The single most important and life-changing thing I have learned from meditation is that life is meant to be lived from the inside out and not the outside in. The problem is that most of us have never learned to live from the inside out and don’t really know what it means.

What does it mean to live from the inside out?

It means that we live our life based on our own values, dreams, and soul’s purpose. It means that we are very in tune with our thoughts and feelings and our inner knowing becomes our compass in life. It means that we can show up authentically as ourselves in relationships and know what we need in order to grow and flourish. It means that we can let down the armor of the ego in order to be ourselves and share our gifts and talents with the world. It means that we have a stable core, so that when a storm hits, which it will, we will stay afloat.

What does it mean to live from the outside in? It means that we look to everything external to us to define us, to make us happy, to create our identity, to gauge our feelings and ultimately to direct our lives. It means that when things are going well in our lives we’ll be happy and when they aren’t we’ll be unhappy. It means that our feelings are determined by the feelings of those around us. It means that we are more focused on other’s lives than we are our own. It means that we change who we are depending on who we’re with.

I was an expert at living this way because I like most people didn’t know any other way to live.

What are the signs that you may be living from the outside in?
1. The “I’ll be happy when”

This phenomenon is common when you live from the outside in. I’ll be happy when…. I have enough money, status, a certain job, a certain vacation, the weekend is here, I achieve a certain weight, my kids stop fighting, my husband takes out the trash and so on.  We spend every moment of everyday striving to achieve these things in order to be happy. This is the perfect example of living from the outside in. The external circumstances need to look a certain way in order for you to have the internal thoughts and feeling that you desire in order to feel happy.

2. Being Uncomfortable with Yourself without Distractions

You keep yourself so busy and feel uncomfortable being with yourself without distractions. You find yourself in the busyness trap as a way of avoiding actually spending time with yourself. You really don’t want to know what is going on in your inner world, because if you know you may need to deal with it. You fill the emptiness and avoid busyness because you really want to avoid uncomfortable feelings.

I know this one well, as I always needed to be busy as I really didn’t want to be alone with myself. Brené Brown wrote about this in her book, Daring Greatly, when she explained, “one of the most universal numbing strategies is what I call crazy-busy. We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.” In reality, if we don’t learn to be with ourselves, the symptoms of that avoidance will show up in many ways in our lives including health issues, addictions, anxiety, depression, obesity, failed relationships and the full spectrum of stress-related issues.

3. You View Stress as Normal

You view stress as a normal part of life and see yourself as a victim of life circumstances. You see stress as those things that are external to you and over which you have no control. For example, you think that if your relationships were different, you had more money, you had the perfect job, your health was better that you wouldn’t experience as much stress.

In comparison when you’re living from the inside out, you become intimate with how you experience stress and you strive to develop a new relationship with stress. Stress adds to your life and growth by informing you about the areas that you need to wake up and work on. You realize that you can’t control the external circumstances but you can change your inner world. You can learn more about how to transform your relationship with stress HERE.

I really believe that it’s critical that we begin to shift and learn to live from the inside out. I know many people may view this as selfish and self-centred, but the opposite is actually true. When we learn to connect and live from a place of authenticity and with hearts that are healed, we are coming from a place of love. When external factors dictate how we are showing up in life, we are coming from a place of fear.

Do you believe it’s selfish to live from the inside out? What does it mean to you to live from the inside out? How do you live?