pure, and they don’t put on a front to impress the world.
It may have taken me half my life to have the courage to be myself, but I’ve made sure my children learned from my mistakes. I encourage their uniqueness, their quirks, their differences. You should celebrate yours too.
Start by writing a list of at least ten traits you have that make you proud. Maybe you’re compassionate or head-strong. Be honest with yourself. You may not like what you’re seeing, but you have time to change. Find the core values that you feel makes up your being. Maybe you’ve ignored these qualities for years. Or they could be traits that you use selectively.
These are the aspects of your life to be proud of. These shouldn’t be hidden deep inside but instead exposed to the world. There’s so much darkness around us. It helps to see the beauty of someone who is truly at peace with who they are.
This step was the hardest for me because, as I said, I hate changes. They freak me out. So when it came time to redefine who I was, I almost chickened out. Although I wasn’t happy with the person I had become, I was scared to try changing. I was already a stranger to myself, but at least I knew about the traits I had, even if I didn’t like them.
But the way I was living was not conducive to a better life. I wasn’t happy; I hadn’t been for years. My life had already changed. Why not continue the makeover and make my life the way I wanted it, inside and out?
It took a lot of courage. I had to do some deep soul searching. I’m ashamed to admit there was a lot I didn’t like seeing. I had wholly twisted my values, my morals, my entire way of being, to suit someone else’s idea of who I should be. It was shameful to know that I let the opinions of others take me so far from the person I truly was.
How to Change
If you’ve decided that you want to make changes in your life to get back to the real you, know that you’ve done the hardest part. You’ve accepted that you’re not perfect. Now, figure out what traits you want to fix. The toughest thing I did was be myself. I acknowledge the fact that I’m a klutz.
I learned to appreciate the fact that I know meaningless facts about movie trivia and celebrity careers. And I openly admit that I’m addicted to music in a way that can’t be cured. Trust me when I say, music can understand what you’re going through when people cannot. Never undervalue the power of music.
It can be hard opening yourself up to people. It’s scary because now you’re being judged for who you are instead of the facade you put on for people. But the key to happiness is not to give a darn what other people think. Do what makes you happy. If someone truly cares, they’ll accept it. If they don’t, you don’t need them in your life.
Start making small changes by cutting out the things you do that you don’t enjoy. Stop the new diet and extreme exercise routine you agreed to just because your best friend asked you to join. Turn the new annoying Taylor Swift song that you sing along to at work because everyone else does but that you hate. Turn off “The Office” and turn on “The Voice.” Blake Shelton is better to look at than Steve Carell. Sorry folks.
Know What Makes You Happy
When you’re facing the turmoil of having your life turned upside down, it can be difficult to find pleasure in things you used to enjoy. It could be because you’re still upset over the situation. Or it could be that you never really liked those things in the first place.
Know what brings joy to your life. What makes you happy? For me, the answer is simple — my children. Even on my worst day, just hearing their voices can lift me out of my funk. I can honestly say if it hadn’t been for them, I probably would have given up at life after my marriage ended. But I had to stay strong for them.
As the weeks passed, and I kept myself engaged with my happy place, I started to realize other things in life that I enjoyed. Like writing. Since the age of four, I have wanted to be a writer. Over the years, the type of writer has changed, but I never deviated from my dream. But I did abandon it for almost a decade because I listened to the advice of my ex and his family. Writing was no way to provide a life for my kids.
Do What Makes You Happy
When you discover who you are, it’s like finding a long lost friend. Suddenly, your world is full of possibilities you’d never considered. Take time to analyze the new you. What do you value? What do you enjoy? You have a clean slate. You can build your story; however, you want it to go.
Figure out the things that make you happy. Once you’re aware of your needs, you can fulfill them better. Knowing what can bring you joy is like having a secret weapon. You now know what you need to spend more time doing. You have an escape from the world.
Other than my children and my boyfriend, my happiness comes from writing. I love being able to tell a story; to share my experiences with others. It brings me peace to be able to show other people that I understand their situation, and I want to help them find their way back to themselves, just as I found my way back to me.
And despite the doubts of my ex-in laws, I’ve managed to become successful at it enough to support my family. Sometimes, you shouldn’t believe what other people say. You could give up on something that might change your life one day. Find what makes you happy and do it. A lot. Phooey on anyone who disapproves.
Learn How to Be Alone
I think the fear of being alone is one of the driving factors for me clinging to my failed marriage for so long. When you build your life around another person, it can be terrifying to face life alone without that person. You’re no longer half of a whole.
I used to hate being alone. I would wallow in self-doubt, self-loathing, questioning my every choice. I would begin to doubt everything I knew, everything I did. I lost validation in myself because I didn’t have someone there to assure me that I was on the right track (even if I was too far off my own course).
But when my life flipped on its axis, I didn’t have a choice but to be alone. Yet strangely enough, this time around, I embraced the solitude. I realized that for the first time in my life, I was free to do whatever I wanted without having to consider another person. I made peace with my demons because I acknowledged that a lot of what they said about me was the truth.
Solitude is Empowering
At first, I was lonely by myself. I craved a connection to another person. So I rushed into other relationships, trying to patch the gaping hole in my life. But I couldn’t seem to find the right guy. Nothing I was doing was making me happy. Being around other people was becoming more stressful than being home alone.
So, I started chilling by myself instead of going out to mingle. I threw myself into my children’s lives, giving all my attention to making sure they had a happy childhood, despite their broken home. I stopped trying to replace my ex and learned how to be content by myself.
It was quite liberating. I could watch whatever I wanted or listen to my music. I could sing horribly at the top of my lungs without being criticized. I looked as awful as I wanted without being insulted. But now that I was free of drama, I had the energy to dress up and put effort into my appearance. I got my self-confidence back. I found my best friend again – myself.
A year later, the best thing happened. I finally found a man who was perfect for my kids and me. Someone who accepts my quirks, my weirdness, my loyalty, my pride at being a mother. I found someone who loved me as I was because I found the strength to love myself. Things couldn’t be better, and yet great things keep happening to add more icing to my cake.
Find Yourself and Fall in Love
If you want to be happy in life, you have to embrace who you are. It takes a lot of work and dedication to change years of bad habits, which might have made you into someone you’re not content to be. When you permit yourself to be the real you, you’ll discover that life has some amazing things in store for you. But you don’t get to live your best life until you’ve become the best you.
Find yourself. Love yourself. And the right people will come along and love you too. Before I go, I want to leave you with these four quotes, which got me through my darkest days and hopefully, will inspire you through yours as well.
- “Be kind to your body, gentle with your mind and patient with your heart. Stay true to your spirit, cherish your soul and never doubt yourself. You are still becoming, my love, and there is no one more deserving of the nurturing grace of your love.” ~ Becca Lee
- One of the greatest mental freedoms is truly not caring what anyone else thinks of you. ~ Unknown
- When I was 5 years old, my mother told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy”. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. I told them they didn’t understand life. ~ John Lennon
- “On particularly rough days when I’m sure I can’t possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad bays so for is 100% and that’s pretty good.” ~ Unknown