Our expert columnist Nikita Thakrar discusses how to navigate and recenter when it feels like we have lost ourselves, in order to find our way

We all go through stages in our life, where we feel ‘lost’, and as though we do not belong. For some of us, it can be during childhood, as we experience a sense of separation from our siblings, school, or society. For others, it starts in our teenage years when our relationship with our parents creates distance, and we develop unease at home. Others may look back on their early adulthood, where they lacked direction or clarity about what to do with their lives, and for many it is their later years when they reflect upon what they have accomplished. Regardless of the period in our lives it arises, the feeling of estrangement and, in some cases, alienation is very real.

Being made to feel misunderstood is an isolating experience. Not able to relate to those around you, as though you do not ‘fit in’ and, most importantly, not being seen or heard. As we change, grow, and evolve, we may feel even more disconnected from those around us, particularly through outgrowing friends or drifting apart from those who were once close to us. All of this provides us with scope to turn inwards, and understand who we truly are.

By redirecting our focus internally, we give ourselves permission to let go of the norms of society, and develop a deeper understanding of ourselves. This brings greater self-awareness, and ultimately self-acceptance.

The power of a strong sense of self

Having a strong sense of self is fundamental in terms of bridging a gap between us and the external world. We all know that our thoughts create our feelings, and our feelings influence our behaviours, which subsequently reinforce our beliefs. By being aware of our thoughts and ‘catching’ them gives us control. Metaphorically realising that the mind is the car, and we are the driver, puts us in an empowering position.

Knowing our own preferences and embracing all aspects of our personality traits builds our confidence. Instead of resisting elements of ourselves, we start to form bonds with each part, recognising that they contribute to our whole existence.

How a holistic perspective helps

Looking at our lives holistically is a positive way of developing self-esteem. One method of doing this is to pay attention to the language patterns that we use, both verbally and non-verbally. The things that we say, and most importantly the way we say it, is a strong indication of the subconscious mind – the part of ourselves which we are not aware of.

Those who suffer from an inferiority complex, i.e. low self-worth, may put themselves down in public, or use any opportunity to beat themselves up over the smallest of things. Alternatively, they may use humour as a way of seeking validation from others. Often simply being aware of this pattern is enough to make a change, should they choose to.

Most of our beliefs are formed in younger years, but now we know that it’s never too late to create new neural pathways in the brain, hence we can still develop a new empowering belief system.

‘What we think we become.’

Personal development is a growing industry, with more people turning to coaches and counsellors for support. The common thread between most forms of therapy is becoming aware of your thoughts, and then choosing how you act on them. The process also invites us to eliminate shame, blame, and guilt, as we start to become responsible and accountable. For some, this can be transformational, as they heal their wounds and come to peace with their past, in order to move forwards.

We are opening our minds to the idea that we create our own destiny, whereas before we may have assumed that life simply happened by itself. Developing a strong mindset is arguably the most challenging, yet the most empowering thing that anyone can do. Spending time meditating, reading, journaling, and reflecting is just as important as exercising. After all, we are physical, mental, and emotional beings.

If you are going through a period in life where you are feeling low, know that you are not alone. You can seek help via any of the following resources:

. Turn to a trusted parent, relative, or friend.
. Speak to your place of education or work.
. Consider getting counselling or coaching.
. NHS GP or 111.
. Call Samaritans on 116 123.

Photography | Julia Morris