In many of my sessions recently, I have found myself talking with folks about their core values, their central goals, and their most important priorities. That is probably not surprising, since therapy is a space to examine your life. What used to surprise me was how frequently clients can’t quite come up with an answer when I ask them, “What is most important to you?”
It is a common theme for many of my clients to be unsure about their core values. That might show up in uncertainty about work choices, or questions about relationship patterns. Sometimes, not knowing core values appears when people are questioning their own worth.
The more I thought about this, the more sense it made to me. Our identity is our foundation. If you are not sure about who you really are, deep down, then you may be doing many things that aren’t a good reflection of yourself. You might have a job that you aren’t passionate about. You might be putting up with unhealthy relationship dynamics. You might walk through your day waiting for someone to call you out on your lack of worth or expertise. When I say, “What do you stand for?” that may feel like a challenging question. Not knowing your core values, and how your talents can be best expressed, can lead to ongoing anxiety and eventually depression.
So, how do you feel when you see that question? If it feels challenging, then I’m going to invite you to sit with the question for a bit. I think that having an answer to that question is the beginning of feeling comfortable in your own skin. It is the start of a life that feels fulfilling and engaged. If your brain went into panic mode, here are a few other ways to explore your core values:
- What would you do, day in and day out, for free?
- How would you spend your time if you had no financial worries?
- What was your favorite activity as a kid? As a teenager? As a young adult?
- Did you have a dream career? Are you doing it?
- What hopes do you write off as impractical?
- How do you want to be remembered? Does your life reflect that?
- What is a quality of yours that your friends and family would identify?
- What is a quality of yours that would be a surprise to those around you.
Both as a mental health professional and as someone who is fortunate enough to have a job that does express my core values and talents, I passionately believe that a sense of meaning leads to a better life.
Do you have tools or questions that helped you find what you stand for? Please share them in the comments. Need help working through your core values? You can always reach out for support.
Oh, and to get you started with your reflection, here is a little musical encouragement from the group Fun. I bet the refrain will stick with you.
Image Credit: “What Do You Stand For” collage from www.tcaps.net