Something I work with almost ALL OF MY CLIENTS on, is improving our relationship with ourselves. This starts with changing the way we evaluate our worth by exploring our core values. There are many factors that influence how we evaluate our worth including:
- Society values
- Family values
- Our experience growing up
- Pressures such as perfectionism, making money and the focus on beauty
- Need for approval
- Need for control
One thing we know in psychology, is that people tend to be happier, have fewer psychological issues (like as anxiety and depression), and have a more consistent positive experience in life when they use INTRINSIC VALUES to evaluate themselves, vs EXTRINSIC VALUES.
EXTRINSIC VALUES (the ones we want to avoid when possible) include factors such as achievements, compliments, approval, and social media responses (such as the amount of “likes.” There is a big difference of using EXTRINSIC VALUES as a motivator or goal versus using them to evaluate one’s worth. A common problem people experience when using extrinsic values to evaluate themselves, is they can be doing everything well, and not be getting the feedback they need. Extrinsic values are often out of our control and we don’t get accurate feedback because we rely on others – such as a boss (who may not be good at giving positive feedback), society (that often has ulterior motives such as to sell us something), or an arbitrary assessment (such as a test that focuses on a small proportion of your knowledge).
WE ARE MORE THAN OUR ACHIEVEMENTS, JOB, MONEY, ATTRACTIVENESS TO OTHERS, POPULARITY, and STATUS.
So………what are INTRINSIC VALUES and how do we integrate them in our lives?
INTRINSIC VALUES are values that tell us about who we are. These values are typically consistent throughout our adult lives (and often developing in childhood and adolescence). There is no intrinsic value that is better than the other. Here is a Intrinsic Values worksheet that I give out to help prompt thinking. There are many more values a person can use – but Intrinsic Values list will help you get started.
From the list, choose 5-10 values that are true to you. This may take a few read overs to go from a larger list to a smaller list.
A way to tell a true value vs. “nice to have traits” is that if you were to get $500 000 to no longer have that value, would you take the money? For example, I like being tidy and I know society values it (and those around me), but I would take the money to no longer be tidy. However, I would not take the money to no longer be kind, helpful or hardworking. So these are my true values. Also be aware of the pull towards values that society values – that may not be as true to you.
Societal values are constantly changing – and remember, this is about finding your own PERSONALIZED values, that tell us about what influences your thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
Questions to Ponder
- After looking at the list, is this someone you would want to be friends with?
- Does this give you any new perspective about why you enjoy certain people, and why others seem not to be a good fit in your life?
- Do your values give you any new deeper insight about a value conflict when you have been upset or hurt?
Incorporating INTRINSIC VALUES Into Your Life
- Each week or two (set an alarm), rate yourself from a scale of 1-10 of how much you incorporated these values into your life. A lower score does not indicate poor performance, it means that may be a value that may need expressing or nurturing in the next coming weeks. Likewise a 10 does not mean perfection, it means you utilized that trait highly during that time period.
- The above activity is also good to do when you are feeling down or upset. If you are upset with another person, focus on yourself, and notice what the situation says about you, rather than being judgemental of someone else.
- When working on a new goal, such as a healthier lifestyle, studying for a new career, or trying something new, be extra purposeful of using these INTRINSIC VALUES along side when evaluating progress. For example, put a sticky note with your values on the scale to prompt you.