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Developing an Inner Life

Jonathan Riley

“The person who has no inner-life is a slave to their surroundings.” – Henri Frederic Amiel

In our society, we are taught to find our happiness from external sources such as our job, wealth, fame, honour, power or a relationship. Only when we seek pleasure from these external sources alone, do we struggle to find acceptance and happiness.

An inner life is about what cannot be seen, such as our feelings, intuition, values, beliefs, personality, thoughts, emotions, fantasies, spirituality, desire, and purpose (Cuncic, 2020). It is common for people to see themselves as a certain role, such as a friend, partner, employee, or son/daughter. Some people spend their whole lives building themselves around such identities. Take those identities away, and they get lost because they have little awareness of who they are on the inside. These people are not able to articulate their own vision, goals, and beliefs beyond what is imposed by their identities (Chua, 2019).

Without a developed inner life, people need to find acceptance and happiness from external sources, although there is nothing inherently wrong with these things. But true happiness relates more to the mind and heart. Wright (2018) argues that external sources will never give you the feeling of joy and happiness that you are seeking. Chua (2019) believes it is important to know who we are on the inside while being committed to our external roles and understanding that these are extensions of who we are NOT WHO WE ARE. That is why it is important to find your inner self. If you are not connected with who you really are, you are probably just living your life for these external sources. For example, pursuing other people’s goals and living up to other people’s expectations rather than pursuing your own.

As you uncover more of your inner self, you may find that some of your real-life identities do not match your inner self. The first step is to live in alignment with your inner self as best as you can. At the same time, start to make long term plans to ultimately live in alignment with your true self. If you still feel in conflict, consider whether you might need to make life changes to address these issues. Perhaps a new job, change of relationship, or ending of friendships might be in order. Only you will know what specific changes might help to align you with your true inner self.

While thinking about what changes you need to make, it may be helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

· What is my life purpose?

· What is my personal vision, independent of anyone else?

· What do I feel passionate about?

· What are my values?

· What qualities are important to me?

· What are my beliefs about the world?

Finally, true and lasting pleasure comes from working on oneself. Whether it is cultivating your craft, learning a new skill, embarking on a new course of study, improving your health, meditating, writing, journaling, reading, spending time in nature, or creating art or music. As a result, our lives are transformed, and we feel energised from the inside out. Knowing your inner self involves understanding your purpose, values, vision, goals, motivations, and beliefs. Not what others have told you, but what you have discovered for yourself. Knowing your inner self requires a high level of introspection and self-awareness. The process of self-discovery never ends — it is a life-long journey.


Chua, C. (2019, December 6). Finding Your Inner Self. Retrieved from

Wright, E. (2018, March 14). Cultivating Your Inner World. Retrieved from