Living your life from the inside out

Most of us are doing it all wrong. We’re living our lives from the outside in, when really life wants to be lived from the inside out.

The outside in approach is a source of constant stress and anxiety. It’s understandable that we ended up here. At this place of confusion, overwhelm, and constant struggle. We’ve been conditioned by our surroundings, our peers, our well-meaning but sometimes equally confused parents and communities to look outside of ourselves for all the answers.

That’s the paradigm that most of the modern world (at least the Western world) lives in. (I would argue that the Eastern world has – and has always had – a much better grip on this topic.)

view from behind of woman sitting on bench looking at water

I want to challenge you to flip that paradigm on its head. To awaken to the incredible power you have within you to create your own reality and be in charge of (not necessarily in control) of how you experience the world around you.

Let me illustrate my point with some examples.

When you are living from the outside in, you:
– seek the approval of others define your value as a human being, and consequently your own sense of worthiness
– measure your success by the magnitude of your external achievements
– are constantly trying to prove yourself (and your worth) to the outside world
– compare yourself to others, because everything is a competition and if you’re not winning you are losing, and therefore “less than”
– are so focused on yourself that you miss out on opportunities for connection with others
– feel unsure about who you are and/or what you want because you’ve been too busy trying to do and be what you thought you were supposed to do and be
– are stressed, overwhelmed, or burned out because you’re saying yes when you mean no, or no when you mean yes and are stretched too thin to take care of yourself or recharge
– are either worrying about the future (anxiety) or obsessing about the past (regret) and/or have mostly negative emotions throughout the day

When you are living from the inside out, you instead:
– choose to love and accept yourself, fiercely, and release the need for external validation
– measure your success by your willingness to try and fail, your commitment to continued growth and learning, and by being a kind and good-hearted person who has compassion for others
– train yourself to focus on your own priorities, and if you feel jealousy arising you  celebrate their success, and use it to inspire your own commitment to your goals
– you are so grounded and accepting of yourself that you can focus your attention outward and be present during opportunities to connect with others
– are doing the inner work to know yourself and your desires intimately, and then are calmly moving and growing toward those goals and dreams
– prioritize self care, set strong boundaries, communicate clearly and very intentionally choose how you spend your time, energy, and other resources, leaving you feeling an inner peace and balance while still being productive and efficient.
– plan for the future and learn from the past, but spend most of your time in the present and know how to manage your emotions, and experience mostly positive feelings through the day

Can you relate to any of the above? Are you living mostly from the outside in or from the inside out? If you are admitting to yourself that you’re mostly outside in, it’s time to let that shit go. Seriously. It’s making life so much more painful and complicated than it needs to be.

side view of man walking down stairs holding box

So take my hand and come join me in the inside out. (Sounds almost like a Stranger Things reference to the upside down, haha!) I’m not there 100% of the time (I doubt anyone is) but it’s where I spend most of my time these days and I can teach you how.

It takes work and patience. You have you practice. There will be discomfort. You’ll need to retrain your brain and untangle a pile of stinky old habits, but it’s absolutely possible.

And the rewards are delightful.

Not only will you start to feel a blissful sense of inner peace and calm, but you’ll start to be able to manage your own energy and emotions with the power of your mind. It feels like some sort of spooky magic. Basically, you become the wizard of your own magical world.

view from front of woman with hat sitting on a bench looking to the side

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about being delusional or ignoring the facts and science of the world around you. I’m talking about teaching yourself to see the same world that everyone else is living in and looking at through a completely new set of eyes, with a heart full of self-love and gratitude, and an unquenchable curiosity and passion for life.

It’s awesome. Come and play. Want support with this? I’d love to help.

In middle school I desperately wanted to be popular

In middle school I desperately wanted to be popular.
 
Looking back, I’m pretty sure I was well liked by most people (since by then I was pretty adept at the art of people pleasing, ha) and I definitely had a little core group of awesome friends.
 
But, I was by no means one of the “popular kids”. I remember standing by my locker, I think it must’ve been in 8th grade, being happy enough with my middle school existence, but often staring longingly at the lockers across the green, where the popular kids were. I wanted to be part of their world.
two people's feet and one backpack
 
I grew more bold toward the end of 8th grade. By the time I was ready to start planning my 13th birthday, I decided to take a risk.
 
I would throw myself a big party. And I would invite THEM. Gulp 😱
 
What if no one came and everyone laughed at me? What if they all came, and then all laughed at me? TO MY FACE!
 
I was terrified. But I did it anyway. My mom helped me rent a room at a hotel in Redondo Beach. We hired a DJ. I sent out invitations. Then I sat by the phone, in agony, praying that someone would RSVP. At first, crickets. I was convinced no one would come.
 
Then eventually, the RSVPs started to roll in. Lots of them actually. Even some of the cool kids said yes. I was excited but skeptical. One girl called and casually asked who else was coming.
 
