Every one of us has core values or inner beliefs that we refuse to compromise no matter what. We learn some information about values typically while growing up from the practices and beliefs of our families of origin or other various community involvements. Some people do not solidify their core values until someone challenges their belief system, and it is also true that values and beliefs can change as we change and interact with the world. How you respond in the face of adversity is a good indication of how good you are at staying true to yourself.
Staying true to yourself means that you act in harmony with who you are and what you believe. It means that your "insides", your feelings and beliefs, matches your "outsides", or your actions. The term congruency is used to describe this reflection of values-based actions.
How to Identify Your Core Values
Think through what you believe to be your core values and jot them down. Good friends may see things that you do not in terms of what is important to you, so talking to a friend or another trusted person can help you to ask yourself the right questions.
Brainstorm about the values that you held tightly to during the most important events in your life, for example, when someone you loved passed away; when you achieved a major goal; when you dared to go against the crowd. Think about any times that you felt guilty or led astray because you trusted others more than yourself. Your emotions can be good information for you when it comes to determining what is truly important to you.
Maybe a few words on this list of over 200 personal values will help. Some examples of core values are: Dependability, Reliability, Loyalty, Commitment, Open-mindedness, Consistency, Honesty, Efficiency, Innovation, Creativity, Good humor, Compassion, Spirit of adventure, Motivation, Positivity, Optimism, Passion, Respect, Fitness, Courage, Education, Perseverance, Patriotism, Service to others, Environmentalism, Wealth, Health, Spirituality, Friendship
Group your values into themes. For example, group terms like honesty, genuineness, and truthfulness together. Come up with one word in each group that most closely represents what you believe. Try to narrow down the choices to less than ten words. Core values are not something that you need to judge as "right" or "wrong", they are merely concepts that are of differing importance to you.
Testing Your Core Values: Do You Stay True to Yourself?
Keep your list handy in a place where you can access it easily. Review your values every day for a while, and tweak the list as necessary.
The best times to test your core values, or when you know that your values are being tested, are when you have hard decisions to make or when you feel uncomfortable about something. For example:
Your friends are going to a party where it is bound to get wilder than you are comfortable with. Do your core values support going or making other plans?
Your co-workers are gossiping about how hot the new boss is. Do your core values suggest that you should join in or smile and walk away?
Perhaps one of the most difficult decisions that people make is whether to end a toxic relationship with someone they care about. Having a good understanding of your core values should give you some clues on how to approach the situation. If you choose to end the relationship based on things about the other person that you just cannot compromise on, you can know that you did the right thing because you feel great about sticking to your core values.
It may help to get counseling from the professional therapists at BetterHelp.com for tough decisions like this one above.
YOUR Values, Your Choices
You have a right to how you feel, think, and believe, and you have a right to decide where to draw the line regarding your values and actions. If other people's actions are making you feel uncomfortable because they encroach on a value of yours, you have a right to say so. These considerations for yourself and others are often referred to as boundaries. We can decide which boundaries work for us in different types of relationships and situation, and you do not need to give a lengthy explanation about why you are drawing a line.
Staying True to Yourself When You Can't Act on Your Truth
We would all feel great if we could stick to our core values every day, but the fact is that sometimes it is just impossible, or at least not in the best interests of the current situation. The instances where you feel stuck between a core value and a pull in another direction can be a dilemma.
Perhaps you dislike some of your in-laws because of their politics, and you simply tolerate family gatherings. Honesty is one of your values, but being candid about this fact will only hurt your spouse and family. For the sake of keeping peace with your spouse, it may be best to go anyway and keep your discomfort to yourself. It may be okay to admit this fact to your spouse, but if you can't, at least admit it to yourself and take appropriate action. You can always shorten your visits or draw other boundaries with a partner's family so that you do not feel too overextended.
The Benefits of Owning Your Truth
Knowing and following your core values will help you to be your genuine self. It gives you the freedom to follow your own values system without giving in to pressure from others. Following your core values makes you happy because you can let go of the inner conflict that leads you to a decision that makes you feel guilty for short-changing yourself or not being "you". Being true to yourself and clear about who you are can also change your interpersonal relationships for the better because people around you feel like they can trust that your actions and words match your inner feelings and intentions. Relationships with genuine people can feel healthier to be in and to navigate.
You may find it easier to make important life decisions when you feel clear about your values. For example, you may get a job offer from two different companies. Corporations and other companies often have value statement or corporate values that you can look into to see how well they match your personal values. This practice can help when choosing friends and potential life partners as well. We tend to feel closer to and naturally drawn towards people whose values are similar to our own. So, the greater you know your inner self, the easier these decisions may become. Knowing what your values are can help you to set goals that truly are important to you. When you are moving in a direction that feels important, your life becomes more meaningful.