What Are Personal Values?

by Andrea M. Darcy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Long to find a roadmap for how to live your life? Want to make better decisions? And feel better about yourself and where you are heading?

Then you need to learn about personal values.

What are personal values?

Personal values, also called 'core values', are the perspectives and behaviours that matter most to you.

They include things like loyalty and freedom, cooperation and competition, wealth and charity, knowledge and success, honesty and progress.

When we live from our values, life has purpose, and we feel energised. Living against our values, on the other hand, can leave us with a constant feeling of 'pushing up a hill'.

Are they really YOUR values?

Living by our values sound great -- but it can be harder to recognise our values then it seems.

Many of us, if we grew up in close families, with a longstanding circle of friends, can mistake the values of those around us with our own.

Until we find the courage to step back, and reflect on what actually drives us over what we think should drive us, we remain stuck.

Signs you are NOT living by your values

So how do you know that you are going against your values? Possible signs can be that you:

  • often feel exhausted and overwhelmed
  • don't feel excited to get out of bed in the morning
  • commit to doing things then feel a sinking feeling inside
  • set goals but never accomplish them
  • worry all the time what other people will think
  • find yourself saying things without knowing why you say them
  • feel jealous or panicky around people who are full of passion for what they do
  • seek endless distraction- substance misuse, bingeing on TV, going out every night.

How do you know what your values are?

It can take a bit of soul searching, self-observation, and honesty to pinpoint our true values.

We might even have to face some discomfort, as we realise we might not be as alike our friends or partners as we’ve told ourselves we are.

One place to start is to look at your energy levels.

  • When do you feel most energised and alive doing?
  • What draws you in to the point you forget about timekeeping?

And when you talk about the greatest moments of your life, are there any patterns?

  • Were these moments always with others (a value of community and connection)?
  • Or alone (a value of spirituality, or self-awareness?)

Or ask questions that switch your perspective.

  • If you were told you had a year left to live, what would you do with your time?
  • And if you won the lottery? What then?

Then look at novels, films, stories, and articles you are attracted to.

  • What is their general theme? Are they stories of adventure, of good triumphing over bad?
  • What does that tell you about yourself and what you value?

How do values help mental health?

Living against our values can contribute to anxiety and depression.

For example, if your true values are freedom and adventure, but you are expected to stay in your home town and run the family accountancy firm, you might feel increasingly stifled, until you are depressed. If your sibling, on the other hand, values stability, they might feel anxious taking a job travelling overseas and away from family.

I can’t find my personal values, what do I do?

Working with a coach or therapist is a great way to identify your personal values. Talk therapists are trained at advanced listening and reflecting, which can create a kind of clarity we just don’t get when talking to friends and family.

Not only do therapists help you identify your values, they help you find your way forward into a life led by those values, so that you are no longer living a life where you please everyone but yourself.

Time to get serious about living from your personal values? Use our easy booking tool to find the perfect therapist for you and get started.

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