Are You an Innie or an Outie?
April 22, 2020
When most of us make important decisions, we look to and ask what others have done. We usually feel confident when we know that people have already done what it is that we are in question about. And when we do what has been recommended by those we look up to and respect, we usually feel that what we’ve done is right and acceptable. Our measure of success is often governed by our sense of being in proper alignment with what our culture has suggested is the right thing to do. But even in doing the suggested right thing we sometimes feel a gnawing inside suggesting that something might be “off” but we can’t quite put our finger on it. Most of us will just chalk it up to an assumption that we just didn’t have enough information about the decision we needed to make and move on confident that things will work out the way we prefer because we’ve done what was suggested by those who have more experience than us.
However, a small portion of us will choose a different route. We listen to our gut and do what we feel will be best regardless of what others may think or have done. We don’t trust others because we feel that they can’t know our personal situation and all the mitigating factors. We think, “They haven’t walked in my shoes. So, how can they possibly know what I’ve experienced?” In this light we feel that it’s necessary to dope things out ourselves. We may then feel comfortable with our own choices but then may wonder whether we are ignorant of some other factors that we might be missing that someone else might see. Then we say to ourselves, “What will be, will be, and I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it” trusting that we will be able to handle what’s needed if something is different than expected.
We are generally taught both approaches by our parents and elders in varying degrees. However, they usually attune us mostly toward the approach that they most use themselves either through direct and conscious instruction or through the example of their own, mostly unconscious, actions while watching them as we grow.
However, both approaches may be used by the same person depending on the circumstances involved. If we’re dealing with something that we’ve had experience with, we may be more likely to trust that experience. If we’re not, we may be more likely to ask for assistance from someone who has had more experience than we in the decisions being made. Alternating this way is the most mature and balanced option to be adopted. But there are people who almost exclusively use one approach but not the other. This will tend to indicate that there may be some personal issues that need to be worked out. Each of the approaches have their own etiology and need to be handled differently. Let’s look at the first approach.
I call this approach the Outie. I call it such because, like the belly button, our center of “gravity” is outside of ourselves. Like when we are children, we are drawn outside of ourselves to receive the love, affection, and the support of our parents. This is our unconscious attempt to regain the wholeness or lack of detachment we had while in the womb. I say unconscious because in the womb there is no sense of detachment or disconnect from what we become aware of needing once we are born out of the inner landscape of our complete world inside the womb. Once we are born though, that detachment becomes more and more apparent as we are unable to replace the completeness we felt in the womb. We soon learn to become aware of being divided into self and not-self. Then, the outside world is born to us.
As we focus as an Outie would, we seek counsel, permission and information from our parents, elders, superiors, and anyone of authority in whatever venue we are needing to make decisions about. Sensing that the outer world determines how our life will go, we consistently search outside of ourselves for the cues and values that will allow us to align with the part of that world that can and should provide us with what we need or want. Growing up, the standards for our thought take on more of a scientific perspective as we look for evidence or “proof” that what we’re doing or deciding “earns” our objectives. We rationalize our actions, we come to believe (a choice) that the outer world determines what our actions should be. Our next step in reasoning arrives at determining whether we deserve what we need or want. We now remember childhood responses coming from our parents telling us how well we were, or weren’t, aligned with what they wanted or expected of us. If what we did was desirable by them, we may feel entitled. If it wasn’t, we may feel undeserving. If entitled, we now assume that others will also be obligated to provide what we need or want provided we did what was required. If undeserving, we instead learn to manipulate others into providing it.
Being primarily an Outie provides us a perceived benefit in terms of how we view our accountability for our actions. Being externally directed by our actions gives us permission to be free of blame for anything that we do. After all, if others tell us what is right, and then we do it, how can we be responsible for our actions? This is often one of the unconscious underlying motivations as to why people immerse themselves into religions or cult groups. Follow the leader and you’re blame free and forgiven.
So, being an Outie means primarily taking our directives for how we think, what we do and what we’re responsible for from external sources and from those whom we believe have authority over us or those to whom we’ve given our authority. Now, let’s take a look at the alternate approach of being an Innie.
