Externals versus Internals (XVI)

This post is an overview of the main shift that needs to happen in a man’s life so he can actually begin to live his own life. Men who struggle with a lack of integrity (in all forms) have not developed a strong inner solid core from which life is lived.

Often a man’s life is driven, defined, soothed, directed and given meaning from external influences, places and categories. In order to gain integrity and a solid life, the essential shift that must happen is moving from reliance on externals to internals.

You may or may not be familiar with this concept.This shift is of prime importance. Your continued lifetime of integrity requires that you remember this category and continue to contemplate your life through the lens of this shift. Your solid life of integrity requires ongoing vigilance to be internally referenced and centered. This shift requires you to look again into the patterns that you have had in your life, consider the shifts that have already taken place and then make choices to solidify internal realities into your life more fully.


Your life is an ongoing journey of developing internal integrity.

First, integrity requires an internal structure, like a building with “structural integrity” will not collapse even under extreme conditions. A solid, immovable internal structure is our goal in the journey to become internally referenced.

Second, Integrity requires integration, in which a system or a person lives in a holistic way, bringing all parts of himself into complete working order. Most of us have lost the ability to integrate important parts of ourselves, like emotions, bodily functions and spiritual aspects of life; therefore losing our integrity. Bringing all the internal and physical aspects of your life together into a complete package is essential.

Finally, Integrity requires wholeness, like an integer. A whole number is complete, lacking in nothing. A solid man of integrity is whole and complete. Often men believe they are incomplete or broken; that something is wrong with them or that they aren’t good enough. This is not true. You have everything within you to live a life of fulness and abundance. It is also true that other people in his life are necessary for a full life of thriving, but he is solid.

Go through each category and answer the questions. Some categories will be more significant than others. Pay attention to how you rely on externals in your life because this will be a very important step in gaining a solid core of integrity in your life. At the end list the externals that have the strongest hold on your life. There are 10 categories listed here. Use these to identify and understand the ways externals have a hold on your life.

1) External Validation v. Internal Validation

Many of us have sold out to living for external validation in order to feel good about ourselves and to somehow prove that we have value or worthiness. We need a woman to smile at us, to keep people happy with us and to keep conflict at a minimum. External validation becomes our drug of choice and like a junkie when we need our drug, we will do just about anything to get our next hit. We have sold our soul for validation.You may want your boss to notice your achievements, your coworkers to like you, your kids to respect you or your woman to be happy with you. Your identity needs a stamp of validation from someone else for you to feel good. But, you know it only lasts for a moment and you keep needing to prove yourself over and over and…

As you begin to develop an internal sense of your value and the questions that have haunted you are more settled. You can begin to believe that you are actually good enough, acceptable and have what it takes. There is more to be said about gaining a solid identity based upon internal realities, settling the questions and reclaiming the narrative of your life. For now, observe in your life how externals impact your life and how you need others to validate you.

How have I struggled with needing external validation in the past?

In what ways have I shifted from external to internal validation?

What can I do to complete the shift toward internal validation?


2) Reflected Sense of Self v. Solid Sense of Self

You have a reflected sense of self when you rely on others to determine your identity or value. What you think of yourself is “reflected” back to you. Information about what you know about who you are is determined by what others think of you and the responses you get. This results in confusion because your sense of self is always changing with others perceptions. You always need to keep those perceptions positive, so you always need to make people happy with you or prove that you have something to offer. It is a “hall of mirrors”, you never know what you will look like because others perceptions of you change or in each group you change like a chameleon to fit in. You can never rest.

A solid sense of self is determined from internal factors which clarify your value, competence and acceptance. Your worthiness exists from who you are and the internal truths inherently found in you, as a human, as a man, as a child of God and in the dignity found in every person. The value of my identity rests in the fact that you am unique, you have things to offer the world that only you can give, you have your own story and a good heart. When you gain a solid sense of self, you no longer have to prove yourself or show others your value. You know that you are good enough and acceptable. Shame has no hold on you. So you can rest and your energy goes toward other pursuits. When you have a solid sense of self, you know who you are, you know your inherent value, know the true narrative of your life and your true name. You live in the truth, therefore you have integrity.

