Have you ever felt lost? Have you ever felt that you are not enough? Did something in your life happen that made you change how you see yourself?

Or, are you someone who is always after the next big thing? Are you always on the go? Are you always asking what’s next?

These are all common and shared human experiences that leave us chasing for that ever elusive happiness. The question is, why do we feel this way? Where do these feelings come from? And most importantly, what can we do about them?

We tend to define ourselves based on our abilities, our title, and our relationships with other people. When asked to describe ourselves, we say, “I’m a doctor. I’m an excellent public speaker. I’m a wife.” It is as if who we are is contained in a check-box, and that is the end of it. If I want to be more, then I have to check off more boxes. As a result, our self-esteem is highly dependent on how we perceive ourselves, and how we think others see us. Our perceived self-worth varies on all these external factors.

Which is why, we are always on the go, always reaching after something. It is always the question “what’s next?”

I graduated from college. What’s next? I am now in a relationship. What’s next?

I have learned a new language. What’s next? I have traveled around my country. What’s next? 

What’s next?

Fulfillment and happiness are always one step away. It is always at the next place, at the next phase of our lives. There always has to be something more. And this endless pursuit has made us feel that there is something lacking that we need to fill in ourselves. We try to do it by learning more things, getting more experiences, meeting more people, always more, more, and more.

We try to fill up our calendar and our planner and our journal with all sorts of things. Sometimes, we call it our to-do list. Sometimes, our bucket list. But it’s always the same- something to do, something to learn, something to experience. All to make us better and more. We are in this endless pursuit of what we call “self-improvement.”

Soon enough, we realize that we have been hoarding all these things and experiences, but something still feels wrong. We still feel… well, incomplete.

How often do you feel as if you are not enough? How often do you have thoughts like, “I am not good enough. I am not attractive enough. I am not rich enough.” And so on? How often do you think that there is something more that you can do? Something more that you can achieve? Something more that you can be?

Moreover, how often do you feel that you become less whenever you go through a difficult or a negative experience, like failing a class, or losing a job, or breaking up with your significant other? Life gives us our fair share of ups and downs, and sometimes, we come out of certain experiences feeling a little “less” than we were before- a little scarred, a little broken, a little tired.

These feelings of being less, or not being enough, stem from our insecurities- from our perceived notions of low self-worth. Life then becomes an endless cycle of feeling inadequate and incomplete, and then pursuing the next big thing that would make us complete.

These all come from all the labels and experiences and other external factors that we let define us and confine us in a box. And when this happens, we have to stop and think. We have to forget all these external factors and disregard all these labels and unlearn all these experience. Rather, we have to look into ourselves- really, truly look into ourselves and ask,

“Without all those labels and experiences and external factors, what am I?”

“What makes me a person? What makes me who I am?”

“Am I really incomplete? Do I need something more in order to be whole?”