Is Something in Your Life Feeling “Not Quite Right”? Why Values Matter
Have you ever felt a low-grade discomfort when something in your life just isn’t right or a situation isn’t sitting well with you? Your values might be out of alignment, says therapist Dr. Fae Frederick.
What are values and why are they important?
Values are the principles that guide our big and small choices every day – and throughout our lives. We may choose to purchase reusable bags for our groceries because we value the environment. We may turn down a full-time job offer because we value the flexibility of working for ourselves.
Sometimes we don’t even realise what our values are, and how they are driving our decisions and behaviours. What’s more, our values are often in conflict and we may have to make tough choices in an instant. For example, would you stop to help someone who dropped their papers if you were late to a meeting? If the answer is no, you might value achievement, pleasing others, or financial security (if you will be fired for being late) over kindness or helpfulness. The tricky thing is that maybe society has pushed a value of achievement on you but YOU really do value kindness. If this is the case, you might spend the rest of the day feeling guilty about not helping out.
If you have you ever felt a low-grade discomfort when something just isn’t right, this is usually a sign that your values aren’t aligned. And, just like grinding your teeth while you sleep, this can cause headaches and other pains. Unaligned values can make our daily lives very uncomfortable.
How do we align our values?
Get started by explicitly stating your values. This can be hard to do, as we don’t often talk about our values. You may want to speak to a therapist to explore this topic.
Some reflection questions that can help you identify your values include:
- What qualities do you most admire in yourself or others (e.g., excellence in your field)?
- What “mottos” or sayings do you use (e.g., “If you’re on time, you’re late” could relate to values of punctuality and/or keeping one’s word)?
Next, examine which of these values/mottos came from your family or society and ask yourself:
- Is this value still true for me?
- How has it changed over time?
Maybe physical appearance or achievement is not as important to you as it was to your parents. Your ideas of success – including relationship success – might be very different. Or maybe you have a value of creativity or relaxation that was never emphasized in your family. (If you want to learn more about values and alignment, check out this short video.)
Finally, once you have your updated list of values, you can refer to that list when you need to make tough choices. When you get that new job offer across the world, you can check in and see which values it might fulfil for you. If adventure, travel, new experiences, and financial comfort (if it is a high-paying job) are higher on your list (right now) than values like family time, home comforts, and being near old friends, then the job might be a good fit for you. Or you might take a job at home with a lower salary so you can be close to an ageing family member.
Remember: There are no good or bad values. If your choices are aligned with YOUR values (not just the ones passed down to you), then you will be able to live without regrets. You will be able to say “I made the best choice at the time”.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to a supportive professional to get clear on your values. Therapy isn’t just for people in crisis, it’s for anyone who needs a little help getting to know themselves better.
What are your values, and how did you identify them? We’d love to hear more!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Fae Frederick is a US licensed therapist abroad. She speaks two languages (English and US Foreign Service acronyms) and works with adults all over the globe who want to create a more meaningful life for themselves, no matter where they are. Fae specialises in existential concerns, finding/aligning values, and men’s issues. For free resources, more information, or to schedule a free consultation, visit drfae.com.
PHOTO: Pexels/Leah Kelley