There are many things in life that can derail us from our true values and authentic selves.
When this happens, it can be hard to find ourselves again.
Who You Were vs. Who You Are
We often find it difficult to accept that, for better or worse, time and experiences change us.
When recognizing a need to act more in alignment with our values, it can be tempting to try to go back to a past version of ourselves.
This causes conflicting thoughts and feelings and sets us up for failure because, the truth is, we are no longer that person.
Whether just the passage of time, natural transitions of life, or specific challenging events, every experience we has changed and shapes us
When working to build a life that feels fulfilling to you, begin with determining what your values are now, not what they once were.
Perhaps you once found having many friends and going out often valuable and fulfilling but now prefer a few loyal support people and nights in. You do not need to believe these are “wrong” to accept that they are no longer your values.
Growth isn’t about learning what is “better” and shaming your past self, it is about taking what worked and felt true to you from the past, acknowledging it in your present, and intentionally bringing it with you to the future.
It is about recognizing the strengths and pitfalls of your past self and combining them with who you are now.
Identifying Your Current Values
The best way to identify what it is you value in the present moment is to ask yourself questions and commit to giving honest answers.
Imagine you are dating yourself and ask all of the questions you would ask of a potential partner.
Explore what you like about yourself, how you give and receive love, what joy/anger/annoyance/betrayal feel like for you and what you notice brings these emotions out.
Ask yourself what causes you believe are worth fighting for, what hobbies and skills you are passionate about pursuing, and what you want for your own future.
One therapeutic ideology that promotes values work is known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
In ACT, values are defined as meaningful and purposeful parts of life that individuals care about and that motivate them to engage in actions .
Consider moments when you acted and felt in alignment with yourself. Explore what thoughts, beliefs, circumstances, or emotions drove you to act in those moments and allow that to motivate you to act on them again.
Acting in Alignment with your Values
Insight without action is useless.
Once you recognize your current values and goals in life, it is important to engage in actions that reflect them.
A helpful way to practice doing this consistently is to make choices based on what you value most and your desired outcome.
When making decisions, “which behavior helps me act in this moment while staying in alignment with my values and continuing to move toward my goals?”
It is also important to recognize moments that you are not acting in alignment with your highest values and ask yourself what barriers interfered.
ACT addresses this in encouraging one to “continue acting in the direction of what you care about even if there’s some kind of problem, issue or some kind of obstacle that gets in the way. These obstacles can be emotions or distracting cognitions or self-denigrating thoughts or mindlessness .
Summarized, ACT’s tenets on values-driven actions asks that we “make a behavior change according to your values and accept, defuse, stay aware of your core self and contact the present moment in order to support such behavioral change .”
Living a life that brings you fulfillment and reflects your values is not a difficult thing to do it it does take being honest with yourself, forgiving yourself when you become derailed, and moving forward believing that each day you are becoming closer to your true self.
Resources Moran, DJ. (2020). Values and committed actions in ACT. Psychotherapy Academy. Retrieved from https://psychotherapyacademy.org/acceptance-and-commitment-therapy-the-essentials/values-and-committed-actions-in-act/.
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published May 7, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on May 7, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC