Where Do Our Values Come From?

When you hear the word "values," what is the first thing that comes to mind? Perhaps that word is reminiscent of the moral code your parents ingrained in you as a child. Or maybe you are drawn back to a religious text that outlines what you should or should not value. Maybe you are thinking, instead, of what has become important to you over the years as you have developed your own way of life.

Either way, thinking about our values tends to evoke a certain emotional response which may manifest itself in a certain physical reaction. 

Did you hold your breath while reading the first paragraph? Did you roll your eyes when I mentioned your family's moral code or a religious text? Did you breathe a sigh of relief when you realized that you have actually chosen your values? Do you want to distance yourself as far as possible from the values you were raised up into or do you find yourself filled with nostalgia at the thought of your childhood values?

Whatever your response was, it is perfectly normal. Thinking about our values, or the principles and ideals that we revere as most important and essential to how we live our lives, can bring up a lot of emotion. And this is with good reason.

There are two types of values: fear-based values and conscious-based values.

Fear-based values are ideas and principles that we choose out of fear that something bad will happen if we don't live out that principle. An example of a fear-based value would be someone upholding honesty as essential to their lives because when they were a kid, their dad was dishonest and unfaithful to their mom and it wrecked their family. In this person's mind, dishonesty is equivalent to pain and destruction and therefore, they highly value honesty because life seems too chaotic without it.

On the other hand, conscious-based values are chosen values that are intentionally created because a person believes that specific value creates a positive life experience. For example, another person could highly value honesty because throughout their friendships, honesty has proven time and time again to build trust and intimacy and a sense of safety in the relationship. 

Do you see the difference?

Most of us carry a mixture of both fear-based and conscious-based values. As we become more self-aware and in tune with who we are and what is really most important to us, sometimes the fear-based values fall off as they are replaced with chosen, or conscious-based values, that more adequately reflect what we want our lives to resemble instead of what we are afraid it might resemble. 

So what values are most important to you?

Here's a short exercise to find out:

1. Write down a list of your top 10 values.

Remember, values are the concepts and principles that are most important to us. (i.e. honesty, humor, integrity, community, authenticity, enjoyment, etc.)

2. Next to each word, write down what feeling each word evokes.

In other words, if you see the word honesty and think "I have to be honest or else something bad will happen," then put a star by that word. If your value word brings up a different thought, such as, "Honesty makes me feel like more of myself and feels like such a foundational component of my healthiest friendships," then circle that word. 

*note: a star denotes a fear-based value while a circle denotes a conscious-based value

3. Take some time during the week to meditate on your values.

Brainstorm ways in which you can make each of your chosen values feel empowering (something that makes you more of yourself) rather than disempowering (something that brings up fear and makes you feel like you have to play small or live out of a "what if something bad happens" mentality).

If you want to do a more in-depth exploration of your values or learn what it means to align your life with your values, shoot me a message on my contact page and we can chat about it during a free session. 

We will be talking a lot more about values in the weeks to come, so stay curious and look out for future posts!