Have you ever noticed how much of our lives revolve around what’s on the outside? The image. What people see, what they hear.
Our culture demands the upkeep of the outside. It implore’s us to direct our attention on what is visual and audible. I get it. The outside is important. People draw conclusions based on the outside. It’s human nature.
But what is our outside? I like to think of it as the whole of what people can see, hear, and experience from us. It’s our attitude, our personality, and demeanor. Ultimately, it’s our general “way of being”. It’s the physical “package” of who we are.
Our outside doesn’t function alone though. It works in tandem.
You see, our outside is but a mirror, and it only reflects one thing – our inside. What people see, hear, and experience from us is but a direct reflection of the intangible, and often misunderstood nature of what’s going on within us- our inside.
But yet, despite this, we normally focus solely on the exterior.
Recently I’ve become extremely interested in why I do what I do. Why I say the things I say, act the way I act, and respond the way I respond. My curiosity isn’t exclusive to present day, but past events in my life as well. I’ve come to realize that examining myself as an individual is not only imperative, but healthy. Painful yes, but gratifying.
Self-Reflection: The Pain & Beauty
I don’t think we self reflect enough. We’re busy. We have things going on. And even when we do have a break, we occupy our time with television, friends, surfing the web – noise. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with any of these things. I just think we’re minimizing the reality that who we are on the outside is the sum of what is on the inside.
I also believe that we simply avoid self-reflecting. I know I have. It’s messy. There’s nothing comfortable with coming face to face with insecurities, self-doubts, character flaws, and rough memories. This is the pain part of self reflection. We’d rather sweep these things under the rug, and continue to do what we do – buy into the image that we’re selling everyone else.
But then, at what point do we brush over issues that need addressing?
When I was little kid I hurt my mouth at a skatepark. I thought I could skateboard. I was awful. Years later the gums on my top row of teeth began to swell. As it turned out, the accident at the skatepark (years earlier) damaged the roots of one of my teeth. So the tooth slowly began to decay – hence the swollen gums. I ended up having to undergo a root canal to resolve the issue. Needless to say I’m not a huge fan of dentists…or skateboards. (sorry for the random dental story)
The point is this, something on the outside was directly correlated with decay on the inside. Now I am in no way suggesting that you’re decaying on the inside. I am, however, suggesting that if who we are on the outside is in any way related to what is going on in the inside, then maybe (just maybe) we should spend more time looking inward.
I can’t help but think that we would be much more effective in our lives if we were in touch with the whole of who we are. Outside AND inside. This is the beauty of self-reflection. The prospect of dealing with our hang-ups, however ugly they may be, and moving forward from them. It’s the healing. The discovery of personal barriers, and learning how to use them to our advantage. The vision of what could be if we made the conscious decision to not allow what has been holding us back to do so any longer. The thought is intoxicating.
If I Can Be Honest
In the spirit of complete transparency, I’ll share a little bit about some of my own personal self reflections. I’ve struggled with an inferiority complex my whole life. I have wonderful parents. They’ve done nothing but support me and build me up. My parents (to this day) continue to build me up, but that role has now been primarily taken over by Bri (my wife). She’s my biggest cheerleader. My upbringing was also nothing short of healthy and enjoyable. And yet, despite all of that, the feeling of inferiority still comes up. It’s inhibited me from standing up for myself, from taking chances, and from believing I’m up to par with everyone else (or God forbid better at something than others). To say it’s deflating is an understatement. But I know this about myself. In my quiet moments, alone with my thoughts, I come face to face with it. The ugly, formless, shadowy thing that seemingly has no source, but yet convinces me I’m not nearly as talented, liked, or respected as everyone else. I recognize it. The sixth grader in me remembers it. But the current me is sick of it.
Now, normally this remains hidden. You wouldn’t notice it on the outside until someone or something stirs it up on the inside. Then it comes out. In my decisions. In my comments. In my actions. The outside acts on behalf of the inside. Thus I’m faced with a decision; allow it to continue dictating, or face it, and peel away its hold.