7 times when feeling lost in life is actually a good thing, according to psychology

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Feeling lost in life is terrible. It’s like you’re a fish out of the water, unsure of how to get back in and struggling to breathe.

“What even is the point of all this?” you might be asking yourself. “What’s my purpose on this planet?”

As someone who’s also felt lost many times in my life, let me tell you that it does truly get better. In fact, feeling lost can actually be amazing – even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.

Don’t believe me?

Keep on reading, and perhaps you will. Here are the 7 times when feeling lost in life is a good thing, according to psychology.

1) When you’re a teenager and young adult

When I was a teen, I thought I knew it all. The moment I kind of lost track of my trajectory in life, though…

Well, let’s just say that it felt like the whole sky was crashing down on me and I wasn’t strong enough to hold it up.

Looking back on it now, I realize that having my world shaken up a few times was actually precisely what I needed at the time.

And that’s because when you’re in your teenage years, you’re evolving at a rapid speed, and your personality is being shaped by countless external sources that contribute to your sense of self.

Really, it was only when I turned 23 or so that my identity finally felt strong and stable. Teenagehood and young adulthood are crazy like that.

But do you know what my absolute favorite thing about teenagehood was?

Feeling lost sparked my curiosity, which was what truly moulded me into the person I am today. According to psychologist Carl E Pickhardt PhD, “Adolescence is driven by worldly curiosity.”

He explains: “Curiosity makes young people wonder, ask questions, find out, figure out, dare, experiment, and explore what is new, different, and unknown. But why do they need to understand so much? While ignorance can feel frustrating and worrisome, knowledge can feel interesting and empowering.”

And that’s exactly what it was. When you’re lost as a teenager or young adult, it gives rise to questions, which then propel further research, which in turn shapes you into the person you want to become.

When you think about it, it’s actually wonderful to feel lost sometimes.

2) When you’re going through a breakup

Breakups are underrated.

In truth, letting go of someone who you’ve grown extremely attached to and planned your future with is one of the hardest things that can ever happen to you.

From breakups to divorces or losing a loved one, it’s difficult to suddenly find yourself in a world where the person who mattered most is no longer an active part of your life.

And underneath all that loss, grief, and pain, there is another feeling that demands to be addressed: you now feel completely, utterly, lost. The foundations of your life have been shaken. Nothing will be the same as before.

The good news?

Research shows that people who go through a divorce generally tend to end up happier. In other words, divorce works. It doesn’t happen straight away, of course, but eventually, divorced people find themselves leading much more satisfactory lives than when they were unhappily married.

When you let go of someone who matters a great deal to you but whose presence in your life is no longer a positive force, you are simultaneously making space for something better to come in.

Yes, you’ll feel lost for a while. But eventually, everything will click into place.

3) When you’ve just graduated or dropped out of university

Getting into a university feels like a huge deal (as it should) when you finish secondary education, but really, it’s only the start of another journey.

And once that journey is over – either because you decided it wasn’t for you or because you’ve completed your degree – you now find yourself in the real world, unsure of how to proceed.

You’re not alone. Not by far. Professor of Sociology, Deborah J. Cohan PhD, says: “The truth is, most graduates don’t have a clue. And they have no idea of the places they will go.”

She explains this is partly due to the fact that we rarely take time to stop and reflect between finishing high school and starting university. Plus, we’re not really taught to navigate real-life jobs – there are very few classes on how to get through the interview process in one piece or how to negotiate your salary.

Not to mention it’s actually rather difficult to get a job right after graduation these days.

But you know what?

You’re in your twenties. You don’t need to have it all figured out. Your twenties are a time for experimentation, for trying out different paths and seeing what sticks.

In a way, you’re still finding yourself, and that’s completely okay.

The moment you turn 25, you’re only just starting your first season of Friends. How cool is that? You still have so much time ahead of you.

4) When your job does not fulfil you on a fundamental level

Okay, I lied a bit.

While your twenties are kind of designed for experimenting, that doesn’t mean that once you turn thirty or forty, you’re now magically stuck in the same job for decades.

It’s not the twentieth century anymore. Nowadays, it’s becoming more common for people to migrate between jobs and industries. You don’t need to spend your life doing the same kind of stuff five days a week until the day you retire.

If your job no longer fulfils you (or never fulfilled you in the first place), you might feel lost and, to top it all off, absolutely miserable.

Again, this is actually a good thing.

It means you’re allowing yourself to walk around in the dark with your hands outstretched, trying to find something stable to lean against. It means you’re in the active process of reinventing yourself.

Yes, it’s uncomfortable as hell. But it’s also a sign you will soon find what you are looking for.

It’s never too late. You can always change paths.

5) When you’ve moved abroad

I moved to live in a foreign country when I was nineteen, and when I tell you I felt completely out of my depth, it’s still an understatement.

In truth, it took me years before I felt like the city I lived in was my home. But I would never change that whole ordeal for the world.

Neuroscience PhD writer Aditi Subramaniam agrees. She mentions three positives that expatriates enjoy despite the overwhelming feeling of confusion and loss:

  • Moving abroad helps us take a step back from our native country/city and reflect more clearly on the place we used to call home
  • Moving abroad shows us that people are essentially more similar than they are different
  • Moving abroad immerses us in foreign cultures and forces us to grow beyond our confines

Packing all my life in a few suitcases and moving to a foreign country was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It was also the best decision of my life.

6) When your spiritual or political beliefs have been shaken

Since our beliefs tend to form a stable core of who we are, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that having our spiritual, political, or intellectual beliefs shaken can completely throw us off.

Realizing that some of the opinions you have been promoting or feeling strongly about for years may not be what they seem is… difficult, to say the least.

The whole process might make you feel lost in a fundamental way.

Who are you? What should you believe? Who do you want to become? And how integral are your opinions to your sense of self?

The truth is that despite the fact that our opinions and beliefs are incredibly important, they are most likely bound to change.

As you grow older, you are continually becoming a new version of yourself, and letting go of old beliefs and accepting new ones is an inevitable part of that.

Again, this whole thing might feel super uncomfortable. 

But that is what true growth is like – it’s hard, it’s ugly, it’s scary. And it’s what ultimately helps you come closer to the highest version of yourself.

7) Pretty much always

The truth is, feeling lost in life is rarely a bad thing.

And that’s because as long as you ultimately do something about it – for example, you go out of your way to research different career paths, you embrace the art of letting go, or you decide to become more resourceful so that you can navigate the outside world a bit better – you’re going to come out the other side as a stronger, more resilient version of yourself.

As the professor of Psychology, Alan Castel PhD, says: “When you are lost and then find what you’re looking for (sometimes not even what you thought you were going to find), it can be the most rewarding form of deep discovery.”

Feeling lost equals making space for new experiences, ideas, and feelings. So go ahead and wander.

 A few years down the line, you might look back on where you are right now and think to yourself, “This was all worth it.”

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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