Feeling Lost in Life? 8 Underlying Causes and What to Do

“I feel lost in life. I don’t know what I want and where I’m heading. Sometimes it seems like life is passing me by and I miss out on something important.”

Do you recognize yourself in the above? A surprisingly big number of people could relate to this emotional state. We all have felt lost and confused.

But if you experience this feeling on a regular basis, you may want to do something about it before you realize you’ve wasted your life on the wrong things.

First of all, you need to figure out what exactly leaves you feeling lost in life.

Why do I feel lost in life? 8 possible causes

1. Your life lacks meaning

The most obvious cause of feeling lost is that you are disconnected from yourself and don’t know what the purpose of your life is.

You just follow a routine, go to work, meet up with your friends, watch TV, pick up your kids from school, and so on. But all this feels incomplete as if something important is missing from your life.

Even if you have it all – a job, a family, and a circle of friends – it may not be enough if you don’t know what you live for.

2. You are bound by insecurities and fears

We are here to evolve. Life constantly evolves. So when you resist change and try to protect yourself from the most minor challenge, you stop growing.

Yes, you might have a good, comfortable life, but do you ever get a feeling that you are not really living it? Like it is passing you by and you are just an outside observer?

In this case, you could be too deep in your comfort zone because you are bound by insecurities and fears. You may be too afraid to do something new and go after the things you truly enjoy. Or you may believe that you are not good enough to succeed.

So you choose to play it safe and stay where you are. But in reality, this approach is going to take you nowhere. Sooner or later, you will find yourself feeling lost and stuck in life.

3. You are chasing the wrong goals

This is probably the most common reason why people feel lost in life. With so many influences from social media, popular culture, and those around you it’s easy to lose track and get confused about what you want, especially at a young age.

Modern society imposes certain ideals on us, whether we are aware of this or not. It mainly happens in our childhood and teenage years – through the movies we watch, the musicians we listen to, and all the other role models we try to be like.

Among others, social conditioning also affects our perception of happiness and success. Some people may end up chasing the wrong goals just because they believe that this is what they want.

In reality, though, this is what society wants them to do. But these society-imposed ideals of a happy and successful life don’t work for everyone.

4. You hang out with the wrong people

The people we surround ourselves with have a tremendous effect on our self-perception and mental health. Toxic personalities can easily trick you into feeling lost and confused.

If you have to deal with constant criticism, bullying, and emotional invalidation, it’s easy to forget who you are and what you want to achieve.

Maybe your parents are overly critical and bash your dreams, saying that they are unrealistic and silly. It could be your friends who make fun of your hobbies and aspirations.

If there are critical, toxic, and manipulative people in your life, it’s no wonder you feel lost and confused.

5. You have too many responsibilities

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You may be lost in your life because you take in too much. When you are overloaded with responsibilities, you have no time left for yourself and the things you truly enjoy. You may not have an opportunity to even think about this.

When was the last time you did something for yourself? Do you have a hobby that makes you happy and fills you with energy? Or do you no longer have time or energy for hobbies?

Taking in too much is a one-way road to cognitive overload and emotional burnout. Living a hectic lifestyle doesn’t add clarity or meaning to your life. So if you deal with too many responsibilities daily, it could be the reason for feeling lost.

6. You are going after someone else’s idea of happiness and success

It’s not only society as a whole that affects our idea of what we want in life. Our immediate environment has a more significant impact on our perceptions.

As a rule, our parents, teachers, or friends genuinely want us to be happy and accomplished. But they don’t always know what is better for us – even if they believe that they do.

So many people pursue the goals imposed by their parents. For example, you may come from a family where all men followed a military career. It’s not easy to go against your authoritarian father’s will even if you always wanted to become a journalist.

There is an incredible number of stories like this. All these people end up feeling lost in life because they have chosen the wrong path in the first place.

7. Your perception is clouded by unhealthy thought patterns

When we have negative or unhealthy thought patterns planted in our minds, we lose a sense of clarity. We don’t know what we want and where we are heading. It means that we can easily make the wrong decisions.

Unhealthy perfectionism, the desire to control everything and everyone, low self-esteem, and constant negativity are a few examples of such thought patterns.

For example, if you are a perfectionist, you may devote all your time to making your reports at work as flawless as you can. But does anyone appreciate this? Does it help you level up in your career? Or are you wasting your time chasing the unreachable perfection no one needs?

Yes, you could get a fleeting sense of fulfillment when your boss praises you for your work. But you may still feel like you are lost in your life. Why?

Because you mistakenly believe that writing perfect reports is the most important task you have. But it doesn’t give you genuine fulfillment and a sense of purpose.

