Locus of Control

We’ve all heard the old adage that there are 2 kinds of people in the world, well, guess what, it can be considered true in this example.

Locus of control is a psychological concept that refers to how strongly people believe they have control over the situations and experiences that affect their lives. The descriptions below will give you a better sense of what this means.

External Control

We’ve all met this person, they’re the ones that life tends to happen to. There’s always something happening, someone or thing to blame, and the idea of personal responsibility doesn’t seem to exist. 

Blaming others is easier than being vulnerable and taking personal responsibility but only in the short term.

Those with an External Locus of Control don’t have good boundaries, they:

  • Blame outside forces for their circumstances
  • Often credit luck or chance for any successes
  • Don’t believe that they can change their situation through their own efforts
  • Are more prone to experiencing learned helplessness

Internal Control

These people tend to affect the world. They make it happen whether successful or not, they take responsibility for themselves and their actions.

Those with an Internal Locus of Control have strong boundaries.

We’ve all had a combination of the two inside of us at one time or another, however, when I realized that taking personal responsibility for ALL my actions (and not just the obvious things), I took control of my life back.

  • Are more likely to take responsibility for their actions
  • Tend to be less influenced by the opinions of other people
  • Tend to work hard to achieve the things they want
  • Feel confident in the face of challenges
  • Report being happier and more independent
  • Often achieve greater success in the workplace

What I Learned

The big takeaway was my lack of Personal Responsibility

Not only would I lie often to avoid being uncomfortable from owning my mistakes, I would blame others for making me feel one way or another — blaming outside forces for my circumstance. When I dug into situations from my past with an honest search, it became clear that I subscribed to an external locus of control and though I was embarrassed, I had one question…

How do I switch my locus of control?

I discovered that I needed to ask myself a set of questions, that taking personal responsibility meant much more than admitting fault. It meant taking control of yourself in the situations we find ourselves in. It meant setting yourself up for success because no one knows you better than yourself. No one is responsible for my well being other than myself and that included loved ones. 

These were the questions I kept asking myself, situation after situation:

• What could I have done to avoid the lead up to this situation?

• Did I recognize what the signs were?

• Do I have boundaries in place for situations like this?


Note, this does not include being in an abusive relationship. 

I grew up with an abusive Father and there is nothing any of us would have done to deserve that, nor you if that is, or was, your situation.


Personal Meaning

Using the example of my Father and personal responsibility:

My Father was verbally abusive, which caused me a lot of anxiety and stress as a child and later on, as an adult, manifested into general anxiety. Those words hurt and had lasting impact, but blaming him for how he made me feel when I was an adult, one who has options, that’s External Locus of Control — Letting the actions of others dictate how you feel and react/ Blaming outside forces for my circumstances.

I understand now that there are steps I could have taken to avoid feeling that way, such as setting boundaries which I eventually implemented and then stuck to until his death.

Years later, I had a partner who shared similar narcissistic characteristics as my Father, something I recognized but only after blaming her actions and how they made me feel. I recognized that it’s not the responsibility of others to manage our emotions, it’s our own.

Yes, we want people to appreciate and love us, however, expecting others to look out for your emotions is giving someone else control over something very important to you. This is what an external locus of control can look like and did, for me.


We all want to believe that we have a healthy Internal Locus of Control, that we’re confident, and take responsibility for our actions because we know those are strengths. 

But the truth is, not all of us do. The biggest step I had to take was asking myself the following questions, and to answer them with honesty. 

I had to accept that I was going to feel uncomfortable or I would have lied to myself again.

I had to accept that I was going to feel uncomfortable or I would have lied to myself again.

  • Do I take personal responsibility for my actions even when I feel uncomfortable?
  • Do I blame others for situations that I had a part in?
  • Do I lie to avoid being uncomfortable?