“Define what matters to you and actively pursue that direction.”
Have you ever stopped and thought about what you really want your life to be about? What are you living for? Do you feel like you are living as the person you need to be, that you should, would, could be? Are you believing that you are that person in order to avoid fear? In order to avoid getting caught up by fear and expectations, it is important to define your core values.
What is really important to you? It may be honesty, loyalty, cleanliness, faith, or dependency. Whatever your values, they function as a sort of protective armor against pain. Be careful—they don’t protect against suffering. But they are a toolbox for you to draw on when in the midst of a painful situation—how will you cope, knowing what you truly value? If you value integrity, you may choose to do what your heart is leading you to do even if the path seems unclear or scary. Likewise, if you value gratitude, you will say thank-you to your mind for giving you a thought, even if it is negative, because now you can accept it and watch it float away.
Psychologist Stephen Hayes, PhD., says that we often live by self-conceptualizations—statements that your mind makes about you as a person that you implicitly take as literal truths. Just because you thought it doesn’t mean it is real. Radical, huh?
Indeed, part of figuring out your core values means being willing to confront your suffering. Martha Beck said, “Once we’re willing to confront emotional suffering, we begin making choices based on attraction instead of aversion, love instead of fear”. This helps us to live a more real, fulfilling life. As Beck says, “where we used to think about what was ‘safe’, we now become interested in doing what seems right or fun or meaningful or ripe with possibilities.” And the best thing is that when we live as our true, authentic selves, going through pain only helps us to learn more about ourselves. When you accept your pain, it “leaves you healthier than it found you.” So what kills you doesn’t necessarily make you stronger–it just makes you more you, if you accept it and work to heal rather than fight.
Once you figure out you truly value honesty, it makes it hard to justify isolating yourself with your emotions. If, like me, one of your top three core values is affection, you are going against your beliefs by living with self-hatred. Join me in learning to live a life where you are able to turn your outward displays of affection inward.
“When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” –Audre Lorde