Do you ever feel unhappy, disconnected from yourself, dissatisfied, sad, depressed or like there’s something missing from your life? Often when we feel like this it’s because we’re not living our values. And because our values represent who we are, when we don’t honour our values – what we’re actually saying is I’m not important. And that’s always going to feel bad.
So, if you’re feeling unhappy, here are 7 examples of how you may have got disconnected from your values:
- You formed a negative association with one of your values. Example: A small child expresses wonder or a teenager is idealistic about the world and a parent makes fun of them or angrily points out that they’re wasting time or being stupid. We learn to shut down and stop expressing our wonder or idealism but later in life feel miserable, like something is missing in our lives.
We learned that expressing this core value led to trouble – shame, ridicule, anger. So as adults we go out of our way to avoid expressing this core value – even though it’s really important to us.
- You’re afraid of what your values represent. Example: During recuperation from a major health threat we learn how important rest and relaxation is to us, yet once recovered we go back to working late evenings and weekends. We have more health issues, arguments with our spouse. We feel trapped but don’t know how to break the cycle.
We’re afraid and unsure what to do with this life changing realisation. It means facing some difficult challenges, so instead of implementing what we learned, it’s easier to go back to living our life the way we always have.
- You’ve moved onto new values, but are still living the old ones. Example: A parent taught us, “Hard work, that’s what it’s all about!” but lately we’ve realised how important fun is. Yet we keep pushing ourselves harder and experience increasing levels of dissatisfaction with life and internal conflict.
Our values are outdated. We’re living our lives according to a value we were taught – but no longer believe in.
- A negative value is so deeply ingrained, it’s a habit – and you’re not even conscious of it. Example: We had a parent who taught us that ‘one-upmanship’ was where it was at – to always be better than those around us. Our parents divorced as a result and we decided we would be different. Yet, we keep upsetting our spouse and co-workers through our unconscious habit of having the last word. Why are people upset with us? What’s wrong with everyone?
We’re simply blinded by habit. We CONSCIOUSLY reject a value we have been taught, but are still UNCONSCIOUSLY expressing it in our lives.
- You’re so focused on one value that you’ve lost sight of the bigger picture. Example: A value of excellence could become so important and extreme that we sacrifice our weekend (and attending our child’s football match) to finish a work document to an excessively high standard. Excellence has become perfectionism – and has trumped important values like love, family and happiness. We feel miserable but don’t know how to let go.
We’ve become value obsessed. We put so much effort into one value that we lose sight of the bigger picture and it prevents us from expressing other equally and possibly more important values.
- You don’t know what your values are, so you emulate others. Example: We admire John’s devotion to helping others. We think we want to be like him so we continually volunteer which leaves us no time for our own passions and activities. We end up tired, grumpy and unhappy – but don’t know why.
We’re unsure who we are. We observe qualities in someone we admire and try to emulate their values – when it isn’t really us.
- You’re living your life with ‘Should’ values. Example: We’ve done everything right, we have the perfect life and everyone says how lucky we are. We know we SHOULD be happy, yet we feel like we are living someone else’s life. We are unhappy and frustrated but can’t explain why.
We grew up in an environment where we were constantly told how to be and were rewarded with love and affection when we did what was expected of us. We’re living life the way we got rewarded for; we have learned how we SHOULD be, but not who WE are.
So, which of these resonate with you? Do you know what your values are?
Knowing your values is SO important because while a value-driven life can still be hard, living your values fills that hole and connects you to yourself. It leads to increased confidence, self-respect AND self-esteem. Knowing and respecting your values is a stepping stone to claiming YOUR unique power and creating a truly fulfilling and meaningful life.
“When we begin to cultivate awareness of our thoughts and emotions, we begin to see just how much we live according to other people’s and society’s beliefs and actions. Don’t get upset by this. Just get in touch with how you really think and feel inside and begin to express your authenticity.” Alan Keightley
Next week: Looking at Identifying Your Values.
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