Do you spend more time wondering whether other people like—or love—you than asking whether or not you like—or love—them?
When making decisions about what you wear, the kind of car you drive, where you live, or even where you go for dinner, do you consider first what other people will think about your choice, or do you think only about what works for you, or what would bring you joy?
If you answered yes to both these questions, you’re probably living from the outside in, rather than the inside out.
Living from the inside out means that every choice you make—and how you see the world—is based on your reality and perceptions, rather than what you may ‘make up’ about what others think or feel.
While living from the inside out is a simple concept, it’s not easy.
Most of us were raised in a culture that teaches us to get our sense of value and worth from what others think of us—our accomplishments, our relationships, or our possessions. Some of us were also taught to ‘go along to get along’ and as a result, keep our thoughts and opinions to ourselves. Or, we twist and contort our thoughts and perceptions to suit other people.
Living from the inside out bypasses and transcends these dysfunctional ways of getting our esteem needs met. The truth is, we’re happier when we know what brings us joy, and when we take responsibility for making that happen—to the best of our ability.
And you’ll never know what brings you joy by looking ‘out there’ for other’s seal of approval.
How to live from the inside out:
Consider first what you think and feel about another person, a situation, an event, experience, or even a tangible/physical object, and avoid trying to guess what someone else might think about it.
When you catch yourself wondering what someone else will think of you or your choices if you take a particular action, return back to your own thoughts, preferences, and wants. Constantly in the forefront of your mind should be: “What will bring me joy, or satisfy me?” or “What is the next right thing for me?” or “What is in my best interest?”
If you’re used to outside in living, these questions may sound self-centered. But they’re actually some of the best questions you can ask if you want to create more love, success, and abundance in your life.
When you notice that you’re attempting to manage or control a situation or a person in order to get a certain outcome, you’re using negative control—a sure sign of outside in living.
The problem with negative control is that none of us has control or power over another person. And no one can know the next right action for another person. Letting go of negative control will not only bring you back to inside out living, it will also strengthen your spirituality as you accept powerlessness over people, places, and things—offering them to a Higher Power, however you conceive Him or Her.
When beginning or initiating any new relationship—whether it’s dating, interviewing for a job, or looking for a new service provider of some kind (therapist, doctor, etc.)—remind yourself to place as much, or more, attention on what you think and feel about the other person, versus wondering or trying to manage what they may think or feel about you.
Remind yourself that you are not less than or better than the other person. When you focus on asking yourself whether the relationship or situation works for you—rather than vice versa—you will be happier in the relationship and it will probably be more mutually beneficial for you and the other person.
You will also save yourself precious time by avoiding trying to make a relationship or situation work simply because your primary goal was to get a particular response from the other person.
When you notice that your sense of worth or value changes dramatically based on what another person does or says, you are definitely living from the outside in.
As soon as you notice that you’re feeling less than because of what another person did or said—or maybe what they didn’t say or do—remind yourself that your value doesn’t depend on what others do or don’t do.
You have inherent value, and it is not determined by anything external to you, including family members or your intimate partner.
We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy,
even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry.
—E. B. White
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2017)
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