I froze. My heart sank. All my fears about the popular kids were coming true. She’ll only come if the other ones come. See?! They don’t care about the little people like me. I mumbled that I wasn’t sure yet, but offered to read some names from the invite list. She must have heard some names she liked, because she said “ok great, I’ll come!”
 
The day came and I stood in the empty hotel room, a mix of confusing emotions swirling around in me. Proud of myself for taking the risk. Excited at the prospect of a fun party. And almost nauseous by how outside my comfort zone I had been for weeks.
 
I can still see my outfit clearly. White denim shorts with a belt. White T-shirt. A patterned vest. (Remember the vests?! Omg, the 90’s.) I had a perm (because, obvi) and a side part and had blow dried my bangs. I’m sure I was wearing some jewelry from Claire’s Boutique. Probably a peace sign choker. 
 
And then they came. They all came. And it turned out to be a really fun party. We danced. We opened presents. We ate cake. It was innocent and fun and for a few hours I felt accepted and free.
 
That day taught me a lot of things. It taught me that taking risks is important. That my assumptions about people are not always true.
It taught me that while, sure, a few of the popular kids were popular for the wrong reasons, most of them were just normal kids, who were probably popular because they were extroverted, friendly, and brave enough to connect with people.
 
It also confirmed to me that I wanted to break out of my shell, stop playing it so safe, and connect with lots of different people.
When I got to high school I took very intentional steps to do so. I took a public speaking class, two years of drama, and challenged myself to engage and connect more in the social circles I found myself in. And it worked. I loved high school, had great friends in several different groups and finally let go of the desperate need to be like by any particular social group.
 
Now, at 37 years old, as I spend more time outside my comfort zone and find myself addressing a bigger audience, I find some of those old familiar fears coming back to whisper in my ear. Right now they’re extra loud because I’m forcing myself to be vulnerable and put my latest offering out in the world.
 
Fortunately, I have the tools and wisdom now to see them for what they are. When they show up, I greet them – my inner critics, my ego, and the fears that I’ve come to know so well. I thank them for so reliably doing the job they’re meant to do — keeping me safe.
 
I also hear the voice of the little girl inside me. 8th grade me. Wondering if anyone will show up to the party. What if no one comes? And everyone laughs? It’s amazing how strong those past beliefs and fears can still feel.
 
And then I also hear the obvious strength in her tiny voice, the power that’s always been there, urging me to take the risks and do the things.
 
So, I tell the fears to kindly fuck off. Because, I’ve got this. 
I’ve got my big girl pants on now and I know that it doesn’t actually matter what anyone else thinks. I can speak my truth, take inspired action, and create things. I’m always going to be okay because I am enough and I am worthy and everything else is just a fun experiment in this amazing journey of life that I’m on.
two wooden hearts, one with the word "love" on it

Thank you 8th grade me. Thank you for your innocence, your insecurities, your imperfections. Thank you for being an awesomely awkward and angsty teen. And thank you for having the wisdom, from an early age, to also be willing to grow and learn, to question things. Thank you for paving the way for this weird ass path I’ve been on. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I forgive you. And I love you.

Just keep showing up

“Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.”

The trainer who repeated those words over and over during a boxing class I was in several years ago probably has no idea how much he helped me that day. He helped me not just get through a grueling workout, but planted the seeds that would start blossoming into the increasingly unshakeable sense of perseverance I have today.

If you care deeply enough about something to want to get good at it, to succeed, and to have an impact, you’ve GOT to keep showing up. Over and over again. Even when it gets hard, or boring, or terrifying, or uncomfortable.

Sidenote: Just to be clear, this only applies to things that are important to you! Please don’t continue to tolerate something that is harmful or makes you miserable just for the sake of being persistent! 

As far as I’m concerned, your ability to persevere in the pursuit of your dreams far outweighs all other factors when it comes to creating an extraordinary life you love. The good news is that it can be learned, so if you haven’t already, make it a priority to get better! Here are some tips to get you started.

Be clear on the purpose
Be honest about why you’re pursuing something in the first place. Is it because you think you should or because you genuinely want to? Go for the plans and projects that are rooted in your values and light you up. It’s much easier to stay committed to something if you have a strong WHY to come back to when it gets hard.

Commit
Decide that this is important enough to put in the work. It will be hard. You will fail. Accept that from the get go as part of the process and commit to seeing it through. Make it non-negotiable. Declare your commitment to yourself, the universe, and your people (preferably the supportive ones who will cheer you on.)

Skateboarder at skatepark about to go

Confront your fears
Fear is a great indication that there is something important in front of you. It’s also a ridiculous source of energy. Feel the fear, then take action, even though you’re scared. Tap into the physical energy coursing through your body and channel it into the bravery you need to take that first step. If you let it, fear might even become your greatest ally, instead of your worst enemy.

