Because we have all experienced trauma, we have also endured seasons of feeling lost. You may be in one of those seasons now.
Feeling lost can manifest as a sense that you don’t know yourself anymore or that you don’t know who you are. You may have no idea where you want to be in life, including geographically, in relationships, or in your vocation.
Humans love certainty and predictability. Feeling lost is uncomfortable at best, excruciating at worst.
Signs that you’ve lost yourself include:
- Being unsure about what you think or how you feel in several areas of your life.
- Frequently engaging in activities that cause you to feel less approving of yourself or are outside your value system.
- Giving up on goals, aspirations, or dreams you have for your life, or giving up on yourself entirely.
- Violating your personal boundaries, including frequently saying yes when you really mean no.
- Tolerating another person’s hurtful, unconscious, cruel, or even abusive behavior.
You can see how dangerous this can be.
There are many reasons a woman may feel as though she has lost herself. The roots often go all the way back to her childhood.
It’s easy to miss this detail, especially if your current life situation is difficult or is taking a lot of your mental and emotional energy.
You may be so focused on keeping yourself sane and stable that you don’t see the parallels between what is happening now and what happened then.
For example, if you grew up in a family that didn’t respect boundaries, you are likely to enter into relationships that mimic the boundary-less conditions of your childhood. The relationship could be with a friend, a spouse, a co-worker, or even an employer.
If we don’t return to the original trauma and heal the child inside us that experienced the boundary ruptures and violations, we won’t be able to effectively take care of ourselves as adult women.
Too many times I’ve seen women in situations that mirror almost exactly what happened to her when she was growing up. She often didn’t make the connection until we explored how similar her present situation was to her past trauma.
These (understandable) blindspots are part of the toxic legacy of trauma. They can keep us lost and stuck for a very long time.
We become immune to the signs and the parallels, which is why we unknowingly and innocently walk back into the these familiar situations again and again and again.
So how do we move from lost to found?
Imagine if you were lost in the woods, or in the city where you live now. What would you do if you didn’t have a map or an electronic GPS?
The first thing you would probably do is look around to see if anything seemed familiar to you—the street signs, foliage, buildings, landmarks, names of businesses, etc. If the sun was still visible in the sky you might orient yourself to it and decide which direction you should go based on the position of the sun.
If all else failed—no markers, no landmarks, no visible sun—you would probably resort to pure intuition or instinct.
Navigating on instinct is a powerful way to get where you’re going when you have no other concrete data on which to base your decisions.
And even if you make a “wrong” turn, the fact that you are in motion and sensing your environment means that it is highly likely you will become un-lost/found.
Eventually you will come upon something that is familiar, or you will find yourself on a street that you recognize, making it all but certain that you will get where you want to go.
Internal navigation works the same way. Begin with what feels like “the right direction” for you.
It could be as simple as looking around your home for anything that draws your attention in a positive way, and reminding yourself why it resonates with you.
It could be remembering an activity you used to do that grounded and centered you, and begin doing it again. These are simple ways to begin feeling back into yourself, becoming reacquainted with who you are.
Tune in and notice what attracts you on the most basic level of sensory experience—color, texture, taste, sound.
And at times when you can’t find inner direction or guidance, make your best guess—and act.
The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll discover it wasn’t the direction that will get you where you want to go. And that is valuable information!
Outer GPS only works when you are in motion.
If you’re sitting still in your car, for example, it won’t tell you where to go next.
Inner GPS is similar in that it works best when you are in motion—including internal motion like exploring your thoughts and emotions.
As you continue to move in the direction of what resonates, what feels good, and what lights you up, you automatically receive guidance for what needs to happen next for you if you are paying attention to the inner GPS.
If you’re feeling lost right now, close your eyes and ask yourself, “What would feel good to me right now?” That is the best place to start.
Follow your inner compass one step and one hunch at a time. That’s all you need to do.
The actions you take based on this inner knowing will weave together the strands that create a path to your beautiful future.
© Victoria Tidwell Palmer (2022)