How do you hold yourself together when you feel like everything in your life is about to fall apart–or worse, already has? Keeping it together requires sorting out your interior structural supports from the flimsy exterior scaffolding of things outside yourself. What is it that truly strengthens the structural integrity of you?
Your structural integrity is a state of being whole, of being unified, undivided, and sound in emotional and spiritual construction. Trying to rely on the external support of things and people you cannot control will only weaken your inner framework. If you fear your world is about to fall apart, or feel it actually has already, keep in mind that external supports are nothing but crutches that keep you from developing your inner strength and balance.
Have you built your inner life from the outside in? We all too often take refuge in external material and spiritual supports to build our lives and sense of identity. Material things are the easiest and most relied upon source of security, yet couldn’t be more insecure. The house and car you own, rent or lease, the job you have, the salary you make, the toys you enjoy, the vacations you can afford, the quality of clothes and furnishings you buy – all of this can be wiped out with a layoff, an economic recession, a record-breaking hurricane, flood, forest fire, a stock market crash, a real estate bust. Every thing you surround yourself with adds nothing to the structural integrity of the inner you–if anything, it can undermine it.
Spiritual and emotional supports provide a reliable inner framework on which to build your life, but only if they originate from within. If your self-esteem can only stay upright by leaning on the approval of others, you’re positioned to collapse. Your security is as unpredictable as the feedback and attention you get from family, friends, co-workers, peers in your community, and even from complete strangers.
Our social media self is gaining increasing control over how we see and judge ourselves, in accordance with the number of “likes,” viewers, and fans we get. More and more, anything we do has value not in what it means to us, but in what acclaim it can generate from others. Some folks are doing things solely to attract social media attention, as if to live without a massive social presence is to not exist. Are you getting pulled into this societal riptide?
Looking outside yourself for an identity is a form of self-esteem surrogacy, the act of handing over who you are to someone else to create. Do you try to feel better about yourself by following the exploits of your idols in sports and entertainment, your political and spiritual leaders, even popular YouTube or Facebook personalities, as if your liking and emulating them somehow gives more value to who you are? Sure, it’s great to enjoy and respect what others are doing, but you lose all sense of who you are, of personal integrity, if you define yourself by your support for what others do and think.
Despite all external building blocks that dominate our lives, for a thing to be supportive, it must be able to sustain the weight of something, be able to ensure stability, to tolerate turbulence, to keep you upright. No matter how tempting or reassuring it may be to lean on external things and external encouragement or approval for support, the only things that matter are those that can keep you upright when you are completely alone.
To strengthen your own inner structural integrity, sort out those qualities, beliefs and life experiences that enable you to stand alone. What can you do without any help from anyone? Can you see your own skills and talents without having someone else there to affirm them? When you look at yourself, is what you see defined by how well you compare to others and to cultural ideals? Do you place too much pressure on overachieving, dismissing solid average skills as insignificant, because you’re not “exceptional,” outrageous, or a superstar capturing the world’s attention?
If you want to strengthen the structural integrity of you, sort out the external influences that you lean on and trash your dependency on them. Focus on creating and reenforcing the internal supports that can keep you upright and sturdy on your own foundation. Who would you be if you grew up alone on a deserted island? How would you judge yourself if there was no one else to compare yourself to? Your inner strength would develop from your own accomplishments, your own ability to try and fail and overcome and endure. To live a life of solid construction, be unified and undivided in what makes you you, from the inside out.