First thing first: this article won’t be for all of you. There are many kinds of emptiness, and many helpful articles already out there which instruct you to find a new passion, hobby, and meaning, take risks, serve other people, and so on and so forth.
While all of these are excellent and beneficial suggestions, I personally found that none of them were effective in solving my past plagues of emptiness, aimlessness, and sense of inner meaninglessness. I mean, what happens when you already have a great passion and hobby? Where do you turn to search when you do help other people on a daily basis?
If you find yourself stuck in a rut, consumed slowly by what feels like existential quicksand, with no one and nothing to lend a helping hand … you might just have some hope yet.
To Be or Not to Be
Here are two vital questions that you might like to start with:
What do you want to be?
Who do you want to be?
Let these two simple questions simmer in your mind for a while, because they will serve as the focal points for this entire article. They are also the keys to overcoming your sense of emptiness, your deep inner void.
Why is this?
Let me give you an example from my own life. A few years ago I struggled with ignoring, escaping and smothering these episodes of intense emptiness, purposelessness, and aimlessness. Although I knew quite a bit about who I was, what I liked and disliked, what I enjoyed doing (writing), and what I wanted to accomplish in the future … I still felt as though something was missing.
I discovered that I wasn’t catering enough to my maternal side (which I wrote about), which soothed some of the angst. But still, something else … something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on was lacking.
What was this exactly?
The answer was this: I didn’t have a who and what to my life. I didn’t know who I wanted to be, what I wanted to direct my efforts and zeal towards. And because I didn’t have a who and what, the where, when, why and how of my life could never fall into place.
I hadn’t developed my self-image, my identity, my idea of who I wanted to be.
Let me ask you a question: why are we so attracted and enamored by sports players, psychics, healers, motivational speakers, shamans, artists and musicians? It’s partly because all of these people have discovered the who and what of their lives: their inner callings.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not talking about professions here at all (although your calling can be a profession). This is because professions (e.g. dentists, HR managers, lawyers, teachers, child carers) are usually impressed on us by other people’s ideals, beliefs and expectations. No, here I’m talking about something that flows directly from you, directly from what you value, cherish and admire.
You may be thinking “but … I love being a DJ/photographer/golf player/Taxidermist/graphic artist”. Well perhaps you do. I love being a writer and blogger. But there is also something else within me that craves for more; that craves to be more.
Forming a Solid Identity
So how can you overcome these feelings of emptiness? First, I believe you need to focus on yourself, on solidifying your identity, and creating the person you want to be. It’s important not to let outside forces sway you in any direction. In order to transcend our egos we must first create solid ones. This process is known as individuation.
As the famous proverb says “you must love yourself, before you love others”. So whether it’s becoming an illustrator, musicologist, yoga instructor, pagan witch, gnome sculptor or horse rider, it’s essential to find who and what you want to become. Find the path that attracts you and run full steam down it. It’s only when you stop that the world around you begins to loom and bog you down.
There are many ways that you can discover who and what you want to be (your calling) in order to strengthen your identity.
Suggestions to help get you started include the following:
- Brainstorm, or write out on a notepad or Word Document what things attract you and interest you. *Note: It’s important to write down what you genuinely like, not what you think you should like out of duty or obligation.
- Connect the keywords together as I have above by creating concepts that link your words to each other. E.g. If you write down something like “healthy food, exercise, dancing, music, calming therapies”, broader concepts that link these keywords together could include: “tai chi instructor, yoga instructor, nutritionist, natural/alternative therapies”.
- Once you have genuinely discovered a few concepts that you enjoy or find meaning in, begin to explore these. You can do this one at a time, or all at the same time. Either way, you need to narrow down your interests by mixing and matching until you discover what you want to pursue. *Note: It also helps to pay attention to what you enjoyed doing in childhood. What memories stick out? What underlying theme is there? This is a good indication of what your life calling could be, and what you should pay attention to.
- Pursue. Read all the books you can, watch movies and documentaries on the topic, look for pictures for inspiration, even attend interest groups or meetings. Don’t just think. Act. Fill yourself with inspiration and continuously fuel your passion.
Only with dedication and will-power can you hope to accomplish anything.
Discovering how to overcome inner emptiness can be complicated and daunting. When we lack energy from an absence of inner wholeness we lack motivation, so you may need to force yourself at first. Remember: emptiness can be caused by a variety of factors in life. In my own experience, lacking a solid who and what – or identity – created my own feelings of aimlessness.
So I’d love to see whether my suggestions have helped or not. Any of your own suggestions or experiences are welcome as well.