When do you feel most like your true self?
The short answer is when you live your life in line with what you value.
How would you describe your true self. Quick! Without a lot of thinking.
Tell me about your true self. Avoid hesitating. . .
If you’re like most people, that’s not the easiest task. We look for the right answer, the socially acceptable answer.
And we might feel embarrassed because we could sound like we’re bragging or worse, exaggerating saying positive things about ourselves that are a wish but aren’t real.
Here’s a work around to get at those traits and characteristics you value.
Think of someone you admire. What is it about them? What do they embody? It could be a person in your life, a famous person or a character in a book or video.
In this context, there’s a vibrant female character in the tv series, Poldark, who comes to mind for me. She is strong, hard-working, attractive, ethical, street smart, a great problem solver, a loyal loving partner and very alive.
Just writing these words about her makes me feel a little excited and inspired.
The exercise spotlights a reflection of what we value about ourselves or aspire to be more of. Demelza, the fiery red head in Poldark embodies traits
I revere about being a vital woman and my best self.
It’s about values.
What we value spills into all of our decisions and choices. And the reason
I’m talking about it here is that when our goals are NOT in alignment with what we value, it’s almost impossible to commit to them.
Unfortunately, many of us make decisions based on what we think we should do from our families, friends, school and what society says. It’s not what we really care about in our heart of hearts.
Knowing what’s important to us, what we sincerely and perhaps secretly care about, makes it much clearer and satisfying to choose and assess opportunities and goals.
That makes sense, right?
But, how many people really know what they value? Less than you might think because we’re not invited or guided to find our unique set of core beliefs and wants.
The truth is we talk about values as if they’re the same for everyone. “Find a career, love relationship, company that’s in sync with your values.” To make choices that are in alignment with our wants, needs and heartfelt concerns, we first need to identify what we mean by values. Because our values guide our life decisions, it’s critical to be honest with ourselves and avoid listing what we think they should be. And we need to reassess them over time and life stage, because they do change. For example, when I was in my 20’s breaking away from a religious family with strong rules, I MOST valued Freedom. That’s no longer a priority, maybe because I earned my freedom back then.
Knowing what is meaningful to you will help in thinking about your current goals and how they fit your personal belief system.
To begin to identify what you value in life, consider these questions in addition to the one I shared above about people you admire.
What inspires you to take action? Can you think of a time or situation when you took a risk to stand up for someone or something?
Ex: Years ago, while I was walking my 120 lb Doberman in Central Park, a man entered with his aggressive German Shepherd, off leash. His dog saw mine and started charging at us, NOT barking – a sign of serious intent to do harm. I don’t consider myself a hero, but anger surged, and I stepped in front of my oversized pup and started waving angrily and yelling at the dog. He stopped surprised, long enough for his owner to rush up and get him back on leash.
It was a crazy thing for me to do, to protect my attack trained Doberman. But I felt so proud of myself, to take that risk, to have the courage to shield my dog. It was spontaneous. I didn’t think about it, just went into action because I had to. And then I got to see that aspect of self that could put someone I loved before my own safety. I LOVED seeing my courage. It was the first time I realized it was something important to me.
When do you feel most like yourself? Where are you, what are you doing, who are you with, what was the outcome?
Ex: One of the most exhilarating moments in my life was running a professional workshop at a national convention among my peers. 30 people had signed up, but 100 showed. They came to learn from me. I teach by engagement. I demonstrated several creative exercises, one of them included everyone in the room. People were involved, speaking up, asking questions, laughing at the right moments and very appreciative. It felt exciting and was such a validation of my efforts. I was glowing for a week.
And conversely, when do you wither as if what you’re doing is a self betrayal? What are you doing, where are you, who’s there, what’s the result?
Ex: A number of years ago I took a research project from someone I shouldn’t have. He was one of the managers in a well known corporation that was a major client of mine. I worked with most of the managers who tended to be more innovative and creative in their approach to research. They had chosen me because of my training in psychology and interest in understanding consumers’ underlying reasons for purchase. But this man didn’t believe in psychology. He was a pragmatist. He believed in asking direct questions and taking action based on the answers. He didn’t understand that the type of questions mattered and why sometimes it was important to learn indirectly. [More about indirect questions in another article.]
The RFP [Request for Proposal] he sent me asked for my best insight mining techniques. I suggested them. He agreed. But, when we actually started the project, my approach made him uncomfortable; so much so that he rejected all of the ideas and would only use his “tried and true” approach. I could write a full paper on why they were not appropriate, but that’s another topic.
I had to work with him for 2 months, second guessing me and rejecting my hypotheses, observations and understanding that other marketing people would have appreciated. It was misery. He made decisions on the research that didn’t reflect the findings. I was mortified. I’m a professional! How could he dismiss the research results out of hand?! I questioned myself and my integrity. It was definitely not worth the substantial money I made or the damage to my self-concept as someone with appropriate research ethics.
When you’re in situations that allow you to be authentic, that’s a clue that you are in alignment with your values. And when you have to betray yourself to fit in or find success, you may feel regretful and alone.
You’re probably seeing some patterns emerge as you think about these questions and what’s important to you.
From what I wrote above you might see some of the core things that are important to me, things I value that make me feel good about myself. My answers to the questions suggest these values . . .
Being hard working
Being street smart
Being a great problem solver
Being a loyal loving partner
Caring for those in my trust
Being a good teacher
Being a smart detective
Take the time to answer the above questions and start making your own list of what you value. It’s a great exercise in getting to know yourself better. You may find some surprises that are valuable.
In the next article, I’ll help you expand your list, prioritize and relate your values back to your goals.
And, when you think about that illusive goal you have, the one that seems so hard to bring to life, start to ask yourself if it’s in tune with your real self and your personal values?
Whatever you discover, it’s all good.
We’ll figure it out.
In the meantime, be creative and enjoy the journey. And I want you to know that I value YOU.