External vs. Internal Locus of Identity


An interesting comment was said on the TV Series, the Big Bang Theory. The psychiatrist mother of the lead character (Leonard) commented on another character (the beautiful blonde waitress/ struggling actress, Penny), and classified her as suffering from an “external locus of identity”, which was the cause of many of her problems. In the context of the show, that moment was really funny.

Hilarious as it may seem on the small screen, almost everyone has suffered or is suffering from having an external locus of identity- meaning identifying one’s self based on factors that are external: physical attributes, wealth, possessions, careers, fame, etc.

Everyone who has identified the self based on something external will easily get disappointed when these things are taken away from them. These “externals” are always exposed and thus, these factors can easily be taken away or deteriorate. Having these “externals” artificially prop you up, as I have personally experienced, can lead to much insecurity.

The solution is to have an internal locus of identity. This means looking into ones’ self and identifying the true value within. This is the value that, when an individual is stripped naked of all the obvious external advantages, continues to endure and shine through. This is what is at the core of true human potential, defined by character and actualized through effort.

By strengthening ones’ core self, one can begin building and developing “externals” without these factors causing insecurity. This is when one can truly experience growth.

-A Garlic Man