We do, or we learn to, value ourselves in terms of our worth and self-belief but how much attention do we place on valuing our values? Knowing our values, what is really important to us, and living by them is a vital component in our happiness.
We’ve all heard people say things like, “I love him/her but it just isn’t working and I don’t know why” and “I love it and on paper it fits but it just doesn’t feel right”. Identifying and understanding what is missing or the ‘gap’, is important and beneficial to help us make changes towards meeting our needs and fulfilment in life.
You may like to try this exercise. Focus on an area of your life that you may be currently experiencing dissatisfaction and make a list of everything that is really important to you. That will include some of the more obvious factors, such as ‘shared interests’ and ‘loyalty’ in a relationship or ‘salary’ and ‘opportunity for promotion’ in a job, for example, but try to dig much deeper within your awareness to identify what is really personal and important to you rather than what you want others to provide for you. So, for example, rather than ‘I want it/them/him/her to do…’ it comes from a place of ‘I really value…touch/laughter/freedom/responsibility…’ for example.
Given that everything on your list will be important to you, we need to understand their relative importance; which are ‘essentials’ to you. So now give each a value score from one to 10 of how important it is to you (one being least, 10 being most). It may come as a surprise to you to learn what things score highly and are not necessarily always in your consciousness. Now score those factors in relation to what you currently experience from the situation you are in and compare that with your ideal.
You may then be able to identify where the gaps are and know what to work on or change. Indeed, you may identify areas which are personal issues, such as valuing reassurance due to feelings of insecurity as an example, where you may need to engage in some self-development as they are affecting your general well-being or something that you could work on with your partner in a relationship or speak to your employer about opportunities to change or develop your role. If this isn’t possible or there is a total mis-match, then it may be time to move on to what suits you. Square peg in a round hole springs to mind.
Can there be a compromise if values differ? Compromise suggests a balance but in reality means that someone is ‘giving up’ something which ultimately may result in frustration, resentment and unhappiness. Maybe it is more beneficial to think of it as understanding and accepting the value that you place on something and if that something is unimportant or of lower value to you but is to another, such as a partner or employer, then as long as it is not detrimental or harmful to your well-being, it may not be a matter of ‘giving up’ or ‘giving in’ but instead an act of understanding, acceptance, consideration and caring for yourself and others to be flexible. Communication of what is important to you will help both you and others achieve that.
This exercise is not the solution but rather a tool; the first step in reflection and self-awareness on that journey. It is also not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes we don’t realise what we value until we find ourselves in a situation that is unfulfilling and we don’t know why. It may be that it works against our inner values. Thus it may be useful to complete this exercise on an area in your life that is fulfilling to identify the differences. Knowing and valuing our values will help us to make decisions that are right for us.
If you struggle with this, it raises difficult thoughts and emotions or you identify areas that you feel you would like help to develop further, it may be beneficial to make contact with a therapist who would be able to help you explore this further in a safe environment.