All about the mind

Inside rule versus Outside rule

Last week I attended a seminar as part of my continued professional development on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy with adolescents. Anyway, one of the things that was talked about was what the speaker called the Inside rule and the Outside rule. [No, it’s not about using your inside voice or your outside voice].

Basically with regards to adolescents, she said that they tend to view themselves based on what they feel on the inside [ergo, Inside rule] and they view others based on how people come across on the outside [hence, Outside rule]. Now, this is something I reckon goes beyond just adolescents. It is something I think we all do.

Think about it.

How many times have you thought that people must definitely know when you were depressed or anxious? How many times were you certain that everyone must be aware just how anxious you were when you had to speak in front of a big audience? How many of you think that after a fight with your partner, it must be obvious to everyone around you? And how many think that they are bad parents and therefore everyone else must be aware of it?

Even if you haven’t engaged in the Inside rule as much, there is no doubt you have engaged in the Outside rule. I say this with certainty because I do it too.

We see a happy couple and feel envious or jealous that our relationship is not ‘perfect’. We see people walking on the street and think about how ‘normal’ they are. Not a bother in the world. I even see clients present to me and wonder why they are there until they start to talk about their problems. The reason is they seem so well-adjusted. We see our colleagues day in and day out and think no one else has problems like we do — they all seem so happy.

The Outside rule comes with the fact that most people (including us) wear a mask more often than not. Hence the perception that everyone seems so ‘normal’. And everyone is coping so well. And no one else is suffering the way we do.

The fact of the matter is that suffering is a part of life.

Not just your life.

Or just my life.

But all of our lives.

Thinking that we are the only ones suffering and everyone else is ‘happy’ is what makes the suffering worse. Not accepting the fact that suffering is part of life also makes it harder to deal with.

We cannot choose pain as it happens to everyone. But we can choose how we respond to it. 

Are you going to suffer or take action? 

Are you going to continue viewing yourself based on the Inside Rule?

Are you going to beat yourself up by comparing to others based on the Outside Rule? 

Because the choice that you make can result in the pain and suffering being bearable or unbearable.

Until next time,


You Might Also Like

  • starry eyed
    12 May 2011 at 7:37 am

    Bang on! This is so helpful to remember. I agree, whenever we’re going thru’ stuff, we also get that annoying and upsetting feeling of “Why me and why not them?” But we never know about ‘their’ insides. My mom does informal counseling, and the stuff that normal-looking families are hiding from the outside world is a real eye-opener. EVERY family is dysfunctional 😛

  • Prats
    12 May 2011 at 8:24 am

    I agree with you, these rules I guess do apply to me too though I am an adult

  • Susan Deborah
    12 May 2011 at 12:42 pm

    I am glad I saw through this trick many years ago. But invariably this happens when one is an adolescent and in love. One thinks that the whole world is watching us (esp when we discreetly travel in bikes with our boyfriends). II used to think so. Well life leads us in many ways and we know that the other person is also fighting a battle and so are we. Life goes on.

    A wonderful post, Psych Babbler (Can I ask you your name, please?)

    Joy always,


  • Jake
    12 May 2011 at 1:36 pm

    I’ve always felt that human beings don’t accept reality for most parts of their lives. We are very good at creating alternate realities and trying to
    live them only to get dissapointed in the end .

    The reality is that life is not perfect, life is not fair.
    Just look at the way the universe behaves, it only takes one
    knocked off asteroid to take out life on a planet. Hell look at our
    own planet, the reality of life for most forms of life is mix of
    suffering and fighthing tooth and nail to survive. So if the lion is a lousy hunter
    ,sorry you get left behind . Only the fittest will survive .

    But in the case of human beings, we seem to have this idea that
    we can always remain in a state of happiness. Just cuz we were
    smart enough to invent the wheel and complex maths and the
    Hubble Space Telescope, we seem to have this idea that we can
    eliminate tyranny from the face of the planet. And so we keep
    constructing alternate realities, defining what is normal what is’nt
    on a delicate planet floating an turbulent and dynamic universe believing
    that we can all live “happy” lives

  • Titaxy
    12 May 2011 at 7:41 pm

    There was a time when I used to think some people had it easy…but no, no one does. Every single person has something or the other they are dealing with. And it all depends on how they choose that one aspect of life affect the rest. I, for one, choose not to let one difficulty in life stop me from enjoying anything else the day brings along 🙂

  • Self-promotion - Over Cups of Coffee
    21 November 2012 at 7:01 pm

    […] July 2012 – Inside out (pg. 11) {This post first featured on my blog} […]