Your perfectionism gives you the illusion of doing something meaningful and important, but deep inside, you know that it’s not true. Hence the feeling of being lost in life.

8. You are dwelling on the past

When we live in the past, we inevitably lose track in the present. You may have endured loss, trauma, or heartbreak. Negative experiences like these have the power to leave scars in your soul for a lifetime.

But they also leave you confused – as if everything suddenly ceases to make any sense. Loss of a loved one, a devastating divorce, or emotional abuse can make you feel like you are totally lost in life.

It’s incredibly hard to overcome your negative past experiences and not let them affect your present. But it’s also unavoidable if you want to re-find your place in life.

What to do when you feel lost in life?

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1. Connect with yourself

Whether you are living a too busy lifestyle or just don’t know who you are, you might be disconnected from yourself. Fortunately, there are ways to restore this connection.

Sometimes all it takes is to devote some time to relax in your own company. It is particularly important to take a break from screen time during these relaxation sessions. So don’t switch on the TV or scroll your social media feeds. These activities only add unnecessary cognitive stimulation and distract you from the voice of your inner self.

For example, you could take a bath or cook dinner for yourself. But to make it something more than a purely physical rejuvenation, you need to be mindful of your thoughts and responses.

Where does your mind go when it wanders? Do certain dreams, images, and memories pop up in your head when you are on your own? Pay attention – they could lead you to understand what you really want from life.

You could also try more sophisticated techniques such as grounding and meditation. All these practices help you reconnect with yourself and realize why you are feeling lost in life.

2. Dare to ask yourself uncomfortable questions

Being honest with yourself can help you see whether you are walking the wrong path. But it won’t be an easy task. It takes courage and self-awareness to even try to reconsider certain things in your life.

However, giving honest answers to the following questions will shed light on the things and people that make you feel confused and unfulfilled:

  • Did I choose this career because I really liked it or because my parents wanted me to?
  • Does my job bring me a sense of fulfillment? Do I feel like I’m doing something important and meaningful?
  • Did I follow this career path because I wanted it or because it was considered prestigious and promising?
  • Do the people I hang out with bring the best out of me?
  • Do I frequently feel small and inadequate in someone’s company?
  • Did I give up on something important for me because of my job/family?

3. Do something new

When feeling lost and stuck in life, ask yourself:

  • Am I too deep in my comfort zone?
  • When was the last time I tried something new?
  • When was the last time I challenged myself?

If it’s been a while, then it could be the reason why you are feeling like you have lost your way. No matter how comfortable your everyday life might be, you still need to vary things if you want to feel deeply fulfilled.

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If your doubts and fears are too strong, then start small. A tiny change in your everyday routine such as taking a different route to work can still give you a sense of novelty.

This sense will then make you more open to bigger challenges, such as starting a new activity or learning a new skill.

4. Devote some time to the things that make you truly happy

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What to do if you’re lost in life? To get the answer to this question, first ask yourself another one:

When was the last time I did something for myself – something that I truly enjoyed?

Maybe you used to have a hobby that gave you a sense of fulfillment, but you had to drop it because you were too busy at work. Maybe you used to have aspirations and goals, but you had to give up on them because you started a family.

Sometimes even taking a glance at your childhood dreams can shed light on what you truly enjoy.

It’s not too late to devote time to these things. Even if you don’t manage to turn your hobby into an occupation, you will gain positive emotions and a sense of accomplishment.

5. Deal with your negative thought patterns and lingering past experiences

Sometimes you are your own worst enemy. If you are dwelling on the past or letting your inner critic govern your life, you are sabotaging your own happiness.

The first step to dealing with these counterproductive thought patterns is to practice self-awareness. It means recognizing repeating thoughts and emotional responses as soon as they pop up in your mind.

For example, you might want to change your job, but your mind is full of insecurities and doubts. So as soon as you think about it, your inner critic says,

You are too old for that. You don’t know what to expect in a new career path. So you’d better stay where you are.

When you learn to recognize these thought patterns, you can start to confront them. You should replace them with a positive statement. For example,

It’s never too late. I can succeed in a different career.

Please mind that if you find it hard to overcome your negative thought patterns or emotional trauma, it would be a good idea to seek professional help.

Feeling lost in life is pretty common

To sum up, don’t be hard on yourself for feeling this way. You are not the only one. After all, humans are prone to sadness, confusion, and other uncomfortable emotions.

You might be wondering, “Is it normal to feel lost in life?”

Yes, it is. It’s a pretty normal emotional state. However, it is not to be ignored. If you regularly feel this way, it’s your inner self that is trying to reach out and let you know that you are walking the wrong path.

So you’d better listen to it.

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