How you did on a test, how well you stick to your diet and how accurately you execute a new recipe is seen differently depending on your locus of control.
Who is to blame if you failed the test? Who should be rewarded when you lose weight on your diet? The way you view the control you have over your life will determine whether you have an internal or external locus of control.
Essentially, how much involvement do you have in the good and bad things that happen to you?
Assessing your progress in life often is done in terms of triumphs and failures, but there are different ways that we assess these depending on our locus of control.
The concept of the locus of control in personality psychology can be boiled down to how you view the control you have over the events in your life. To what degree do you make a difference? This is more complicated than simply considering the two fundamental categories: internal (thinking you are in control of events and decisions) and external (thinking the environment or factors such as luck and fate play a role in life’s outcomes).
While these are the basics, they have been vastly expanded upon, contested and extensively researched. They have been studied especially in terms of how control over your life will affect the outcomes.
Psychology Today examines how we feel about achievements: In our unconscious minds, we view success as, “goodness.” If we are successful, then we are good and thus worthy of love, acceptance, and life. Failure, on the other hand, indicates to ourselves that we are not good.
Now consider this general principle with the locus of control as a guiding concept. Do our successes mean we are good even if we view others as being responsible for them? Do our failures release us from the “badness” if someone else was in control?
While it is almost unavoidable to examine our lives and decisions in terms of success and failure, there is a growing trend to avoid all other forms of self-assessment. There is not only a trend of avoiding this, but the issue extends as far as overestimating one’s own abilities.
As stated in an article published by the American Psychological Association, it is not always straightforward to assess ourselves. This might be why many with a strong internal locus of control might give themselves more credit than they deserve for doing well and why those with a strong external locus, who don’t encounter any negative feedback, will also overpraise themselves.
This overestimation of our abilities makes it easy to see that our self-evaluations often can be wrong. Thus, it is also easy to see why having a locus of control that is too strong can be damaging and inaccurate.
If being a winner is all about being in the right state of mind, then you should consider the locus of control. The internal and external options mean that blame can easily be misdirected based on your specific tendencies toward one or the other. This is why the concept is so closely linked to a person’s self-worth, depression, and hopelessness as detailed in Europe’s Journal of Psychology in 2009. The negatives can be seen when someone has a strong tendency toward the internal or external in viewing a failure. You are more likely to beat yourself up for failing a diet if you have a strong internal locus of control. If you have a strong external locus of control, and you have been told that you are not good enough to do something, you naturally would feel like you could not change things in your life and would wallow in that fact without action.
Having too much of either view can lead to damage and feelings of worthlessness. You need to view your life as in your control but also accept that other factors will play a part. This will help avoid unjustified blame in any area of life and control.
You should aim to have a healthy combination of the internal and external views in your life in order to avoid feeling like a loser and be able to better direct blame and reward. Learning a balance and adjusting your locus of control is something that can be done at any age and any stage of life.