Have you ever taken a step back and realized you didn’t recognize yourself or your behaviors? Maybe you’d go so far as to say you felt like a stranger to yourself when you think about who you are now versus the way you were in the past.
Here’s how to know if it’s something you should be worried about, and what to do about it.
Is it Bad to Not Recognize Yourself?
Whether not recognizing yourself is a “good” or “bad” thing is dependent on the situation — it’s important why the changes occured, and whether they are positive or negative. According to Talkspace provider Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, it’s all relative.
“It can be a negative thing when we realize that we have become the type of person we don’t want to be. For example, becoming an extremely quiet or dependent person, when before we were more social and independent,” Catchings says.
Other examples include becoming more reckless, when you used to be responsible and careful; or turning toward lazy, inactive behavior when you used to be extremely fit and athletic. You might feel disconnected from yourself or the person you used to be, or you might be uncomfortable with yourself now.
You can feel disconnected from the person you used to be even if the changes are positive. “On the other hand, it can be positive when our personality evolves and it helps us to become the person that we dreamed of. For example, from being afraid of flying to becoming a pilot or a flight attendant,” Catchings says. “The main idea is that for it to be positive, it needs to involve us doing or accomplishing something that benefited us or others, or something that we dreamed of.”
There May Be a Reason You Don’t Recognize Yourself
There are many causes that can contribute to no longer recognizing yourself. Oftentimes, a major life shift can trigger changes, or significant alterations to routine. Some examples of these life shifts could be:
- Getting married
- Getting divorced
- Having a baby
- Being in a long term, serious relationship for the first time
- Moving to a different city, state, or country
- Getting a promotion at work or a new job with long hours
- Getting fired or laid off at work
- Dealing with mental health conditions
- Experiencing a traumatic incident
- Losing a loved one
Of course, some of these seem inherently good or inherently bad, but it’s possible they could result in unexpected feelings. Something positive like an amazing job promotion could bring about negative changes — like losing yourself to long hours at the office and neglecting your family or social life, or finding yourself on a major power trip. On the flip side, something negative like losing a loved one can force you into uncomfortable territory and make you into a much stronger person than you were before. Either situation can put you into territory where you no longer recognize yourself.
How to Get Back in Touch with Yourself
Sometimes, it isn’t obvious what caused the changes that made you unrecognizable to yourself. Catchings has four tips for determining what the catalyst may have been.
- Be Mindful
Spend time with yourself and look back at who you were by journaling, coloring, or drawing.
Think about past experiences and possible traumas and then try to quiet your mind. Allow the peaceful effect of meditation to heal or restore what might have been lost or changed.
- Be Grateful
If the change was positive, give thanks and continue growing. If it was negative, be thankful for the opportunity to recognize it and create change. It is never too late.
- Creative Visioning
Take a few minutes a day to imagine what you want your life to be like and come up with goals that you can break down into specific, actionable tasks.
Overall, the goal is to reconnect with yourself and try to understand the “new you” and determine whether you like the person you’ve become or not.
When not recognizing yourself should be a cause for concern
There are a few situations where not recognizing yourself can be a cause for concern and you should consult a mental health professional — if abuse or trauma occurred, or if a mental health condition such as an anxiety or depression could be causing the negative changes. Catchings says some other big red flags could be if you’re unable to keep a job or have fulfilling relationships.
“The help of a mental health professional is always beneficial and we shouldn’t wait until there is a change,” states Catchings. “We can also be proactive and open to seeing a therapist in the same way we see a yoga instructor or a trainer.”So, while it can be really alarming when you realize you don’t quite recognize yourself, remember that it’s a relatively common experience. Rarely do we stay exactly the same as years go on. As long as the change is positive and healthy, it isn’t a cause for concern, but if the changes are due to the aforementioned negative situations, it isn’t a bad idea to get in touch with a mental health professional.