By Matt Keck, MFT
What do you find important in life? Chances are concepts will come to mind such as honesty, integrity, faith, community, or entities such as family, relationships, or friendships. The way you answer that question is indicative of your core values, and those are “valuable” clues to who you are as a person. Research finds that when we are living in alignment with our values, we tend to be at our happiest and most high functioning. Identifying core values is an important step towards being able to live in alignment with those values.
How to identify your core values:
Your core values are more than just things you like about life, they are essential elements toyour existence that you realize you couldn’t do without. To identify your core values, ask yourself some of the following questions.
What activities make you lose track of time?
What makes you feel great about yourself?
What inspires you?
What do you find beautiful?
When you look back on your life, what would you want people to say about you?
What do you enjoy helping others with?
What were some hardships you have learned from?
What do you believe in?
What could you NOT live without?
Once you have identified those core values, think about what specific activities or actions you could engage in that would allow you pursue your values. For example, if helping others is one of your core values, making sure you have a career that is not exclusively about financial gain would be important. Taking time out of your week to engage in volunteer work would also be important. If you simply pursued work that was not part of your values system, you eventually will find that work draining and it will start to take away from your emotional wellbeing, as opposed to contribute towards it.
Take an inventory of the way you spend your time, and ask yourself how much time you spend in activities that are in alignment with your values. If the ratio is heavily weighted in the direction of time spent outside your values, perhaps it is time to re-prioritize.
Your Values and the Eating Disorder:
Chances are the core values you arrived at are vastly different from what the Eating Disorder values. Here is a short list of things the Eating Disorder values: appearance, perfection, rigidity, punishment, control, power, deprivation, pain. If these values did not make in onto your core values list that’s a good thing. It will help you differentiate between the person you are, the values you hold, and the things the Eating Disorder espouses to be important. These are probably very out of alignment. By recognizing this you can understand that the process of recovering from an eating disorder does not involve making some radical change to who you are, instead it involves becoming more in touch with who you are. In doing so you will naturally gravitate towards actions that are in alignment with your core values, and you will structure your life in such a way that there is little room for the Eating Disorder in it.