Your outer world is a reflection of your inner world.
What this means is that everything we perceive in our external environment is a reflection of our inner experience.
Whatever we see in other people reflects a part of ourselves — often a part we don’t see. If we didn’t have it within us, we wouldn’t be able to see it in others. It wouldn’t resonate with us. This is true for the qualities of people we dislike and the qualities we admire in others.
The same is true for experiences. Everything we perceive in our external environment comes from within.
This is one of the most simple guiding principles of life, and also the most complex to truly know in practice — in the embodied sense.
So let’s break down what makes this so complex.
Looking in the Pipes When the Shit Hits the Fan
It is complex because it requires us to look internally for the cause of what we experience externally.
In practice, it requires us to look within. When things are going well, this is easy enough. We can look around at the flow in our lives, how everything is clicking into place, and say
This is all happening because I’m in alignment and I’m an awesome person.
The difficulty is when we perceive that the world is acting in a “negative” way toward us. Our habitual response is to point the finger of blame outward; to declare ourselves the victim of an scheme or a plot. Someone or something “has it in” for us, or is “out to get us” or “did something to us.”
The work of introspection is messy. Nobody wants to look inside the pipes when the shit hits the fan.
How You Treat Others
Here’s an example to make this tangible for you:
Let’s say you have a situation in your life where people aren’t respecting your boundaries — in whatever way that comes across to you. Maybe clients don’t respect your hours, or ask you take on responsibilities that are outside your scope of work. Maybe you have a friend who seems to believe it’s ok to call at all hours. Or maybe a colleague oversteps the line of appropriate behavior.
First, I want to acknowledge that common advice is to look at where you are acting this way to others. And that is certainly a good place to look — better than simply blaming others for not respecting your boundaries.
But that’s not quite what we’re talking about here. That’s the concept of “treat others as you wish to be treated.” Important, but different.
How You Treat Yourself
The fundamental concept here is that the experience you have in the external world is a reflection of how you are treating yourself.
This is “treat yourself as you wish to be treated.”
If others are violating your boundaries, look at where you are violating your own boundaries.
For example, are you overgiving to others at the expense of your self-care or your health? Are you taking over responsibility for something that isn’t yours to manage?
When people say that “we create our own reality,” this is what they mean. Subconsciously, we create a reality that triggers our familiar patterns of emotions and behaviors. Have you ever noticed that you tend to experience the same emotions repeatedly? This is your emotional set-point.
This may seem harsh. It may even sound like “blaming the victim.” And if it seems to you like “blaming the victim” it’s only because in the reality you create, you see a victim.
The grace in understanding this principle is that there is no victim. Because if our external experience is a reflection of our internal experience, then we have the power to change the experience by changing ourselves.
How to Change Your External Reality
External change begins with internal change.
This begins with recognizing the patterns. I call it the ABC’s of change: Awareness Before Change.
Notice how the world is treating you, and you will gain insight into how you are treating yourself. Then resolve to treat yourself the way you want to be treated. And watch the world get on board.
This is what we mean when we say “change begins within.”