Dealing with distressing experiences like memories of sexual abuse, anxiety, and depression takes a lot of our energy, and at times it might feel like it takes all you’ve got just to stay afloat. In order to get ourselves in a better place to deal with these difficulties and life’s problems in general, it is worth putting some time and energy into identifying what you stand for as a person: what you value.
Our values act as a kind of reference guide or compass for who we are, how we act in particular situations and where we want to go in life. If we possess a clear sense of purpose and direction, and act according to our values, then we are less likely to feel overwhelmed or be knocked off course when we experience challenging situations.
Our values might be based on how we were brought up, on religious or spiritual tradition, or a particular ethics or approach to life that we have adopted. We might value being calm, honest, considerate, ‘giving people a fair go’, being creative, thoughtful, reliable, ‘doing our best’.
Whatever the history of our values, they are essentially our sense of the right way for us to live. When we act in accordance with our values, we generally see our life as purposeful and meaningful.
Tips for identifying your values:
We usually hold our values implicitly; in other words, we don’t often consciously think about and name our values in a structured way. By identifying our values, we establish a basic guide for us in our life.
Take some time to think about the following areas of life, and try to identify a word or sentence or two about what is important to you; what kind of person do you want to be and how would you like to act in these areas of life?
We have included some possible suggestions.
- Family relationships – caring, supportive, respectful
- Parenting – loving, caring listener
- Friendships – honest, mateship, ‘being there when needed’
- Work – integrity, efficient, reliable
- Education – open minded, informed, ‘doing my best’
- Recreation, leisure – fun, relaxing, life experiences
- Spirituality – consideration, tolerance, compassionate
- Community involvement – commitment, giving back, connecting with people
- Health and well-being – quiet time, variety, generosity to others
Keeping a record of what you value and how you want to live your life can be useful. Once you have created a record for you, the next step is to start to take some small steps that make these valued part of how you live and act in your life.
This approach to life does not mean we are never confronted by difficult situations, unwelcome thoughts and uncomfortable feelings. It is just our focus is on calming and centring ourselves and acting in accordance with what we have established as our preferred, valued way of living life.