The Top 3 Questions that Actually Keep You Up at Night

Contributed by Alyssa Orweller, LPC-CR

It’s time to sleep yet again and you find yourself lying there with your mind racing. Thoughts about what happened that day or events that have happened in the past flood your weary mind another night.

We turn to anything that we think will help quiet them. Work, shopping, sex, school, appearances, our children, friends, pets, family, movies, alcohol, the next event, leadership, drugs, responsibilities, and more.

What we find, however, is that nothing seems to quiet them for long. The thoughts might turn into wonderings of how many more days and nights you can do this….

Your actual thoughts are different than other people of course but what if the heart of the questions at a deeper level are actually the same.

We all long to know who we are. We all long to belong, to be loved and to be cared for. We all long to be worth it. We all long to have value and significance. We all long to add value to the world and make a difference...what’s the purpose of life anyways, right?

Here are what I believe to be the top three questions we’re actually asking when our thoughts are racing:

Who am I?

This question of identity has plagued many generations. I believe there are two main factors that make up our identity.

One is more circumstantial and can be the surface level of who I am that can get called into question when there’s change or something is challenged externally. The other is a deeper, more raw sense of self. This part of identity can be known as our inner voice and is often what we act out of most.

The circumstantial sense of identity often comes when there is a common transition in life (i.e. college, marriage, parenting, retirement, etc). However, they can also take place in the midst of or after any life altering change (i.e. a job loss, a traumatic event, the loss of a loved one or the loss of a pet).

According to The Guardian, researchers have found that there is a “quarterlife crisis” that 86% of Millenials will face in which they find themselves “struggling to cope with anxieties about jobs, unemployment, debt and relationships.” The research shows that the period from 25 to 35 in which people are supposed to be enjoying early adulthood, has become a main source of stress, anxiety and depression for many.

These struggles and many more can be the source questioning our sense of self at any age. At the same time, we are often trying to make sense of deep wounds that our identity has been formed around.

The wounds that we have encountered are what rocks our identify at its core. We live out of this dark place without even knowing it many times. Lies that you are unloveable, dirty, unworthy or dramatic might plague you often.

However, THERE IS HOPE!

When we know who we really are, we can have a confidence to be who we’ve been made to be and walk in truth.

Your desire to walk in freedom is legit and possible. My friend, the work it takes to reframe those thoughts and core beliefs is WORTH IT.  

When questioning identity, these are the thoughts you might have:

  • I’m unloveable.

  • I’m not good enough.

  • I have to do what she’s saying or else she might think I’m weird or stupid.

  • I’m wrong.  

  • I’m a burden.

And, these are the questions you could ask instead:

  • What / who defines me now? What / who do I want to define me? (i.e. work, appearance, kindness, roles, leadership abilities, Jesus)

  • What messages have I received that have supposedly confirmed the thoughts I have about who I am?

  • What evidence do I have to fight against those thoughts or who can I ask for help?

  • How can I change those thoughts and my behaviors to be what I know or want to be true?

Am I worth it?

Worth is a tricky word. I’m not sure anyone actually knows what it means in regard to people.

Worth is defined by dictionary.com as, “good or important enough to justify (what is specified).” For example, am I worth...good enough or important enough for...someone’s time, money, energy, grace?

However, maybe our question is also, “Am I worthy?”

Worthy is defined as “having adequate or great merit, character, or value” and “of commendable excellence or merit; deserving” (dictionary.com).

This could manifest as wondering if we’re worth someone’s investment in us, if we can do the job (anything from work to parenting), if we are deserving of grace and forgiveness.

When we question our worth or if we’re worthy, we start to question the intentions of others and our own capabilities. This can lead down a dark road that closes us off from others and creates great insecurities and wounds.

Thoughts you might say to yourself:

  • I’m not worth their time.

  • I’m not good enough.

  • I never do anything right.  

  • I don’t know why anyone is actually my friend.

  • Do they really want to be with me?

Questions to ask instead:

  • What do I bring to the table?

  • Who / what do I want to define my worth?

  • What has hindered my confidence and self-esteem and how do I work to rebuild it?

  • What is true and what is a lie?

Am I valuable?

When we have value, we have something to offer or bring to the table. This could be synonymous with our strengths, gifts and talents. The way we see our value brings confidence to the the ways we invest our time, money and energy as well as our view of ourselves.

Many times we look to people to show us how valuable we are. How much time do they want to spend with us, what are they complementing us on, what are they approving of and what are they not.

Hear this though, when we function in the ways we’ve been wired and have confidence in our abilities, we are able to make a difference in the lives of others and in our own lives.

At the end of the day, we long to have significance in the world and be significant to someone.

What you might say to yourself:

  • I don’t have anything to offer.

  • If I do or don’t do that, they won’t like me.

  • They’ll just leave if I don’t _____.

  • I’m useless.

Questions you could ask instead:

  • In what ways am I gifted?

  • What are my top 3 strengths?

  • What impact do I want to have on the world?

  • Who / what defines my worth now and how do I want to define it moving forward?

Maybe it doesn’t seem like this is true for you right off the bat but think about it...what cries of the heart are your thoughts actually getting at? Maybe they’re the root lies that you believe that stem back to these questions. Maybe not.

My challenge to you is to consider asking yourself the questions above the next time you’re lying awake at night or even if you’re stuck in a never ending cycle of thoughts during the day and see if you have a solid answer or if they’re still a mystery to you.

If it seems too hard, overwhelming or out of control, this is where a counselor could step in and walk with you through the dark places your mind goes. They could help you rebuild your thoughts and attain a better sense of your identity, worth and value. It’s not always necessary but can be helpful.