How have I had a reflected sense of self in the past?

In what ways have I shifted from reflected to solid sense of self?

What can I do to complete the shift?


3) External Locus of Control v. Self-Control

The truth is that you can only control one thing in life; that is your Self. In order to gain a sense of strength and power, many men begin to exercise the futile perspective that “If I can control those things external of me, I will feel better about myself”. This belief system always gets out of control, because you cannot control externals. This results in pressure, abuse, controlling behavior, manipulation and frustration. In simple forms, we manage moods, lie to keep people happy, covertly try to get people to do things for us, beat around the bush, evade conflict, lack assertiveness and believe the equation that if I give myself up for others they will automatically meet my needs. However, integrity requires an internal locus of control. I can only control me. I use my voice to communicate needs and wants. I am responsible for taking care of myself. Using your energy to control only yourself actually results in experiencing more strength and power in your life.

How have I struggled with external locus of control in the past?

In what ways have I shifted from external to self control?

What can I do to complete the shift where I am only concerned about controlling what I can control?


4) External v. Internal Solutions

Early on, as we build our externally driven life, we create solutions that are dependent on other people or gaining accomplishments that we think will solve the problems we face in life. These solutions are often subtle and go unnoticed. As children we build life commitments that work to keep us safe or acceptable, the best we can do as a kid, but it doesn’t work for us as adults. I got Mommy to think I was cute when I deflected conflict with humor, but my wife becomes incensed. I stuffed my desire to be heard at work because if I spoke up as a kid I was shut down, but now I am stagnant in my job. An external solution is relying on something external of you to be responsible for you. A person who relies on external solutions has a passive stance in life which results in victimhood, consumerism, passivity and procrastination.

Identifying external solutions takes ongoing work and observation. Internal solutions rely on taking personal responsibility, soothing myself, caring for myself, using my voice, asking for help, making plans and taking responsible action. Other people are a huge part of an integrated person’s life, the shift is taking personal responsibility and ownership in your life to create the life you want.

What have been my main external solutions in the past?

In what ways have I shifted from external to internal solutions?

What can I do to complete the shift?


5) External v. Internal Soothers

For men who struggle with integrity, soothing anxiety is a major factor. We will use substances, acting out sexually, working hard, food, perfectionism, actually we will use just about anything to soothe your internal turmoil. Somewhere in life, substances, sex and validation have become tools to calm or numb difficult feelings or anxieties. Often the external soothers get out of control since they only mask the problem rather than really take care of it.

These external mechanisms designed to eliminate anxiety, tension, shame, depression and other difficult emotions always divert attention away from where the attention needs to be; the heart.Our heart or soul needs attention but we get distracted to external places thinking that we are calming ourselves down, when we are just escaping important parts of our lives that need attention. To care for our heart we must attend to our heart and pay attention to what it is telling us about ourselves and then do what it is guiding us to do. We must soothe our self from an internal place that is centered on truth, openness and your Source.

How have I struggled with external diversions and numb-ers in the past?

In what ways have I shifted toward caring for my heart, how can I internally care for my heart?

What can I do to complete the shift?


6) External v. True Source of Life

Commonly called attachments, affections or counterfeits, external sources where we think life comes from always end up life-less or empty. We think sex, substances, things, accomplishments, validation or whatever will give us a sense that life is good. “If I only had                               , then life would be good”, is the equation. But when you get “blank”, it feels good for a moment, but always ends up empty, sometimes with despair. Often it takes too long to identify these external counterfeits, sometimes with dire consequences. As it works out we will use just about anything outside of us to make us feel whole and complete.

