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Resolving the Tension Between Our Inner and Outer Selves

Our core values, desires, and needs can feel so unattainable. We feel a disconnect between the person we are inside and the person we present externally to the world. It feels like there are two of us; a secret version that stays locked inside and another version that is familiar to friends, family, and coworkers.

We know there is more to us than meets the eye, that our inner self is trapped inside and desperate to escape. Yet, we find ourselves running back to familiar habits and patterns that prevent us from being our best, inner selves.

Every time we try to move outside of what we know, we grow uncomfortable and anxious. Thus, the tension between our inner and outer selves only grows. We often feel depressed, anxious, and unhappy because of this deep disconnect.

So, how can we minimize this tension and become who we are designed to be? And why do some people find it easier to be more authentic than others? Read ahead for insight into this phenomenon, along with best practices for unifying our inner and outer selves.

Inner Self vs. Outer Self

The outer self is what we present to the world. We learned how to present this version of ourselves early on in childhood. The more disruptive or traumatic our childhood was, the more likely our outer selves will be at odds with our inner selves.

For example, a young child may be sensitive, loving, kind, with a fondness for drawing and painting. But her mother and father are perfectionists who dismiss this child’s inner desires and needs. They want the child to do well in school so she can get a good job and be successful. The young child’s inner sensitivity and natural kindness lead to a desire to people please and placate. The child may do whatever it takes to earn the parents’ love and approval. This requires giving up many of those natural desires, including painting.

The child holds back any anger or resentment for fear of losing that love and approval. As a result, the child grows up and stops painting. She gets a good job but suffers from anxiety and depression. She also tends to enter relationships in which her partner is dominating and controlling. While the external version of this young adult is successful and happy, the inner version feels neglected and uneasy.

Our inner selves are concerned with feelings, intuition, values, beliefs, and that which cannot be seen. Some psychologists refer to the inner self as the inner child. It is who we are and what makes us unique. When we repress our inner desires as this young child did, we tend to be confused and unhappy adults. Sometimes, we don’t even know what we want. This is because our caretakers replaced our needs and desires with theirs, and we may think theirs are in fact, ours.

Melding the Inner Self and Outer Self

So, how can we relieve the tension and become a whole, healthy individual? The first step is awareness. Once we have become aware of the problem, we can begin quieting the desires of the outer self and focusing more on the inner self. This requires slowing down, meditating, and focusing on the little voice inside your head. Many people are not accustomed to listening to this voice and doing what it says.

Next, begin writing down what that little voice demands. This may require help from a therapist or hypnotherapist. One good exercise is to use your non-dominant hand to converse back and forth with your inner self. Psychologists believe this is because you are using the left side of your brain, which provides greater access to intuition, feelings, gut instinct, and opinions. Get a journal out and write questions in your dominant hand, and use your non-dominant hand to provide answers. Don’t overthink this process; just be patient and trust your instinct.

Once you’re written down the changes you need to make (according to your inner self’s desires), you can begin aligning your external self with your internal self. Ask yourself the following questions –

· Does your current way of life make you stifle your core values and internal needs/desires?

· What is it that you want in life? What are your goals, dreams, and needs?

· Will you feel happy with the choices you’ve made once you reach the end of your life?

Some of these gaps between our inner and outer selves will be very large and difficult, while others will be small and easier. The implementation process will be challenging, particularly if you’ve been doing what others want you to do your entire life. Throughout this process, you may find that you are struggling with fear, anxiety, or depression. If so, please meet with a mental health professional or counselor who can help you meld the two selves together and increase your confidence.

Do you feel unfulfilled, anxious, or depressed? Are you tired of doing what others want you to do? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.

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