We are the vehicles traveling down this road called life and along the way we inevitably lose pieces of that vehicle. Most of the time these pieces no longer serve us and are replaced with upgraded parts at the next pit stop or let go of completely. However, there comes a time when many of us reach a pit stop and the parts of ourselves that were lost along the road were so important we forget what makes us, us.
That can manifest as no longer knowing what brings us joy, what we are passionate about, or even the aspects of our personalities we adore. How do we get this specific type of amnesia? How do we prevent it? How do we rediscover who we are, if we find we lost ourselves? The answers to these questions are the journey back to ourselves.
Drawing a Blank on the Journey
An accident where we bump our heads or suffer a traumatic brain injury isn’t how this type of amnesia creeps in, despite how the movies depict it. In real life, the process of forgetting who we are is subtle and often happens over a period of time. The way this manifests will look different for each individual but it always involves the same two elements.
- Total immersion in a person, cause, or activity
- Giving up the activities we enjoy or part of ourselves
Who would willingly stop doing the things that bring them happiness or repress parts of themselves they admire? It seems ludicrous. Yet, it is the case and is oftentimes done unconsciously. Imagine someone entering a relationship where the other person becomes the center of their universe or becoming immersed in the pursuit of a career and everything else suffers. There are countless examples of how the amnesia can show itself, but it begins with total immersion in a person, cause, or activity. Once the person is immersed, it is easy to put off doing the things that once brought them joy or even expressing themselves in the manner they use to. It’s subtle. It takes time. But one day we look and realize we lost ourselves somewhere along the journey.
Prevention Tactics to Getting Lost
Don McPherson says it best, “true prevention is not waiting for bad things to happen; it’s preventing things from happening in the first place.” When it comes to losing ourselves, the easiest cure is to never lose ourselves in the first place. This can be done in a plethora of ways, but the best recipe for prevention is as follows.
- Schedule time for the activities, people, and things that energize and recharge us weekly — or monthly at the least. These things must become sacred and treated as such. It’s easy to let circumstances dictate our schedules but much like a doctor’s appointment, once it’s scheduled, only an emergency would stop us from following through. We must treat these parts of ourselves the same way.
- Make a list of the values and personality traits we love about ourselves, then make a quarterly journal practice to make sure you are still living out those values and expressing those traits. Even when we are in total immersion, an honest quarterly check of where we are with ourselves can help us course-correct when needed; before it’s too late.
At the end of the day, these prevention tools seem simple yet they are paramount in helping us set boundaries and gain self-awareness of the subtleties that contribute to loss. Remember this particular type of amnesia can take years to manifest and it happens through subtle changes over time.
From Lost to Found
Now that we know how we lose ourselves and ways to prevent it, what should we do to find ourselves if we realize we have lost ourselves? Waking up and realizing we no longer know who we are can be one of the most depressing experiences of our lives. When asked what we like to do or what we love about our identities, our answer is “I don’t know.”
While this may seem devastating, it’s an opportunity to get curious. The road back to ourselves begins with curiosity and experimentation. When we are lost the best thing we can do is write down the things that use to bring us joy, the parts of ourselves we use to love, and make the effort to step back into those things and ways of being.
Sometimes we find out that those activities or traits no longer bring us joy. That’s when we try new things. We make a list of activities we’d like to try and take ourselves out on “dates” to do these things. We think of the types of people we adore and what personality traits and values we love about them. We ask ourselves what it looks like if we were to step into those traits. We let curiosity lead the way as we experiment, rediscover, and uncover the person we are again.
It’s helpful to explore why we allowed ourselves to slip away from us in the first place but the most important step – once we find and get back to a place where we feel whole and that we know ourselves again- is to practice the prevention techniques.
by Mona Nyree Stephens, contributing author
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