To break the use of attachments and counterfeits, you must first find your true source. The journey toward discovering your true Source of life is an internal spiritual journey and requires a daily practice. This requires an understanding that life is so much bigger than you, but you are part of that which is so much bigger. There is a source of abundance and freedom.

How have I struggled with counterfeits?

In what ways have I shifted to my true source?

What can I do to complete the shift?


7) External v. Internal Compass

This is in the category of your value system. A man should be driven from two internals; from what he wants and from what he knows is right. Developing an internal compass is about developing your values, what you know is right. If we are men who are reliant on validation and pleasing, we will always find ourselves compromising our values and selling out our soul to get others to like or approve of us. We will have a compass that is determined by your woman’s mood, the fad of the day, politically correctness or whatever the crowd is yelling. Your integrity will be lost and you will not only lose respect for yourself, no one else will respect you either. We must develop an internal core of values and non-negotiables which will drive our passion and purpose in life. When the time comes will you be able to stand for what you know is right, even to the point of death? Sounds extreme, but that is what a solid internal compass is all about.

How have I struggled with losing my values in the past?

In what ways have I shifted to an internal compass?

What can I do to complete the shift?


8) External v. Internal Drivers

Every man has been designed to be driven from an internal place, your heart. Our emotions guide us toward discovering what the heart needs. Men traditionally have stuffed away their emotions for a number of reasons and in so doing have stuffed away their hearts. No longer like a raft on the ocean, floating where the current, wind and waves take you; we must drive our own life. Our hearts will guide us where we need to go at any given moment; in real time, planning for the day and discovering your purpose for your life. We must become men who are driven by internal processes; our hearts, desires, emotions and dreams. You’ll get more about this in exercise 3. Often men will realize they have not been driving their own life. It is time to take the wheel of your bus and begin to drive it where you want it to go.

How have I struggled with being a raft on the ocean or passenger on the bus?

In what ways have I shifted to following my heart or driving my own bus?

What can I do to complete the shift?


9) External Point of Reference v. Internal Point of Reference

A while back a guy named Copernicus did his best to show that we lived in a heliocentric planetary system rather than a geocentric system. Galileo later proved that, in fact, the Earth revolves around the sun. This is important for us as we consider our integrity. The question this, “Around which point does my life revolve?” Take a moment and ask yourself, “If I were to place a pin on the spot where my life revolves, where would it be?” Who am I trying to please or impress? Where does most of my energy go? What am I anxious about?

I work with tons of families and parents. This question often reveals that the point of reference revolves around the kids. So my work it to reclaim a point of reference within the couple, around which the kids revolve. Is your point of reference external with your wife, kids or job? Is it centered internally in your heart; with your passion, desires or interaction with your Source?

Copernicus talked about a huge shift in the world’s thinking. Consider how you can make this shift. It is time to recover your point of reference and thereby reclaiming your life.

What external points of reference have I lived for?

In what ways have I shifted to an internal point of reference?

What can I do to complete the shift?


10) Comparison, Competitiveness, Conformity v. Freedom from Proving Yourself

Many of us fall into comparing ourselves with others in order to size ourselves to see if we are good enough or even the best. To feel good about ourselves we try to fit in, find our place of belonging or force our way through winning. Whether we are trying to keep up with the Joneses, be perfect, engage in the rat race or follow the winning sports team; we often get caught up in getting our worthiness from external comparison with others. Sometimes this is socially acceptable like getting good grades or winning at sports or unacceptable like put-downs or bullying.

It is important to set yourself free from the game of proving your value from things that are fleeting and actually do not represent your value as a person.

How have I struggled with comparison, competiveness or conformity?

In what ways have I become free from comparing?

What can I do to complete the shift?


Remember the Roman Numeral 16, XVI.

XVI represents this entire shift – from eXternals to Internals. You will never become a man of integrity if externals even remotely control or direct your life.

Write XVI in various places to remind you of this vital shift in your life. Put it on sticky notes, write it permanently on various objects you use. Continue to make this significant shift in your life – Remember!

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