Values are belief systems held by a person or even by a family or even corporately by larger groups like a school, company or culture. In fact, in your school hall, you may even see your school’s values on the walls, encompassing traits like “honesty”, “kindness” and so on.
Ethics is another word that you may hear when talking about values. Both refer to the belief system we have internally that affects what we do externally.
Generally, we tend to adopt the value systems of our family of origin. However, our personal beliefs can also be shaped by values held by our peers, or the community we are a part of.
As you grow older and the sources of influence in your life expands, you may also find your values challenged when you meet people with opposing values. If these people are important to you, feelings of confusion or tension may arise. It may also be tempting to adopt their values.
But why are values so important?
Think of the smartphone or laptop you are using right now to read this article.
Beneath the surface of your device, there’s a complex system of microchips, wires, batteries and motherboard designed to power your device and make it work.
No one sees them but they are there.
Without them, even if you have the laptop casing or phone casing, it won’t work.
Values are like that internal system of intricate wiring and hardwire. They determine your perspectives, attitude, and behaviour on the outside.
They may be unseen but they set the course for your life, aiding you in all the big and small decisions, from simple ones like dressing to complex ones like sexual expression.
They can guide what you choose to view or do on your devices. They also likely influence your choice of friends and even romantic partners in the future.
Besides being that internal engine, values are also like anchors.
They keep you rooted to something when you experience new places, new things and even the storms of life.
Without strong values and committed beliefs, your life may begin to look like a ship that is adrift, easily swayed by external factors or others who have strong opinions. Without values, your emotions can also become an unpredictable leader.
What do you believe is right or wrong? What do you do if the values of others clash with your own? What if your boyfriend or girlfriend has different values regarding sex and sexuality?
These are hard questions for everyone. But remember, your values act like landmarks and signposts to help you navigate life’s ups and downs.
Managing strong feelings can be hard. However, it is not impossible and very often, working through challenges and struggles can help you strengthen your values and your character.
Your values will also help you set healthy boundaries around you so you make choices to be open to some people and closed to others.
They will also help you decide which friends you want to keep close and which to let go.
If you are not sure what your own values are, why not take time to think about it and write down a few?
You can start by thinking about what you value and why. Then expand that to how that value can be expressed and even its boundaries, e.g., Integrity, expressed in my words and actions. I would not like my close friends and family to lie to me. A simple way of charting this out is to draw a simple table with three columns and put as headers for each column – Value, Expression, Boundaries.
Over time, you may find yourself returning to these “value statements” to keep adding on or refining their expression and boundaries.
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