Keep showing up
Get out there. Some days you’ll be excited, progress will happen quickly, and you’ll feel unstoppable! Other days will seriously suck. Just keep showing up. Day after day. It may feel awkward, uncomfortable, or embarrassing. You might want to give up. Don’t. Just come back. Over and over again. Remember it takes consistency to see results.

Skateboarder at skatepark

Embrace failure
Know that failure is simply part of the process. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s SO not helpful. Instead, pause and lick your wounds for a bit if you need to. Then take a deep breath, pick your ass up off the ground, dust yourself off, and climb back on the damn horse. It’s all about learning. Or as a yoga teacher of mine once said, “when you fall out of a pose, that just means you’re learning how not to fall out of that pose.”

Fall down seven times. Stand up eight. ~ Japanese proverb

One of my favorite frameworks to use when it comes to learning new skills is the conscious competence ladder, which this article explains in more detail. The middle phases are bumpy and that’s okay. You’re allowed to suck before you rock.

Gordon's conscious competence ladder

Get support
Like the stick figures helping each other in the diagram above, remember that getting support is part of the process too. It could be in the form of a coach or mentor, a mastermind group, a sports club, family, or just a workout buddy. Lean into your people and give them the great honor of letting them lift you up. We all need help sometimes.

Don’t compare
Don’t waste your precious time and energy comparing yourself to others. Cheer them on, celebrate their wins, and then go back to honing your craft. Your journey will likely look unlike anyone else’s, so honor your own timing and process.

Skateboarder in the air

Savor your progress
While the destination (let’s say mastering a certain trick on a skateboard or reaching a milestone in your business) may be an amazing reward in and of itself, undoubtedly the greatest reward is who you are becoming in the process. Acknowledge the small wins and how you are expanding as a person along the way.

 

Replacing judgment with curiosity

Sometimes I feel more like a detective than a coach. A master of curiosity. When I partner with a client, we work together looking for clues. Every clue provides us with more information, which then moves us closer to the next clue.

I’m not the expert on their lives. They are. And yet, most of the time they’ve lost trust in their own inner wisdom and don’t know where to look for the answers they’re seeking. My job is to help them find those answers.

picture of gorgeous tropical turquoise water

One of the most effective ways I’ve learned to do that is to help them become curious again. WILDLY curious.

When you’re curious, you forget to be afraid.
When you’re curious, you’re less attached to your ego and getting things right.
When you’re curious, you’re open to new ideas and possibilities.

Are you ready to become the brilliant detective of your own life? Let’s do this. Here are a few tips to get you started down that path:

Replace judgment with curiosity
When you default to judging things, you contract. You shut yourself off to the limitless possibilities all around you. It may feel good temporarily, because it makes you feel superior, which feeds the ego. But, in the long run it just breeds negativity.

Tap into your innate curiosity
Choose to open your heart and your mind and cultivate an insatiable desire to learn more. Access the childlike wonder that is in there somewhere. When you catch yourself coming from a place of cynicism or fear, acknowledge it (without judging yourself!) and gently let those thoughts go. Then search for what it is that you genuinely want to know. Think of the obvious question(s) that your inner child (who isn’t worried about appearances or approval) would ask.

Adjust your language
Language is so powerful. Notice what you say, both out loud and silently to yourself. When you find yourself using judgmental words, pause and try again with more open and curious language. For example, sentences that start with:

“I wonder….”
“What if…”
“I’m curious about…”

Always be looking for clues
When you start shifting away from a mindset based in fear and judgment and toward one based in love and curiosity, the world will start to look very different! Every person, place, and event becomes a fascinating opportunity to learn something new. To discover something within yourself. Keep your eyes and ears open, and be present enough to really see and hear and experience whatever’s in front of you.

Create meaning
Many of the things that we tend to judge as good or bad are not necessarily inherently good or bad. It’s our thoughts about them that ascribe value to them. So, how you experience the world around you is a product of the meanings you are attaching to everything. That means you are creating your own reality at all times! So, as you walk through your life, find symbolism, find signs from the universe, find inspiration wherever you go. Why not?!  It makes the day to day experience way more fun 🙂

Notice what you notice
Be curious about and notice how you respond to things. What kinds of people, places, and things get you excited? What makes you feel good? The more you pay attention, the more patterns will emerge. Every time you observe a preference – whether you like or dislike something – that information can move you closer to having more alignment in your life. To prioritizing what you love and what’s important to you and letting go of the things that don’t serve you and don’t interest you.

Be on the lookout for the things you want
As you become more and more attuned to this shift in perspective – to leading with curiosity – you’ll start to see that not only can you be constantly looking for and finding clues that help you create a life you love, but you’ll also realize that when you’re looking for specific things, you’re more likely to find them. So, keep what you want to find and create at the front of your mind, and then be open and ready to receiving the opportunities that show up.

Because what you focus on expands.

Be the detective. Look for clues. Choose curiosity over judgment, and watch your life transform into a daily adventure full of wonder and delight as you become both the conscious creator or your own reality, as well as the awestruck observer. It’s incredible.