Have you ever wondered whether questioning the purpose of your life is healthy? How else do we know whether we are really living rather than just surviving?
How many times do you say things like “What’s the point?” or “I don’t see the value in my life”.
There are times when we have these questions because, put simply, we just cannot see what we are adding that has any value to our own or others’ lives. Do you know – it’s not always a bad thing to ask that question, or to feel that level of futility? It’s what you do next that is important.
Many times we just survive life rather than be part of life.
An Existential Crisis
We get caught on the hamster circle and just go around and around and then get to a point where we start to question the futility of it all. This is what’s known as an existential crisis. In a very basic definition, an existential crisis is where you start to question the purpose and meaning of life. You start to want answers to the big questions.
There may be different things happening in our lives that make us start to question things. It could be because we are isolated, have too many responsibilities, and feel that we have no control over things in our life. We may have severe depression or anxiety. It can come because we have been impacted by severe trauma, death or feel disillusioned with our faith.
Questioning our life and its purpose is not always a bad thing; in fact it can be healthy. I can still remember a time when I lived in the Blue Mountains in NSW. I was about 19. I could not see the value of my life and felt quite desperate. I was being pushed around and was feeling quite low.
I went and saw someone and started to talk through the thoughts and feelings I was having and how I was doubting my life was going to ever improve. I was encouraged to start keeping a journal, and record what was going through my mind. I noticed that when I did, ideas started to form of what I wanted to do differently, that I felt I could get some control back. Since then each time I have got back to that space, I get back to writing.
What to do When you Feel Your Life Has No Meaning
Here are some simple steps to follow if you find yourself questioning the purpose of your life:
- Get curious. Ask yourself: “Why do I think life is not worth it?”, or “Why do I think I am hopeless and add no value to the world?”. Don’t accept your first answer! Keep up the why questions. Some of the evidence tells us we need to repeat the “but why” question several times before we find the real reason.
- Is it something you can change? For me it was. I am in control of my own happiness – and so are you. Identify the base reason for your sense of hopelessness. If it is past memories and events, it helps to gain understanding about how your current thinking patterns and beliefs keep you in those moments. This may be an area where you may benefit from some professional support.
- Think of it as an opportunity to design the new you! We have two options when we are in this position. We either head into serious mental health issues, or we take stock and decide it’s an opportunity to get rid/let go of what has been holding us down. This pathway takes a lot of courage but also will result in a lot of new freedom.
- Decide who the new you is going to be.
- Identify what are the things that are not important or healthy for you and discard them. It might be family messages that you were brought up with (eg “you won’t amount to anything”). It might be the manipulative workplace or relationship that keeps you second-guessing yourself.
- Identify your strengths and values. There are some great resources on the internet to help you look at this. Start to list down what others would say about you. Reflect at the end of each day the things you have done well and add those also! It is also a good time to start to notice the things that you like or have liked, that you are no longer doing – and add them to your list.
- Build strong healthy relationships. Seek out people that are positive and people with the same interests as you. When we have seen ourselves as having limited value or no confidence in ourselves to go forward, we sometimes need others to help us see the good in us until we can build up our own internal strength again.
- Notice your thinking. It takes habit and hard work to change our view of ourselves. Be kind to yourself and remember that you are still developing the new you. Challenge negative thinking and focus on your goals.
- Ask for help.
Sometimes our old self is so entrenched in regret, pain and negative self-beliefs that we aren’t able to take steps forward. When this happens it’s important to recognise that we need professional help. This is a sign of strength in itself!
We all have days where we just want to give up and life just seems too hard. Remember – you are not alone. Sometimes we are just at a junction point where we need to make a decision to either control our journey forward, or be controlled by our past.
Author: Amanda Renger, B Soc Sc, M Couns, M Soc Wk, ACMHSW.
Amanda Renger has a double Masters degree in Social Work and in Counselling, and enjoys working with individuals, families, young adults, people with a disability and older persons. Using evidence-based theories and comprehensive assessments, she works to build the capacity of people to self-determine their journey, and to restore individual and family wellbeing.
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