Internal vs. External
We all exist as two beings.
The first of these beings is the internal self. It has everything to do with what’s inside us, our emotional world. This part of us is made up of how we feel, our deepest desires. It’s what makes you, uniquely you.
The second of these beings is the external self. It has to do with everything outside our mind. This part of us is made up of how we look, how much stuff we have, and how we’re perceived by others. This is who we appear to be to the outside world.
Popular culture espouses and values the external self. This means that if you’re beautiful, have a lot of money or material wealth, or have achieved above-average success in your pursuits, you’re in some way celebrated, sought after, or valued.
Most of us spend some or all of our lives trying to satisfy the external self, many times at the cost of the internal. After all, this is the obvious path. Everything you’re exposed to—from television to school to work and, in many cases, even at home—pushes you toward excelling within this value system, being successful. Logically this leads us to the conclusion that fulfillment, happiness, and excitement in some way comes from satisfying the external self.
But this isn’t true.
Fulfillment, happiness, and excitement only come from satisfying the internal self. And whether or not you’re successful is entirely determined by how you characterize your success. Defined as “accomplishing an aim or purpose,” it’s up to you to determine what that aim or purpose will be, to decide what success means to you.
I’m not suggesting that you forget about the external self. Being financially successful, beautiful, or looked up to by your community are all highly enjoyable experiences, as long as you aren’t dependent upon them for your fulfillment.
What I am suggesting is that you shift your priorities in order to open up your life to more. To do that you must be strong enough and smart enough to make decisions chiefly for your internal self. And only after you’ve determined that the decision you’re contemplating satisfies the internal self should you consider the decision from the perspective of your external self. The goal of this shift is the creation of an integrated life, one built on harmony between your internal self—what you feel inside—and your external self—who you are every day.
As author Brené Brown explains it, this is what it means to be authentic: “letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” And in the age of ideas, where our ability to communicate, connect, and share our creativity is easier than ever, it is the authentic self the market craves. That meaningful connection, the magic that occurs when an individual or organization manifests and shares their true purpose, has become our most valuable commodity.