How exactly do you know if you’re feeling lost or if you’ve lost yourself? You can visibly see you’re physically still here. How should we define “lost”?

I’m not referring to the Lost and Found section you find at some hotels and stores, to locate an item you believe you left there. If only it were that easy.

When we say things like, “I feel lost. I don’t feel like myself. I don’t know who I am anymore,” we are alluding to the “loss of self” I’m referring to. We usually aren’t conscious of this fact.

Having come out on the other side of loss of self after losing my daughter, Maddie, after “reclaiming myself,” it’s apparent I was feeling lost. In fact, probably for 3 years before Maddie departed this world, and 3 years after she departed, I wasn’t myself.

It’s this feeling of not being fully engaged in the world, like there’s a dark shadow hovering around you, an itch that you can never satisfactorily scratch. Because this pain begins to feel normal, we more easily ignore it.

I think of the times I’ve felt lost and identify them as times of self-betrayal or self-sabotage, which occurs because we are protecting our “inner child” or shadow from being harmed. Brad Yeats calls self-sabotage “misguided self-love.”

It’s important not to shame ourselves for feeling lost and misguided. We make these choices because our inner child (a/k/a shadow) feels it’s the “safest route.” In my almost 53 years on this planet, I’ve discovered that the quick fix, the safest route, inevitably leads to the most pain.

Here are some examples of when I’ve felt/feel lost:

1) I gave custody of Maddie, my daughter, to her dad long ago.

2) I don’t speak up for what I believe because I fear what others think of me. We so easily sell ourselves out because of fear of being “booted from the tribe.”

3) I eat dinner too late at night, eat compulsively, cut my body down for being overweight, think I must be weak.

4) I take over-responsibility for other’s choices or behaviors, which I obviously don’t control.

5) I don’t get out in nature when my heart calls me to and haven’t started my garden.

6) I am hard on myself for not being further along in my business, thinking something is wrong with me.

7) I let the fear of the future rob me of the present moment, of my life, joy and happiness.

8) About 3 years before and 3 years after I lost my daughter, Maddie.

In essence I lose myself when I don’t follow my heart from a place of love but let fear lead me.

To my bias, the solution to get our lives back is to heal the heart and the harmful beliefs that tell us we aren’t lovable or capable enough.

So what does this process of Healing The Heart look like?

I created this term called a Loving Self-Advocate. This woman has decided to head in the direction of her dreams, take informed risks, and give herself the benefit of the doubt.

She is ready to see with clarity what is possible for her and what she deserves, not from a place of entitlement, but from a place of humility, surrender and faith.

In other words, she’s decided it’s time to change. However, she doesn’t know how to change, and that’s OK, because the “how” is less important than the commitment to the decision.

It’s important to understand that when we decide to make a change, we experience an emotional roller coaster ride. It’s called the Emotional Cycle of Change, described by 2 psychologists, Don Kelley and Daryl Connor. It happens to everyone.

Here are the 5 stages of emotional experience relating to change (explored and slightly modified by the authors of The 12 Week Year, Brian Moran and Michael Lennington):

1) Uninformed Optimism—This is the most exciting stage because we imagine all the benefits and haven’t experienced any of the costs or downsides–this stage doesn’t last long.

2) Informed Pessimism—As you learn more about the reality of what it takes to change, positive emotions can quickly sour. This stage is characterized by a shift to a negative emotional state. The benefits don’t seem as real, important or immediate, and the costs of the change are apparent. You start to question if the change is really worth the effort and begin to look for reasons to abandon the effort.

3) Valley of Despair—This is when most people give up. All the pain of change is felt, and the benefits seem far away and less important–and there is a fast, easy way to end the discomfort: going back to the way you used to do things. After all, you rationalize, things weren’t so bad before.

If you quit on change in this stage, you go back to the first stage, which is a whole lot more fun than being in the valley. It’s at this stage that having a compelling vision is critical. Nearly all of us have times in our life that we wanted something so badly that we were willing to pay the price of our own comfort to get it. Wanting passionately to reach your vision, combined with commitment and the tools and events of process control, is the way through the valley to the next stage.

4) Informed Optimism—At this stage your likelihood of success is much higher because you’re back in the positive emotional area of the cycle. The benefits of your actions are starting to bear fruit, and the costs of change are lessened because your new thoughts and actions are becoming more routine. The key is to NOT stop!

5) Success and Fulfillment—The benefits of your new behaviors are fully experienced and the costs of change are virtually gone. The actions, which were at the beginning difficult and uncomfortable, have now become routine. Every time you complete the cycle, you build not only your capacity, but also your confidence. Now you can move on to the next change you want to create.

By being aware of this cycle, you are less likely to be derailed by negative emotions and are able to manage change more effectively.

Deciding what it is that you want to create and starting to take the first action steps to move toward that desire is often the hardest part. The EGO mind is brilliant at cloaking you with confusion, distraction, drama and delay.

4 Steps to Happiness After Divorce

1) Allow the awareness to seep into your consciousness and take ownership of it without shame that you’ve been feeling lost. Example: “Oh, wow. I’ve been avoiding taking response-ability for ________this aspect of my life. I’ve been stuck and didn’t even realize it.”

2) Decide if you want to upgrade your identity and how you want to see yourself. Everything boils down to your identity/worth. You can’t outpace your image with new behaviors if you feel misaligned with those new behaviors or feel unsafe implementing them.

As your worth/identity/safety combination goes, YOU tend to go.

Example: It’s scary but I DO want to change. I choose to see myself as Loving, Humble and Hopeful of a fulfilling future so that I can begin taking consistent actions as a Loving Self-Advocate.

3) WHO do you want to be and why? What values do you want to adopt and make your new norm? Example: Mine are hope, humility and love.

  • If I have hope for a brighter future despite the pain of the past and the anxiety of the present, I can relax and trust in the process of Life.

  • If I have humility and let go of the need to be right, my relationships will be healthy, which is the foundation of a happy life.

  • If I focus on love which casts out all fear, I can be of highest service to myself and others, and giving feels great when it comes from this place of love.

4) What is an action step you can take (keep it simple) that will reinforce the new identity you’re creating? Pick your focus for the next 3 months and 1-3 primary actions to support that focus.

Example: My focus is to become hopeful, humble and loving, and I pick these 3 actions to support that focus:

  • Acknoweldge my fear and still claim to be grateful for what I have right now. Do this through tapping, self-hypnosis or some other way to change my thinking. This strengthens my belief in a hopeful future.

  • Commit to holding my tongue when it comes to defending myself with my husband. It’s OK to do this becuase I’m not being mistreated by him. I’m simply needing to be right which leads nowhere but down.

  • When tempted to think I’m not good enough, ask myself, “What would LOVE do in this situation?”

If you would like to be supported through divorce trauma, you’ve come to the right place. Register now for this free online training: “3 Secrets to Survive the Stress of Divorce: Helping Women Get Their Lives Back!”

To Creating Your Brighter Future After Divorce,

Angie Monko