All of us start off as an Outie but as we get further into responding to the outside world, something inside starts to rebel against yielding our power over to others for our choices and thinking. The “terrible twos” are a prime example. Remember that point at which we began having a gnawing feeling inside suggesting that something might be “off” but can’t quite put our finger on it? This is the point where things start to change. Somehow, the physical world starts to lose some of its “persuasion” over us and our feelings and intuition begin to regain the dominance and influence they had in the womb. Our spirit or inner sense of ourselves grows stronger where we are less likely to follow others or do what we are told. This is not to be confused with the Outie reaction of rebelling against authority. Rebellion still operates under the belief that the outside world controls our circumstances and is still taking cues from the outside world by simply taking an opposing or resistant viewpoint. As an Innie we may still have the urge to recreate the conditions we felt in the womb. We feel that we would rather do it ourselves rather than leaving it in the hands of others by acceding to what we believe they want from us.
Being primarily an Innie puts a whole different spin on things and marks the beginnings of becoming accountable whether we’re conscious of it or not. Granted, following our own path may provide us the self-directiveness that we would prefer, however, not taking into account others in our environment and what they may feel or say about what we say or do may have its own consequences. Let’s look at the motivations.
Being an Innie leans us more into trusting our own judgment and experience rather than soliciting the advice or suggestions of others. We feel this to be an advantage as it gives us is a much stronger sense of our own ability to direct the world as we’d like it to be. We determine how our life will go. We take steps to put things in motion. It’s under our control.
As we progress in this approach our experience becomes the validation for our choices. This allows us to judge our value based on our own experience and not depend on the recommendations or responses of others to determine whether we’re a “good” person or not in the eyes of our peer groups and elders. In a sense, we become our own bosses. We ignore what might contradict our personal common sense and reasoning. We become the person that Outies come to for advice. To excess, we become a non-violent anarchist ignoring anything that runs contrary to our feelings or that appears to be "politically correct." In the extreme we might even become violent or narcissistic.
Being an Innie has its advantages. After the world has responded to our choice, we can plainly see our successes and failures without the need to share the credit or blame with anyone. It’s all on us. We know that those credits and successes are solely the result of our own efforts and choices. We have a clear understanding of our own worth relative to our values and, only if we’re listening, the values of others. This creates and then reinforces the trust we have in our own intuition and gut feeling. For the Innie, trusting ourselves and following our hearts are the most important contributing factors in how we see and handle our involvement with life.
Innies are more likely to be introverts. Those who are Outies, extroverts. Introverts are more influenced by their own feelings and thought processes where extroverts are usually more influenced by the perceived feelings and assessments coming from others. Innies like to spend more time alone and might even avoid others. Outies generally often fear being alone and more often seek others for companionship, reflection and self-validation. The motives for both Innies and Outies may be conscious or not.
Being solely an Innie or solely an Outie will each weight us toward differing problems with our elders, children and peer groups. Innies in excess will often be seen as snobbish, anti-social, narcissistic, and evasive. Outies in excess will often be seen as meddlesome, wishy-washy, solicitous, and manipulative. Most people will avoid either of those types unless they are “commiserating” in their common excesses while supporting each other’s insecurities through rationalization and projection. Misery loves company even if it’s unconscious.
Being in any great extent toward either approach is not particularly healthy. However, we may behave toward one extreme or the other only in specific areas of life. For example, in technical issues we could be highly effective, proficient, and confident in that we have consciously developed experience and skills in such areas as art, business and trade where human responses are not as involved in how we perceive our own performance. Yet, in the area of people skills, we may not have as strong a sense of self or confidence due to our emotional history and upbringing leading us toward being weighted toward one approach or the other. The reverse may also be true.
Living in the world with others and being able to survive generally leads toward needing to have skills that balance our inner and outer experiences in our interactions with the world. The healthiest individual will have well rounded and integrated Innie and Outie approaches. Each one should seamlessly flow into the other when the landscape shifts from personal to public and vice versa. This will ensure that our personal integrity and social standing will maintain a clean and open interchange. The result will be an honest bi-perspective blanketing of self-reliance and confidence in almost all the different areas in our lives. Some of us will be able to embody this balance early on if we’ve received enough encouragement from our caregivers for acknowledging and supporting our own inner feelings and intuition in our upbringing. Some of us will end up struggling throughout most of our lives to come to that point. Others may never reach it. This balance is the primary mark of emotional maturity and personal accountability. We must all strive to become conscious of our patterns and balance them with the world we live in. If we are successful, we can truly be in the world but not of it.