Do you think of yourself as a source of strength? For many people, especially those who often experience anxiety, equating sense of self with strength can be difficult. However, no matter what types of mental and emotional health issues you experience, it’s important to remember that you can rely on yourself better than you might think.
One way you can do this is to internalize your sense of self, meaning that you look inward to develop good self-esteem. This leads to confidence that you can do what needs to be done, solve problems, make decisions, and develop opinions—all on your own.
It sometimes feels easier to externalize your sense of self, letting others do things for you, or allowing them unnecessary sway over what you think and feel. In the short term, this is often easier. But externalizing your sense of self can make you more dependent on others and may weaken your individuality. Internalizing your sense of self, on the other hand, can strengthen both yourself and those around you.
Let’s take a look at some of the differences between externalizing and internalizing this.
External Sense of Self
When you externalize your sense of self, you rely on others to determine what to do and even how to think and feel. Signs of this include:
- Asking someone else to make sure you get up on time, remind you of appointments, or tell you when to take medications.
- Not finishing a task or not learning life skills because someone else will take care of it.
- Asking advice or adopting someone else’s opinions without first evaluating your own thoughts and ideas.
- Using social media likes, a busy schedule, or a job title to boost your self-worth.
- Requiring reassurance or praise from others to stay motivated or feel good about yourself.
Internal Sense of Self
When you internalize your sense of self, you depend on yourself to decide what actions to take, determine what your thoughts and opinions are, and direct your emotions. Healthy signs of this include:
- Problem-solving to overcome challenges and do things independently.
- Taking initiative, following through on assignments, and learning and utilizing important life skills.
- Consulting your own interests and beliefs and being able to defend them while respecting other points of view.
- Appreciating praise but being able to value yourself and be productive without it.
If you find that you externalize your sense of self more often than you would like, focus on building yourself up so that your sense of self becomes a source of strength you can rely on. Take advantage of opportunities to formulate your own ideas, make choices, follow your interests, and get to know yourself. You can do start to do this with just small first steps and small, simple choices in your daily life. As you continue to rely on yourself for choices and decision making, you’ll find that your relationships, your feelings about yourself, and your life in general will benefit.