Living for the outside world.

sandcastle

Living for the outside world is the term I use to define someone who cares more about how the world perceives them than how their life actually is. In other words they need to project this image of the perfect life, of things always going well for them no matter how far this conflicts with the actual ugly reality. The uglier the reality the more they will attempt to sell the message of their life being a wonderful world of perfect happiness.

This sort of thing used to be known as ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. If your neighbor got a new car then you had to get one too, preferably with just a single additional extra so you could lord it over them. If someone else got a promotion then you had to also get promoted, and so on and so on. This type of behavior betrays a personal shallowness and superficiality as well as a deep sense of insecurity. It is all too common in people. In fact, I’d put it at 90% of the population at a minimum.

Today this condition has evolved spectacularly with social media. Whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Youtube, there are many platforms now available for the budding sophisticate to sell their message to an uncaring world of just how marvelous their existence actually is. Whereas before the gratification from these acts was limited to a bit of boasting at a social event, now approval addicts can post a holiday snap and wait in breathless anticipation for a number of likes to come dribbling in.

What this amounts to is a distraction from reality. It is a symptom of people who have never really grown up. They are kidlets in the bodies of adults, doing supposedly adult things but really quite desperate for the acknowledgement from others that their life is not just okay – it’s perfect. When you think about it they are seeking to lord it over other people who are attempting to do exactly the same thing themselves.

Ding-ding-ding goes the social media announcement on their phones, and they rush to see whether one of their competitors is more perfect than they are. In this life everything has to be perfect, with perfection measured by how they measure up to the gods and goddesses of superficiality who reside in the covers of glossy magazines.

You never actually progress when you live for the outside world. You can only achieve fleeting highs of satisfaction when you purchase a new thing that gives you momentary glory. I have written a number of posts regarding personal finances but on consideration this is perhaps a post on the same topic. If you live for the outside world you will always need to be acquiring more stuff. The latest model phone even though you have the previous model that does more than you could ever possibly need. But we are not talking of needs; we are talking of wants and those wants are dictated to you by outside forces beyond your control.

Thus, if you live for the outside world you will have no personal power over your circumstances. You give your personal power away by succumbing to the approval of others. This approval is always outside of your control and liable to change at any moment. It is both exhausting and terrifying. People in its grip will make completely irrational decisions in an attempt to always be at the leading edge of the perfect life as judged by others.

Do not mistake someone dropping off the grid as an antidote for this condition. We are social creatures that live in a world of networks and relationships.  Rejecting outright the ties that bind us is also in a way a method of living for the outside world. These people are demonstrating that they have no need of outside approval, but the act of demonstrating contradicts this aim.

Keep in mind that the goal is to be an adult. An adult makes decisions based on the best knowledge and information available to them at the time. They will have no need to communicate decisions to the outside world. Friends and family will discover by accident that they have done something. An adult will resist the overtures of marketers and salesmen. They will not need to acquire anything to make them feel better about themselves. This does not mean that they cannot enjoy and appreciate quality and beauty. It just means that they will do so for its own sake and not for kudos from those around them.

Escaping the trap of living for the outside world is one of the most important accomplishments for all of us. Few people succeed in doing so, however, but usually it is from a complete lack of trying. And remember, if you do succeed in resisting the temptation to live for the outside world then you will only be able to have a successful relationship with someone who has done the same. People who live for the outside world tend not to have successful relationships at all. They live in castles made of sand.

5 thoughts on “Living for the outside world.

  1. Both of my grandmothers had very strong views on this type of thing. According to them if you were keeping up with the Joneses’ you were guilty of the sins of pride and envy. In our family the older women wielded the scourge of sin, while the older men wielded the scourge of honor.

    Very tough people, but I could never forget them or their lessons.

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  2. wranglethat

    Hooked up with a very old friend in a recent year of our significant birthdays. Decades since we’d been together. Drove the Great Ocean Road, took the whole week, flew around the Apostles etc. Stayed in gorgeous hotel or BnBs. Every single evening at dinner he took a pic of his plate and posted it to fb. Breakfast too. And views of our lunchtime walks. Sat in passenger seat and fb, fb, fb. Mid-morning coffees, posted it to fb. Put him on the plane home, eventually, with pleasure.
    Hah. Castle made of sand. Thanks Adam.

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    1. Man, I’ve been there. You would have built that trip up in your own mind before you went, certain that it was going to be awesome. It’s a harsh disappointment.

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