Is feeling lost or directionless actually a sign that you’re gaining self-awareness of your life?
Thank you for a good and important question.
My answer to this question is that feeling lost or directionless may very well be a sign that that you’re gaining self-awareness. Below, I elaborate on this answer based on my experience as a person who has practiced meditation for almost 10 years.
What is self-awareness?
True self-awareness means to be aware of our true nature. We need to go through a process to become truly self-aware. This process is gradual, and entails the steps of (i) introspecting and becoming aware of the mechanisms of our mind; (ii) emptying the mind and thereby returning to the true mind/true self.
From insecurity to confidence and back to insecurity
When I was young, I was very insecure around people. I always compared myself with others, always tried to win over others by trying to be the funniest or the smartest person in the room. Sometimes it worked, and I felt fabulous. However, more often than not, it didn’t work. I exposed my insecurities, I lost, and that made me hate myself; I could spend days on self-loathing and anxiety attacks.
As I grew older (around 30), I started to get better at controlling myself. I felt that I started to have some life experience and some skills, and I didn’t get hurt as easily as before. Generally, I was able to handle situations better. I thought to myself that I was maturing, that I was finally becoming the grounded and confident adult man I always wanted to be. I can remember that I felt very proud and relieved about this.
However, I still had many issues. I still suffered from anxiety, and I had a burning interest in finding truth. So, at the age of 32 I started to meditate regularly. Through the meditation practice, I looked back on my life and saw how I had lived. I also let go of hurting episodes of my life, insecurities, but also times when I rationalized my actions, faked my confidence, and suppressed my feelings.
As I did this, things started to change inside me. Suddenly, I became very insecure of myself. The strength that I thought I had built up shattered and turned into dust. Instead of handling things “maturely”, I got stingy, upset, angry and sad. Even very small things could be very painful to deal with, things that hadn’t bothered me for years. I became like a child again. I found that I no longer had any defense mechanisms. It felt as if my heart stood unprotected against the brutality of the world outside.
These were difficult times for me. I could see deeply into my mind; how much insecurity I had accumulated within, how much suppressed anger, hatred, jealousy and greed there was in my heart. I was very confused and wondered what was going on. Especially during the first year of meditation, I felt extremely lost. Back then, I kept a journal (and I still do), and when I read it today, I can see how extremely lost I was and how much I suffered from not being able to understand or cope with my mind.
The fact was that I had never overcome any of the insecurities that I thought I had conquered. I had merely covered them up with a layers upon layers of fake personas. It was only cosmetics, it was not true. So, from mistakenly believing that I was in control of my life, I was thrown into a state of utter chaos and inner turmoil. It really felt like the meditation had unlocked Pandora’s box inside of me.
Meditation led to self-awareness
However, as time went buy I began to realize that the inner tumult I experienced in fact was symptom of an ongoing cleansing process. It meant that the pain I was carrying within was being released and disappeared; it was like a detox for the mind. I started to understand myself better; gradually I could accept myself just the way I was.
In my case, I realized that I was nothing special, just an ordinary person. All the inferiority I had carried within had forced to try to be something special, which I was not. When I realized this, it was like a huge burden was lifted from my shoulders, and for the first time in my life I started to experience a relaxed freedom and happiness.
Paradoxically, this made me more capable than before. I was no longer afraid of failing, and I actually became confident in an authentic way (as opposed to the arrogant fake confidence I had built up before). Since my mind was calm, I could focus on the things I did and could create much better results. Since I had much less pride, I could also ask for help and work together with others without competing with them. My relationships improved a lot from this.
The meditation showed me my true mind. The true mind is just what is, and what we all are. It is life itself. When we live our true self, we live our true expression, no more no less. This is true self-awareness and it is happiness. Yes, I went through tumult, pain and confusion to get here but it was indeed worth it. I am so grateful to have arrived at this point in my life.
There is no reason to worry about feeling lost or directionless. I could very well be a sign you’re waking up to self-awareness. Anyway, it’s ok. Everything is ok. I recommend to try a meditation practice where you reflect on yourself and empty your mind. That way you will inevitably find clarity. It is a principle that anyone who empties their mind will become clear-minded.