When Do We Lose Our Way?

Written by an iTherapy Provider

When Do We Lose Our Way?

We seem to show up into the world with a better sense of who we are then when we are adults. Whether it is trauma, family, and friends’ influences, our experiences or the strong sense and need we have to belong, we do seem to lose ourselves along the way. There are a few strong individuals who have always had a sense of who they are and have been uncompromising on changing that.

Returning To Ourselves

Is it an evolution and growth or are we returning to our true state? How much of what others may perceive as change is only us becoming more of who we really are? Or maybe returning to the self we abandoned along the way. With growth and healing we can find or rediscover ourselves. It is a strange thought that we need to return back to our original self in many ways with healing. It is probably a combination of growth and returning to our true self for us to become who we are meant to be.

Fitting In

It feels like I spent the first 20+ years of my life, trying to fit into a circle peg when I have always been more of a square peg. When does this start? It feels like the first few years of our lives we just are who we are. When I look back, it feels like about kindergarten or maybe even before that was when trying to fit in became more difficult. If we are lucky, we have our family’s acceptance of our weirdness without question. But at some point, our weirdness or maybe our uniqueness becomes a problem for us and others. There is an expectation for us to conform to what others need us to be.

There are some who may have always felt like they never fit, on the outside and did not have the cushion of the first few years of their lives. If you were born into an unsafe situation, you will not feel you had a cushion. You may have felt on your own the entire time. This can be unsettling to have spent your entire life without any anchor. To what extent we had an anchor as children will depend on the personal situation which you grew up in.

Evolution Away from Self

I do know, I have been on a journey that started in my 20’s and maybe even earlier. It is hard to say exactly when my journey started. But I have never given it much thought that maybe my journey, which I started way back, was my attempt to rediscover what I had lost. What I buried deep down to try to belong. What I was looking for all this time, was me.

I do remember that conformity was a struggle for me when I was young and that I felt a strong disconnection because of it. Elementary school was the the place that made me first feel rejected. I suppose the institution is set up for conformity and those who don’t are punished for that. But like most, I gave in which was the beginning of my journey away from who I was. For me, it felt like I had to behave in a certain way, to be a “good girl”, which was the expectation. At some point, we learn what is expected to fit in to others’ expectations.


It did seem like being accepted and fitting in did have a high price. As I moved to my attempt to be a part of something it seemed to only move me further away from me. Maybe that is what adolescence is about.  I can’t say I ever felt like I fit in anywhere as an adolescent. It does feel like a state of being very at drift. In hindsight, it feels more like the appearance of fitting in is the goal. Maybe I would say I was lucky there was no social media back then to make me feel even more on the outside and/or an outsider.

How Do We Help Others?

The question I am pondering is, can we help others or is this something we can only do for ourselves. It is difficult to balance the need to belong which is in our DNA with really being accepted as who we are. Can we really belong if we are not being authentic? Maybe as parents, we can make sure we accept our children for who they are. And without getting caught up in placing expectations on them of being cool or fitting in.  We can belong to our families even if we don’t belong anywhere else. The one thing we could all do, is have more appreciation for everyone’s uniqueness.

I keep thinking back to Dr. Brené Brown’s research and how middle school kids described the differences between fitting in and belonging,

 Belonging is being somewhere where you want to be, and they want you. Fitting in is being somewhere you really want to be, but they don’t care one way or the other.

• Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.

• Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.

• I get to be me if I belong. I have to be like you to fit in.

I’m not sure I would have been able to verbalize that when I was that age but I’m sure that is something we all know instinctively at some level. We certainly know when we don’t belong. That heavy ache of not belonging is felt deeply in our soul.

Rediscovery and Belonging

When I moved into my 20’s, I had a strong sense of seeking though I was clueless about what it was I was searching for. It now feels more like a slow unraveling. There were certainly missteps and side roads along the way. It feels like now my journey has been about rediscovery and finding me. If we are lucky, we do find our people along the way that make us feel like we belong and who accept us for who we are.  It is difficult to do but we will find them. Especially when we are able to find ourselves, be ourselves and if we are able to recognize in each other our true essences.

It is important to find people that accept us for who we are. Without that sense of belonging somewhere then we remain unanchored, but I think the mistake we make is trying to fit in which will only move us away from who we are. Unfortunately, fitting in will not give us the sense of belonging we need. In a world that seems to give high praise towards fitting in or the appearance of fitting in, we need to dig deeper inside and be true to ourselves and move towards authenticity which will also hopefully brings us to finding a place of truly belonging.

My Final Thoughts

The older I get the more I realize the question has never been what is wrong with you? I have always been uncomfortable with that question. But instead, now people are asking, what has happened to you? which feels like a more important question. Maybe that is what I have been trying to find out all this time. What has happened to move me away from myself? And how do I find my way back?

I do feel more authentic these days and I care a lot less about who gets me. I certainly recognize any attempts to be accepted by others that show up at times. But I am so grateful for finding some people who get me in all my weirdness and allow me to feel accepted. It has been an interesting journey that I will continue to the day I die and maybe even after that.

Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash.

Blog, “Wild Heart”, https://illuminationcounselingservice.com/2022/02/01/wild-heart/

Blog, “Living Your Value”, https://illuminationcounselingservice.com/2021/11/20/living-your-values/


Original Post January 16, 2022 on Karen Gentilman’s website Illumination Counseling Service.

Karen Gentilman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) practicing in the State of Idaho, working for 30 years with many different medical conditions both acute and chronic conditions, the last 20 years in neurological rehabilitation including brain injury, strokes and spinal cord injuries. She takes a trauma-informed, integrated and holistic approach with utilizing multiple modalities which is individually based while striving to provide compassionate therapeutic environment. Call (208) 266-4642 or email KarenGentilman@IlluminationCounselingService.com  to set up a FREE 15-minute consultation. Visit Karen Gentilman’s profile page.

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