It would be nice to imagine that life would be crystal clear all the time. We’d know exactly where to go, what our purpose is, and we’d feel happy every single day.
But life can be confusing, and it’s so easy to lose our way. I’ve felt lost in life quite a few times, and it’s not a feeling I’d wish on anyone. Not even my worst enemy.
The problem is, it’s an almost invisible condition, this lostness. The person right next to you could be struggling, and you wouldn’t know it if you aren’t very observant.
That’s why I’ve put together this list of behaviors to help you determine if someone needs a little help and compassion.
Here are 13 behaviors that could indicate a person is feeling lost in life:
1) They are disconnected
This one’s tricky because a little solitude is always good for everyone. We all need our “me time” to sit and reflect or pursue our hobbies.
But if it has become a little overboard, like those periods of isolation are getting longer and longer, it could be a sign of withdrawal from the world.
Disconnectedness can also show up even if the person’s present. Or rather, pretending to be present. They’re physically there, but their minds have drifted off.
If you’re well-versed in reading body language, you’ll probably sense that detachment.
Don’t jump to the conclusion that the person is just being a jerk; maybe they’re going through something deep inside, and they don’t quite know how to handle it.
2) They have intense mood swings or emotions
Sometimes, whatever it is they’re going through (i.e. feeling lost) can manifest itself in wild shifts in emotion.
One minute they’re laughing along with you, and in the next, they’ve snapped at you over something insanely trivial. Or they might suddenly burst out crying.
And even they can’t explain why.
It’s unnerving, for sure. And alarming. These mood swings could indicate an underlying struggle that they can’t even begin to process.
But truth to tell, much of those intense emotional outbursts are borne out of frustration…
3) They feel frustrated with themselves
“Nothing’s going right.”
“I don’t know why I’m like this.”
“I wish I knew what to do!”
“And why is life so hard to figure out??”
Statements like these are what you’d hear from someone who’s feeling lost.
And it’s really understandable, when you think of how hard it is to drive through a strange place without a GPS.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, all around them they see people who know where they’re going and exactly how to get there.
No wonder they feel such a heavy and profound sense of frustration! And if they don’t figure out how to handle it, they might just go on to the next destructive cycle…
4) They engage in self-pity
Ah, self-pity, my old friend. When I was going through a “lost” phase myself, I got to know self-pity quite well.
At the time, I felt like the world was conspiring against me. How come things were working out for everyone else except me?
It wasn’t my fault I was stuck in a dead-end job – my boss was holding me back. It wasn’t my fault I couldn’t save enough – blame the economy.
In short, I saw myself as a victim. And I made sure everyone knew it, too.
But now I know that that was a sign I was feeling lost in life. Fortunately, I was able to get out of that self-constructed trap and move on.
5) They wonder, “What’s the point?”
It’s also not uncommon to hear a person who’s feeling lost ask this question: “What’s the point?”
I mean, we’ve all had this question at some point in our lives. It’s part of exploring purpose, existence, and the meaning of life.
But when someone asks this question much too much for comfort, that’s a warning sign.
It’s like they carry a world-weary or indifferent view – not seeing purpose nor meaning in their existence. In their eyes, there’s nothing worth striving for.
It may also be why…
6) They’re just going through the motions
Think about it – when you’ve got a good grasp of where you’re going in life, don’t you get out of bed with purpose? Greet the new day with enthusiasm?
A person who feels lost is the opposite. As I mentioned earlier, there’s a sense of world-weariness, so every move they make seems tired and automatic.
Simply put, they’re not emotionally or mentally invested in what they’re doing. And this is also a reflection of how…
7) They have no goals
In my early twenties, this is exactly how I was. Fresh out of college, I had no idea what to do with my life.
I did have a job, but it was just to pay the bills. For some reason, I just couldn’t think of any bigger goals for myself, a higher purpose other than earning enough for rent and utilities.
So while I was (slightly) grateful for my boring, gap-filling job, I have to admit that I did it on autopilot.
There’s no two ways about it – if you’re looking for direction, you’ll need to have goals. Or even just a single one.
That goal will infuse a sense of purpose in your life and rouse you out of that pit of despair.
8) They fill every minute with activity
Now, I might have given you the impression that people who feel lost in life do nothing but sit in a corner and wallow.
Nope, some cope by packing their schedules. They fill their days with tasks, errands, and many other distractions.
They want to avoid, at all costs, quiet moments where the uncomfortable thoughts at the back of their minds would surface.
It’s an escapist move, and one I can totally understand. It’s hard to sit still and have no choice but to face up to your inner turmoil.
9) They’ve developed bad coping mechanisms
Speaking of escape brings me to coping mechanisms. We all have unhealthy ways to deal with our problems, such as binge-watching or doom-scrolling.
For those who are feeling lost in life, though, bad coping mechanisms become the norm rather than the occasional indulgence. Because that’s how they numb the pain or confusion.
If you know someone who has suddenly slid down this slippery slope, consider it a warning sign. They might need someone to intervene and stop them from declining further.
10) They engage in erratic, risky, or impulsive behavior
This is fortunately one of the easier signs to see, especially in someone who has always had a steady temperament.
For instance, it’s what alerted me to the plight of a friend of mine. I’d always known her to be level-headed and thrifty, almost to the point of being a minimalist.
So, when she started going on extravagant shopping sprees, I knew right away that something was up. True enough, she’d just been through a miscarriage and was feeling lost and adrift.
Other examples of risky or impulsive behavior might include:
- Substance abuse
- Reckless driving
- Quitting jobs on a whim
- Sexual promiscuity
There are lots more, but you get the idea. They all have the element of recklessness in them for that jolt of thrill or excitement…which is exactly what a lost person is trying to feel.
11) They have trouble making decisions
Should they take the job? Should they end the relationship? Should they move to another city?
Again, not to belabor the literal version of lostness, but imagine hiking and finding out you’ve gone off the trail.
All of a sudden, you’re full of doubt – do you go straight? Left? Right? Are you just walking around in a circle? Is there a bear waiting to pounce on you?
That’s pretty much how being figuratively lost feels. It’s paralyzing and full of fear.
Unfortunately, it’s also enough to keep one stuck in life. Or if they do make a decision, it might not be entirely theirs. Because another sign that one is lost is that…
12) They are easily influenced
When your sense of self is shaky, it’s so easy to be influenced by what other people think. You sway this way and that, depending on what suits you at the moment.
That’s why it’s important to figure out who you are and what you stand for in life. That way, even if you don’t know exactly where you’re going yet, you can at least make decisions that will ring true to you.
13) They’re constantly wishing for something more
Finally, one thing you’ll notice in a person who’s feeling lost is that there’s a sense of perpetual searching – as if what they have will never be enough.
They might want a new job even if their current one is a good fit. A new house even though their apartment is perfect for them.
Whenever they get what they want, they’d be happy for a while. But then the cycle starts all over again, and they’re back to feeling dissatisfied.
Essentially, this should tell you that there’s a void inside them that they’re trying to fill.
Feeling lost might sound so lonely, but know that you’re not alone. It’s something most of us encounter at various points in our lives.
And while it’s not a pleasant feeling – downright depressing, even – I like to think about it this way: it’s a reminder for you to stop and get to know yourself more.
I think about it as a reset button that paves the way for the new, improved version of you.