If you’re anything like me, you can recall plenty of times when you went against your values and gave into doing, saying, or even being something you later regretted.
Aligning with your values is one of the most important elements of stepping into your true empowerment. But first, you need to know what those values are, what they represent for you, and where you are or are not living in alignment with them.
Discovering Your Values
In order to live in alignment with our values, first we need to be clear on what they are.
This sounds simple, but I see dozens of women who, upon being asked about their values, stumble over their words and realize they aren’t very clear. Perhaps they know they value their children, or their home. They might throw Nature or well-being into the mix, but most of the time, the answers are the “shoulds” that they’ve been taught they should value according to cultural standards.
We are each beautifully unique Souls with different perspectives, experiences, challenges, and gifts. We also tend to have different values, and those values usually change or adjust over time.
We must connect with what we value in order to be effective in our life. (If you’d like support becoming effective in alignment with your values, I have an amazing self-study course called Becoming Effective that offers powerful learning in this area.)
When I’m speaking of values, I’m talking about what you care about most at this time in your life. This often requires prioritizing your values.
Shortly after I got divorced, my dog of 15 years died. It gutted me, and I missed her so much. I valued her, and after a time, I longed for another dog. However, I was now a single mother, and facing the reality that taking care of a new dog on top of my two young boys was simply too much for me. It didn’t mean that I didn’t care about animals anymore. It simply meant that I had other values that I needed to ensure were taken care of first.
We simply cannot take care of all that we care about.
While you may have many values, it’s very important that you also determine which values are your priority at this time in your life. This requires us to trust that there will be another time when we can attend to other values. After 11 years without a pet, I now have an adorable 2 year old puppy, and a much different capacity to care for her than I would have when I first got divorced.
List your values, and take time to prioritize what’s most important today.
Standing in Your Values
Knowing our values is one thing, but being able to honor them and stand in them is often an even bigger challenge.
Sometimes in order to fully stand in your values, you need to be confronted with what you don’t value.
Many years ago, an old highschool friend reached out to me via social media after decades of not being in touch. He had a crush on me that began in middle school and lasted long after, though I never felt much of a connection. I was so young at the time, and felt smothered by his affections. When he reached out, it felt nice to connect with an old friend.
We engaged in some online written exchanges, and before long, he wanted to visit. I agreed, and we enjoyed hours of wonderful conversation and a brief affair. During that weekend, I started to see expressions of so many things that were not aligned with me and my values. He smoked, drank like a fish, finished a pot of coffee throughout the day, ate crap, gambled, and was very politically dogmatic.
Even while there were many things we could connect with each other around, we agreed that we were not a match with our values being so drastically different. He returned to his home, each of us expressing appreciation for an enjoyable weekend together.
Upon his return home, he reached out saying that he wanted to quit all of these things…the smoking, drinking, coffee, etc….and try to make a relationship work with me. I was understandably quite hesitant. I thought about Little Red Cap (check out my Wisdom of Fairy Tales course) veering off the path…her Soul’s path…and wondering if I would be doing the same if I gave the relationship a chance. At the same time, I also remembered that the Wisdom of Fairy Tales is about helping us to be more conscious in our choices, recognizing what we might be getting into, and deciding from there.
I decided to give it a try, and set many boundaries that I held strong to. He visited a few more times, and we had many conversations that revealed his underlying hope that it was I that would change my ways, and not him. He wanted me to join him in drinking, and morning coffee. My choice for tea and staying sober was “not normal” to him, and he claimed I would never be loved by anyone as much as he loved me.
Having been a single mother for a while, and longing for a partner in my life, it was very tempting to veer further off of my path out of fear that I might never find another relationship. Thankfully after a couple of months, I broke it off. I learned a valuable lesson in being confronted with values in opposition to mine at a time when I was vulnerable, due to my longing for a loving relationship in my life, to succumbing to compromising my values.
As I considered what mattered most to me, and the manipulation coming from a deeply wounded man, I knew it was an opportunity for me to stand strong in my values and move beyond my fears. In doing so, my values were clarified even more strongly.
These were the words I shared with him:
I am realizing I’m not able to compromise on my values. It’s not anything personal about you. It’s just too important to me, my life and my boys’ lives. Love matters to me, and that love includes the love one has for themselves, enough to treat their body with care and love, enough to believe in the world that good things will come. I get that I may well be alone for the rest of my life with this view, but it’s mine, and it’s real, and it’s noble, and it’s worthy.
I love human beings and care so deeply about people realizing their full potential. I see many turn a blind eye or a deaf ear out of attachment to what they know or are comfortable with, and go on to live a life of misery and/or suffering. I want to do all I can to help others move beyond fear and into the empowerment of who they are. I feel more than ever the importance of not forgetting what matters. I don’t know what I’ll be called to do, but I know that I’m being called. That’s what matters to me now.
With these words, I felt free. I felt that I’d come to a strong, empowered place within me that knew her values and how to stand in them. I knew what I would and would not compromise. This articulation of my deeper values became a strong catalyzing force for the work I’m doing today.
Have you experienced direct opposition to your values? How has it helped you to clarify your values even more?
Forgetting Your Values
No matter how clear we get on our values, or how many trials we go through to learn to stand in our values, we will constantly be tested.
We might be tested by a relationship possibility or a job possibility. We might be tested by a dark night of the Soul that has us rethinking everything in our lives.
Life’s trials and tests are there to help us evolve and define our values as we evolve and grow.
The values you have today are likely not the same as those you had 10 years ago, and they will likely not be the same 10 years from now. Yet values themselves can trick us into thinking we need to hold onto them at all costs.
This is what fundamentalism is about, and there’s no evolution possible with that kind of dogma.
We need to discover our values, and stand in our values. And we also need to regularly re-evaluate our values, asking ourselves if they still resonate or make sense for us at this time in our life.
Often we realize that some of the values we have aren’t even really ours. They’re culturally ingrained in us. Sometimes we see values we didn’t realize we had, such as when certain powerful emotions show up to show us what really matters to us.
Sometimes we forget our values. Sometimes we let them go. The key is to stay in the awareness. Keep asking yourself what matters most to you. Keep practicing living in alignment with your values. In doing so, a life of fulfillment is practically guaranteed.