SOMEONE ONCE SAID TO ME “when we live in line with our values, we magnify who we are. When we don’t, we shrink into ourselves; we diminish who we are.”
One of the main things I’ve learned since leaving my early 20’s behind is that I’ve realized how little I actually know. The chief arrogance of youth is a desire to assert one’s mind on the world, and gain some grasp of understanding and then assert that understanding. I think this is why everyone who’s young is a know-it-all asshole.
You can believe me on that one, I’m a know-it-all asshole.
But in truth, I don’t know anything. I’ve just tried a lot of things and proven a lot of what I thought I knew to be wrong. In a sense, that’s what a lot of personal development can be boiled down to; proving your assumptions and beliefs about your identity to be wrong and enduring the pain that comes in doing that.
Maybe it’s that you’re unlikable, unlovable, unworthy, and unattractive. Maybe it’s that you can’t become confident, you can’t ever believe in yourself or you just can’t make it in life. Or better yet you’ll never get a girlfriend, you can’t get a date, you’re definitely a complete pussy, you can’t earn money and you’ll never be rich and you sure as shit don’t have it in you to succeed.
In short, you suck.
Maybe it’s something like that. I know, for me at least, it was all of that.
On some level, each of these beliefs operated at a germinal level within my mind, affecting my behaviours – in come cases, making my life more difficult, in others, making it painful and lonely, I don’t know much, but in the instances of these beliefs, I know that it’s possible to be rid of them. To learn to live with and manage them, to let them help us rather than confine us.
When we develop, we often question what it is we need to do and look for others to give us guidance. Driven by deeper emotional motivators, we often seek out advice that validates the beliefs we become attached to. When I believed that I ‘wasn’t enough’, I sought out books that told me I wasn’t enough and gave me the techniques to change it. When I was trying to get better with women, and the endless rejections started getting me, my resentment led me to the red pill, which validated my belief that women were unfair and that I was the victim of some raw deal (I wasn’t, in fact, I think it’s the other way around).
The point here is that when these emotions motivate our choices in how we build our lives, it’s easy to get led astray or to get trapped under a glass ceiling of belief and stagnate.
This is pointless, and as someone who has been a self-help junkie for the last 5 years, I feel pretty qualified in saying:
There is a better way.
And it’s called values.
IF YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR VALUES, YOU HAVE LEARNED NOTHING
Bad values don’t just fuck your life up.
We often have conceptions of the material things we want from life but have little conception of what we actually value in life. Stemming in part from an uncertainty of identity, and an overinvestment in what we feel we need or what we think others want us to have – we pursue things, whether that’s money, the opposite sex, or status, without ever understanding the reasons why, and more importantly, questioning those ‘why’s.
Our motivations come to define us, and often confused, they leave us defined as something we don’t want to be, something we didn’t plan on, something that just happened. Cue the midlife motorcycle purchase and affair with the tennis instructor. Far from being random outcomes, these crises of identity begin in our youth when we fail to understand the compass by which we want to live.
We fail to define and live out our values, and instead, we live out the beliefs that our emotions create within us.
When we feel like we’re unloveable long enough, when begin to believe we are, and we begin to seek conditions to make us feel like we’re loveable. Maybe it’s the approval of other people, maybe it’s a boob job so men will give you more attention, maybe it’s money so that girls will look twice at you. Whatever it is, it’s a pursuit that exists to bandage a belief, and it’s no way to live.
Where values and beliefs differ is that beliefs generally form around negative emotions, and serve to reinforce and amplify themselves. Values exist on their own, as an objective measure of what matters in our life in regards to our wellbeing and happiness, not stemming from some psychological wound.
Now I know this might sound like I don’t think there are positive beliefs. And well, yeah, that kinda is what I’m saying.
Beliefs are overrated and ultimately unnecessary. You don’t need to believe you’re the sexiest man in the world to be the sexiest man in the world, you don’t need to believe you can be confident in order to be confident. Positive or negative, the belief doesn’t really matter, what matters is the action.
And one of the biggest drivers of action is your values.
JUST WHAT THE FUCK ARE VALUES
Values are like pillars, they uh…
I define values as long-term assessments of important behavioral traits and ambitions that you have decided are extremely beneficial to a well-lived life.
These could be courage, empathy, self-awareness, hard work, ambition, independence, sexual confidence, kindness, whatever.
The main thing to notice here is that all of these are not assessments of you in either a positive or negative sense. They’re simply assessments of what is important to you and what directions you want to guide your behavior.
Unlike beliefs, values don’t offer a filter through which you view the world, they merely offer a compass in which direction to go.
CHOOSING THROUGH CRITICISM
It’s not enough to just decide arbitrarily on a value, you have to arrive at the values that are true for you.
As I said in a previous article, the mind can almost never be trusted. We might think we value say, sexual confidence; but is this actually something we truly value, or do we value it because we want to prove something to ourselves? Because we need to prove it in order to feed our negative self-beliefs, that we’re still not the needy dweeb who got rejected by Stacey Perkytits.
In order to discover our values, we have to dig through the shit of our own minds in order to discover what’s real and what’s bullshit. Because more often than not, the things we think are our values, are just our crappy beliefs in disguise.
One of the key giveaways is when some kind of fearful or anxious emotion is associated with it. That’s usually never a good sign.
Another way to assess our values is to compare them to our lives. We often say that we value happiness, or we value courage or we value ambition – but when we actually measure our lives against these values, how well do we measure up?
Do we say we value courage but in fact act like a coward most of the time?
Do we say we value honesty but in fact lie to our partner?
Do we say we value hard work but instead take 3-hour toilet breaks to play Vajazzle or whatever that games called?
Be cynical about your values.
A REAL PAIN IN THE VALUES
The downside to having strong values is that you become painfully aware of when there are discrepancies between what you value in your life, versus how your life actually is. This has always been a huge sticking point for me, but if I’m honest, it’s a good thing.
The conscience exists to remind people where they’ve taken a misstep. It is these painful reminders of conscience that drive people to seek escapes in monotonous television, substances or mindless spending. The second you decide on your values, the more powerful these reminders of conscience become. Part of having strong values is accepting that it’s going to suck when you don’t always live up to them, and that’s fine, because you’re just human after all, and that’s what keeps you motivated to keep going.
Wanting more isn’t always a bad thing. It just depends where it’s coming from.
Obligatory Buddha says “look inward.”
Sitting down and thinking about what it is you value in life might seem strange, but it’s one of the most crucial tools in gaining structure to your life. We live in a world where it’s becoming progressively too easy to escape from whatever it is that we are feeling inside. If we don’t like our position in life, we can just find a quick distraction on Instagram, or disappear inside someone’s Facebook feed. It rarely works, and it doesn’t have to be that way. The best cure for the discomfort we feel internally is to figure out what our life really means to us, to question who we are, what we want, and ultimately, what we value.
And it is in doing this that we bring ourselves into being, rather than shrinking and diminishing away.
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