Spoken word poet Connor Franta once said, “It is not darkness in my heart, but emptiness, waiting for the sun.” And if you find yourself relating to this quote, then you’ve most likely already realized the terrifying truth that the emptiness and meaninglessness of life is something a lot of us have had to confront at some point in our lives.
Whether it’s all just a part of growing up and trying to figure out who you are and where you belong, or going through a significant but unexpected change, we all find ourselves wondering how to make sense of it all and discovering what we were put on this Earth to do.
With that said, if you are struggling with deep feelings of emptiness in your life right now, here are 8 signs to help you figure out why (and what you can do about it):
1. Your relationships aren’t fulfilling.
Do you often find yourself spending time with people you don’t even like? Having uninteresting conversations where you just nod along and pretend to act interested? Or date people you don’t even have any real feelings for, just because you didn’t want to turn them down? One of the the longest and most famous studies on happiness known as the “Harvard Study of Adult Development” found that it was the quality of our relationships — meaning the level of emotional intimacy, support, active listening — that determined our life satisfaction and sense of well-being, not the quantity (Bradt, 2015). So leave behind all the unfulfilling relationships in your life to make room for better ones to come.
2. You struggle with over-dependence.
Another tell-tale sign you might be feeling deep emptiness in your life is if you often find yourself overly dependent, needy, and clinging to those around you. You might be jumping from one relationship to another because, deep down inside, you feel like something is missing in your life, and you think other people can fill that void for you. You’re scared to be alone because you don’t know who you are when you’re not defined by your relationships. Other people give you your sense of identity and self-worth, and without them, you can’t help but feel lost and empty (Klonsky, 2008).
3. You’re perpetually bored with your life.
“I’m going out of my mind with boredom! I don’t know what I want to do with my life!” Is this something you find yourself feeling or thinking a lot of the time? Are most of your days uninteresting and unengaging? Do you feel like you’re just wasting your life and all your potential, unable to find anything that brings you joy or meaning? When people feel a deep emptiness in their life, it can look a lot like boredom, and that feeling comes from a lack of engagement, challenge, change, and opportunities for self-growth
4. You feel emotionally numb a lot.
Although the people around you often remark that you seem quite sad or down lately, the truth is, most days you have trouble feeling anything at all. Where there was once joy, sadness, excitement, interest, and amusement, there is now apathy and emotional detachment. That’s called emotional detachment. And while a lot of people do experience this at certain points in their lives, such as after the death of a loved one, it usually just comes and goes. So if the feeling — or lack of it — has stuck with you for a while now, it’s most likely a sign that you are becoming aware of a deep emptiness you feel in your life (Peteet, 2011).
5. You feel alone and isolated from everyone else.
The heavy feeling of life’s emptiness, meaninglessness, or incompleteness can drive us away from the people around us, even those we love the most. You might be feeling disconnected from everyone around you and struggling with a deep sense of loneliness that keeps you from emotionally connecting with others. This becomes even more evident once you start avoiding people, cancelling plans, and hiding away to be by yourself for long periods of time.
6. You’ve lost touch with yourself.
Longing for something more but not knowing what is one of the clearest and most tell-tale signs that you’ve lost touch with yourself and are now living out of alignment with your purpose (Zandersen & Parnas, 2019). You don’t know who you are anymore or what you want, and you’re painfully unsure about where your life is going. And until you reconnect with your inner self once again and re-discover your purpose in life, a deep sense of emptiness tends to set in.
7. You have what you want and you’re still not happy.
On paper it might seem like you have a lot to be grateful for, but deep down inside, you know that something is still missing. And if you find that you have what you want and you’re still not happy, then it’s most likely going to leave you feeling disheartened, confused, unsure of yourself, and empty. This might be because all those “wonderful things” aren’t actually things you wanted for yourself, but rather, what everyone else has decided for you to want. And discovering what your core values and personal mission in life are can help you get back on the right track.
So, did you find yourself relating to any of the things we’ve mentioned here? Hopefully, even if the answer is yes, some of the ways we’ve mentioned here to cultivate more meaning and purpose in your life can help. And if you or anyone else you know is seriously struggling with your mental and emotional well-being, please seek help and talk to a mental healthcare professional today.
- Bradt, G. (2015). The Secret Of Happiness Revealed By Harvard Study.
- Klonsky, E. D. (2008). What is emptiness? Clarifying the 7th criterion for borderline personality disorder. Journal of Personality Disorders, 22(4), 418-426. doi: 10.1521/pedi.2008.22.4.418
- Peteet, J. R. (2011). Approaching emptiness: Subjective, objective and existential dimensions. Journal of Religion and Health, 50(3), 558-63. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10943-010-9443-7
- Zandersen, M., & Parnas, J. (2019). Identity disturbance, feelings of emptiness, and the boundaries of the schizophrenia spectrum. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 45(1), 106-113. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbx183