Exploring Values

Exploring our values and beliefs in the present day is an integral part of a journey to authenticity. Being able to clearly see what our individual values are helps us to be able to make solid decisions in our lives. From this knowing, we might create a more genuine road map for our lives.

The pathway can be bumpy and the journey convoluted if we do not know either who we are or who we want to be. Discerning these ideas is often a process of identifying the source of values and beliefs: our selves, our family, or our society/ culture. Most of an individual’s values and beliefs are transmitted in very early childhood, prior to development of defensive filters. Cultural beliefs and values trickle into family systems that may have their own values and beliefs. These layers will often become internalized in a way that makes us feel as if they are our own.

If we have experienced troubled family relationships, but have internalized our family’s values, we are likely to experience value conflicts, which might show up in emotional or physical symptoms of illness (anxiety, depression, anger, substance abuse, autoimmune disorders).

These internalized values, specifically when based in negative messaging and judgment from our childhood, can also become negative self-talk – the internalized version of voices that may have told us that we were failures or may have rejected us as children. Perhaps we were raised to see self-criticism as a motivator; however, self-critics actually tend to experience less motivation and take less action. Again, these criticisms are generally based on past beliefs and can create regret or fear and so keep a person unable to decide on action.

Part of the work of shifting your reality is separating your values from other peoples. Anytime a behavior is modified by the word “should” it is generally going to be an external value and would represent a value conflict. If a person feels that they “should” get married and have children, but also feels the most happy when camping in the mountains for days at a time, perhaps the family/children values is societal, cultural, or from their family.

Being able to identify and declare personal core values and beliefs frees us from feeling a need to please other people through our choices and allows us to meet on a level playing field. It allows us to show up in the present moment as who we are, not as who people think we should be or should have been. Acceptance of ourselves as we are in the present moment and then practicing compassion toward our authentic selves, moves us toward living with integrity.