Overcoming Fear

Feeling Restless, Empty, or Numb? Pay Attention

A few years ago, I struggled with feeling restless all the time.

It got to the point where I just sat on the edge of my bed one day and cried.

Yes, I’m embarrassed to tell you this but honestly, I had no idea what else to do.

I was frustrated with the fact that I was 25 and still not getting any closer to figuring out what I wanted to do in life.

Call it a quarter life crisis or whatever you want but I hadn’t been happy for a while and ignoring it was no longer working, my body was forcing me to address it.

I constantly felt “restless,” like I was on the edge of something but I was too afraid to jump.

I knew I wanted to do more, see more, and learn more but I felt trapped in my mind and thoughts.

You might be wondering, were you depressed?

I don’t believe I was but I also don’t think I was that far off.

Something Was Wrong

I constantly felt “off.”

This restlessness consumed me and completely drained me of my energy.

I tossed and turned at night and just felt restless. I couldn’t explain it to anyone.

I knew something was wrong. So I buried myself in piles of self-help and spiritual books in search of an answer.

I dove into meditation. I tried everything I can to understand why this was happening to me.

Life just felt kind of like a blur, every day was the same.

The Essential Self vs. The Social Self

During this time, I came across an interesting book called, Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck.

In it, Martha introduced me to the concept of the “essential self” and the “social self.

  • The essential self is basically who we are at the core. The part of us that thinks of things that we are too afraid to say out loud, the part that has crazy dreams, and the part that’s just waiting to burst out.
  • The social self is the well-behaved us. The part that tells us we need to act a certain way in life because there are rules.
  • Your essential self would say, “Let’s go on a trip!” and your social self would say, “No, we need to save money first.”

Obviously, in order to have a balanced life, we need both but the problem with most adults is we forget our essential self as we get older and let our social self take over.

We get so caught up in work and survival mode that we forget to live and thrive.

We don’t make time or room for play or experimentation, and when we ignore our essential self for too long, it creates this “empty” and “restless” feeling.

How Paying Attention to My Essential Self Has Changed Me

After learning this concept, I started paying attention to both sides of myself.

How I would react to certain situations, whether it was my essential self or social self thinking, and which self I listened to more.

I discovered I listened to my social self way more, sometimes without realizing it.

Whenever I had good ideas, I would always doubt them or dismiss them as silly.

My social self was very good at convincing my essential self to stay quiet.

But once I became aware of this, I was able to slowly change my thoughts and eventually, my actions.

Whenever my social self quickly knocked something down, I would say “But… wait a minute” and give myself a second chance.

Eventually, I got pretty good at this.

That’s how I slowly built the courage to go backpacking by myself through Southeast Asia and the rest was history.

Your Essential Self Is Screaming For Help

If you constantly feel  “restless,” “empty,” “lost, or “numb,” your essential self is trying to tell you something.

It is not because you’re missing something or someone.

It is because you’ve been ignoring something essential to you.

What is something you’ve always wanted to do but never gave yourself the chance to?

Pursue an art? Change your job? Run a marathon? Travel?

Whatever it is, you need to give yourself the chance to explore it. It is the only way you’ll be able to rid of this “restless” feeling. I know because I did it.

Since I started listening to my essential self more, my life has become richer and fuller and I no longer feel restless.

If you want to keep telling yourself everything is alright, that is completely up to you but I sincerely hope one day you’ll have the courage to look inside.

Your essential self is waiting to get out.

Have you ever felt this “lost” or “empty” feeling that I described? If so, what was your experience like? I would LOVE to hear from you.

5 thoughts on “Feeling Restless, Empty, or Numb? Pay Attention”

  1. After speaking with u on Friday, my thoughts and beliefs in myself was Reassured. Your honesty and confidence made me both laugh and think. It’s funny how we take things that others place on our heads and we allow, to penetrate in our thoughts and they become a bigger part of our focus then our own happiness. I was always manipulated by others(family played the biggest role in this), now I look at them and say your happy in your own discomfort and I don’t want to live like that. And I took back the piece of me that I thought they had and their went their control. my life back. Focusing on enjoying the journey of me.Dee

    1. Dee,

      I find your honesty equally refreshing. Your unique perspective on art, money, and life really got me thinking and reprioritizing some of my goals. I also have a lot of made up beliefs about my own self-worth due to family and society, but from our conversation, I think we’re both capable of separating what’s true and what’s not.

      To our journeys,
      Hui

      1. These are the two films that inspire me on the way I see the art society. (Jean-michel basquiat)” The radiant child”, (Don argott)” The art of the steal”. Check them out.

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