What are personal values?
Personal values, in simple terms, are our own code of conduct, the innermost values that determine our behaviour in day to day life.
The values which matter the most to us.
And the thing is, if we don’t stick to our own values, if we don’t live by those values which are so important to us as individuals, we are not ever going to be truly happy – we will never be really at peace with ourselves.
And this is why talking to our close family and friends about our core values is so important.
Imagine a scenario
One of your personal core values is that you treat all people equally.
No racism, no bigotry, no discrimination.
But you haven’t discussed this with your partner, you haven’t told him how much you abhor racism. So really you don’t know his views on it, and he doesn’t know yours.
So the two of you are in a bar with friends, and somebody walks – maybe a black man, or an Indian woman, or a Jewish boy – and your boyfriend makes a derogatory joke about them. What do you do? Do you ignore what he has said? Do you laugh along with the others because you don’t want to seem ‘boring’? Or do you call him out on it and risk an argument in public?
You can see how not talking to him before about these issues can lead to a whole heap of trouble, right?
If you take the first or second option, you are not living by your own personal core values, which believe me, will make you feel like dirt because you are going against your own moral code.
And yet, if you stick to your principles and challenge him on his racist remark, there will be an atmosphere and most likely a row, either there or later on. (Quite frankly, if you discover this trait in him you should run for the hills anyway, but that’s not the point!)
But…had you talked about what matters to you, how you feel, what matters to your soul, then that scenario wouldn’t have happened, and if, having told him that this was one of your values he went ahead and did it anyway, that tells you all you need to know about him.
Many times, personal core values will ‘run in the family’, and you will often share the same values as your parents, and siblings and children.
But that is not always the case, and unless the differences are discussed it can lead to discord in the relationship.
And when we say discuss, it doesn’t have to be a family conference around the dining table, it can be brought into everyday conversations; while discussing the news, when talking about a friend’s situation, after watching a soap opera on tv…the opportunities for talking about our personal values are endless, but discuss them you must, because otherwise you are going to end up compromising your own principles in order to accommodate someone else’s and that will, at the very least, leave you feeling greatly at odds with yourself.
Having different core values to friends and family needn’t necessarily be a problem.
Sometimes not having the same values can help you to re-evaluate your own.
It is important to note though, that we are not talking about changing yourself for your partner, or for anyone else for that matter.
But by discovering each other’s values it can open up new paths to follow – ones which complement our existing ones.
Let’s say one of your personal values is always eating healthily. In watching what you eat you might decide that exercise isn’t necessary.
Now let’s imagine that your partner’s passion is the gym. He might well imagine that, because he takes care of his body through exercise, he can eat whatever he likes.
By discussing these values with each other, we can adapt our own ideals and adopt the other person’s, because they go hand in hand.
And in doing so your partner now has a gym-buddy, and you have a sous-chef!
Taken at an even more basic level, though, not discussing these personal values can lead to a whole heap of conflict.
At the beginning of a relationship you are both blank canvases to each other, neither of you has much of a clue what makes the other one tick.
So how do we resolve that?
By talking – talking about our dreams, aspirations, and experiences in life, and it is through this talking that we start to discover things that will help the relationship to move smoothly along.
Let’s look at yet another scenario.
Whenever we embark on a new relationship we do so with the hope that it will develop into something more, into love and partnership.
You are adamant that you will never want children, and have always felt the same way.
You meet someone and it’s great, better than you have ever wished for. But you’ve never discussed the things that matter deep down. Then a year or so into the relationship, your partner announces that he thinks you should start a family – he’s always wanted to be a father.
What do you do? You both find yourselves at a crossroads – do you compromise your personal ideal of never having children and become a reluctant mother?
Or does he give up on his dream of being a father?
Either way there will be resentment, which could have been avoided had these things been talked about at the start.
Even discussing one’s past can reveal a lot about someone – how they feel about marriage, about children, if family is a big thing to them or if they prefer going it alone.
The opportunities to discuss these all-important standards are everywhere.
If we don’t present those we are close to with these valuable insights into our own hearts and souls, how can we expect them to respect our values?
None of us are mind-readers, so it is up to us to fill in the blanks and nurture healthy relationships with the people who matter the most to us.