"Lose yourself to find yourself". What does this phrase really mean?
The self that is being lost is the self-image your mind has made. Any false identification with thoughts, emotions, forms, or anything you can perceive. This is often referred to as "ego".
The self that is being gained is the deeper awareness that can perceive the self image. The true self beneath the illusions of the mind. Pure consciousness, free from false identity.
Lose yourself to find yourself means to let go of what is not real about you, so only the real can remain.
You Don't Have To Be Anybody
We are brought up to believe that we have to "be someone", that life will be far better and more satisfying if we have a strong personality, can influence others and "make a difference" in the world. This is a lot of effort, and in my own experience can create unnecessary pressure to be "something" or "someone" when it is not necessary.
Whatever work you do or contributions you make to the world, you do not have to identify with. You actually serve and act more effectively when you are no longer acting to strengthen or maintain a false self-image. What you do then becomes selfless and takes on a far greater power. Then if you go through a period of inactivity, you are not dependent on activity for your sense of self anymore, so you will still be at peace and happy.
Interacting With Others
The same goes for interactions with other people. When you drop or at least begin to transcend your self-image, everything becomes easier. You are not struggling to defend your self-image or who you think you are. Instead you are simply there, fully present, from which any useful action, if required, arises.
Of course the ego in most of us often measures who we are or how good we are by judging the reactions of other people to us. Most of us unconsciously believe that if we are more liked by people or people give us more positive feedback about ourselves, then this must mean we are better as people, or this gives us a right to be happy or satisfied.
If people do not like us or react negatively to us, there is often something inside that does not like it, that seems to take the opinions or responses of others as direct measurements of our sense of selves.
See what happens, if even for a moment, you can completely give up trying to be anything or anyone. What happens when you can accept being nobody? Being "nobody" is not a bad or a weak thing. It is liberating. It is just giving up your false sense of self.
It would be more accurate to say to "stop being anything" rather than "accept being nobody".
When interacting with others, have no expectations of yourself. You do not have to prove anything or do anything to make the other person happy or more comfortable. Experiment with this.
You may well find, that then you behave in a totally natural and useful way. When you give up your need to be someone or act a certain way to uphold an illusory self concept, or to gain any external (or internal) approval, suddenly you are freed from all anxiety or fear. You become completely real and authentic.
From this place your natural state of peace and relaxed joy flows into your interaction, so you benefit the situation without even trying. A greater power begins to work through you, but can only do this once you let down all of your walls and attempts to be someone.
The Real Beneath The Unreal
When you are comfortable with being "no one", what is left is your true nature - awareness, from which all "good" things come. This is what is meant by "lose yourself to find yourself". There is no longer any fake ego covering up who you actually are. Then you are far less likely to be disturbed by external factors, since they do not effect your sense of self - which is now pure awareness.
Do not identify with any self-image that your mind has created. You are the awareness of the self image, unattached.
All actions that your body takes and all thoughts your mind produces occur within your own eternal awareness, the untouched presence.
Losing your false sense of self can seem scary, but it is only scary to the ego. You can only lose what is not real about you. The thing that does not want to disappear is the ego itself.
If you are identified with ego, you may believe you are afraid to let go of a part of your self image, or any thoughts or emotions you previously identified with. The fear is of the ego, not of yourself. All it does is cover the truth and temporarily prevent you from realising it.
When you stop identifying with thoughts, emotions and self-image, you remain as awareness. Lose yourself to find yourself.