Living Insight-Out vs. Outside-In

The Healthy Ratio

The Basics

WHAT: A psychological comparison of the outside-in and the insight-out living, and a difference both make in mental health and emotional well-being.

GREAT FOR: Self-control, Understanding Emotions, Mental Health, Emotional Wellness, Personal Development, Inner Growth

SOURCE: Denise Fournier, Psychology Today; Aleksandra Cichuta, Well-being Coaching

AUTHOR: Aleksandra Cichuta, Emotional Wellness Coach, Psychologist, Founder of INNER FIRE


What is it like to be dependent on something or someone? In some way, we all know the feeling. Growing up we were dependent on our parents. As grown ups we may not be able to function without a cup of coffee, for some it is a deeper addiction, to substances, to news, to people.

In this article you will learn about what outside-in living has to do with dependency, how it is different to self-dependency (inside-out living) and why the ratio of the two in your life can make you more or less fulfilled and emotionally well.

Outside-In vs. Insight-Out Living: The Difference

How many of your life decisions and personal behaviour is the product of the circumstances or outside sources of information?

Outside-in living appears when what occurs outside dictates what happens inside. In other words, it is when your emotional or mental states depend on what is happening around you in any given moment.

In almost every case, negative self-talk, low emotional states, anxiety, stress, fears, mental blocks, all are are triggered when we identify with the external forces, such us information, opinions, common knowledge, news, conflicts, general public interpretation of life circumstances.

A frustrated driver is shouting at you for moving too slow. Stress arises because you are stuck in the traffic. News are full of war, viruses, inflation and other catastrophic images, leaving you sad and anxious, unable to see a bright future. You feel bored or totally lost unless something entertaining happens. Your relationship is breaking or not existing any more, making you lacking any sense of who you are or what you want. You have your entire day ruined every time something inconvenient happens.

Similar scenarios are endless… When your emotions, thoughts and actions are entirely influenced by other people or your circumstances, you live from the outside-in and your capacity to manage yourself is hindered. You are out of balance and in extreme cases, you lost sense of who you are. But of course, there is another way to live.

Insight-out Living happens when your emotional states, your thoughts and actions are commanded by your inner being, the world within you. It is when your core values, your inner will, your inner truth are strong and stable enough to keep your inner states unshaken in the face of any external forces. It is about liberating your natural ability to move toward well-being and health from the “inside out.”

The Healthy Ratio

Not all forms of outside world influence are bad. Some dependency helps us live easier and is not harmful, like depending on your alarm clock to wake up early, or depending on professional services to do their job well, or on your family and friends to support you in times of need. This is the outside-in living you want to keep as it makes your life easier without changing who you are. But this is where depending on the outside forces must end – carefully chosen external tools for your inner expansion and life creation, the way you want it.

When every situation, every change of circumstances, news or people’s comments affect how you feel, making you upset, irritated, angry or fearful, you live too much from the outside-in. When you need people to be in a specific way for you to feel happy, when you need a social event, TV on or cinema visit for you to feel more fulfilled in life, it’s time to activate more of the insight-out living.

Living from the insight-out starts with self-observation. Watch your emotions, your thoughts, your believes. Where do they come from? Are you irritated because you always are or because you just watched evening news full of tragic stories? Do you believe that love does not last because you made such decision about love or because people around you say this over and over again?

Observation and reflection is important for you to manage the insight-out and outside-in ratio in life.

With so much information coming at us in every moment, sometimes you may get lost in differentiating information as your own: the problems of the world, the emotions of people around you, everything that is happening. It’s almost that you cannot separate what’s happening outside and what’s actually yours, unless you become a very good observer of yourself.

The healthy way of living is no doubt the insight-out living, supported by the outside information and tools, and not the way of living dictated by the outside forces. This is when you are emotionally balanced and free of worries. This is when stress under control and fears turn into a fuel.

Observe how you are at any given moment. When watching yourself make sure that your emotions are generated by your own choice of thoughts, and by  what you are going through vs. generated by everything else that is coming from the outside and is affecting you.

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