Values: we’ve all got them, but how often do we think about them? It’s worth checking in with ourselves every so often as to what our values are, and how consistent our behaviour is with those values. Unlike goals, values are not an endpoint, but rather a guiding direction. Acceptance and commitment therapy offers some assistance in this values clarification process, and there are some useful worksheets here.
Some of the values that I’ve identified:
- staying true to myself
- keeping an open mind
- curiosity and ongoing learning
- exposing myself to new things/cultures/places
- independence, autonomy, and freedom of choice
- being able to express myself
- having a sense of meaning and purpose
- helping others
- challenging stigma
- being a good furbaby mama
- working towards wellness, taking care of myself
- fairness, justice
One thing I’m working on clarifying for myself is whether the importance I place on fairness and justice is purely a value or whether there’s an element of cognitive distortion (the fallacy of fairness) muddying the water. Also, I used to have certain work ethic beliefs that have unfortunately not served me well, but they get tied in with my sense of integrity and so I get a sense of dissonance when I go against them. I used to value helping my coworkers and was happy to inconvenience myself to some extent in order to support my teammates, but as it’s become clear that no one was willing to do the same for me, I’ve chosen to be selfish and only look out for myself. It’s necessary, but still not really congruent with my values.
Aside from those muddy bits, my values have remained pretty much constant over my adult life, although over time the level of priority I place on each has probably shifted. I think it was helpful that my mental illness didn’t begin until I was already an adult and had a clear idea of who I was and what I valued. Because of that, I’m pretty confident that the values I hold now come from me and not from my illness.
Values can also be used as the the basis for actions that promote greater joy, including acting out kindness and compassion. This serves as a much more solid foundation for wellbeing that striving for transient emotions like happiness.
Do you ever reflect on your values? Are there things that you struggle with?
Embrace Acceptance: A Guided Journal draws on concepts from acceptance and commitment therapy to help you move towards a place of greater acceptance. It’s available FREE from the MH@H Store.