Finding Value

What are your top five values? Do you know them off the top of your head? I sure didn’t when my psychologist first asked me those questions over a year ago.

“Values are not about what you want to get out of life—they are about how you strive to behave on an ongoing basis,” she explained.

She gave me this work sheet to help me get an understanding of my values. From this list of 60 values, she asked me to mark each value as “very,” “quite,” or “not so important,” and then to go through all the “verys” to select my top five values. I decided to highlight each value with a corresponding colour, and to not put too much pressure on myself to choose the “right” ones. I used it as an exercise to go against my innate desire to control my outcome, and hand-selected the values that spoke to me at a guttural level. After that, I was meant to write those five values out, to remind myself that this is what I want to stand for as a human being.

My top five values

In no particular order, my top five values are:

Authenticity: to be authentic, genuine, real; to be true to myself

Assertiveness: to respectfully stand up for my rights and request what I want

Creativity: to be creative or innovative

Independence: to be self-supportive, and choose my own way of doing things

Equality: to treat others as equal to myself, and vice-versa

Now, you might not relate to any of these values. And that’s ok because they’re mine, not yours. My psychologist reminded me that there are hundreds of different values, and that “right values” or “wrong values” do not exist. It’s like people’s music taste—I personally don’t like country, but that doesn’t mean that I’m wrong for liking hip hop. All it means is that we have different tastes. Just like we probably have different values.

What I learned from my values

My values are my everything. When I’m feeling lost, I can guarantee you it’s because I’m getting caught up in the everchanging speed of life and one or more of my values has exited the forefront of my intentions, interactions, and overall actions. This realization came to me pretty recently. The beginning of this year brought a lot of change into my life, and I was finding it hard to stay grounded. I don’t know why it took me so long, but I concluded that my values were being neglected. I used to read every day, write poetry and prose, play guitar—all of that had stopped. At night, or after I was done my responsibilities, I had defaulted to mind-numbingly scrolling through YouTube as a sort of revenge bedtime procrastination. I didn’t have—or make—any time in my day for my values, so I ended up valuing things that didn’t resonate with me. I’m now intentionally making my values a priority. I know it’s not the last time I will slip up, but maybe it will take me less time to notice in the future.

I remember when I first learned my values, and how ground-breaking it felt. I had already known what I stood for but I never put it down in writing. I’m a visual learner, so this worksheet helped me immensely. I was so stoked that I even asked some of my friends to try out the exercise and share their top five values with me. Not to mention, it’s pretty rewarding to tell someone your values—or how you want to behave—and have them respond with validation. When I would tell those around me my top five, they would agree. “That makes complete sense,” they’d say. I was seeing myself, and I was being seen. Is there any better feeling?

To this day, I carry this worksheet with me in a special place to remind myself to come back home to myself—to my values.

Try it for yourself. Are your values what you had thought they were?

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Danielle Boucher

Danielle is a freelance writer and editor based out of Ottawa. She is currently studying Publishing at Ryerson University and navigating her lifelong relationship with her mental health one day at a time.

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