Unhappy, Sad or Stressed? 7 Ways We Get Disconnected from Ourselves and Our Values!

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Are you feeling unhappy, dissatisfied, sad, stressed or like there’s something missing from your life? Well, it may be because you’ve become disconnected from your values.

Our values represent who we are. And when we don’t live or honour our values it feels unpleasant. It can feel like anything from an annoying niggle, to feeling unhappy, dissastisfied, stressed—and if it goes on for a long time, even depression.

This is why self-connection is so important. Leading a values-driven life (whilst it can still be hard sometimes) is deeply satisfying. It leads to increased confidence, self-respect and self-esteem. Knowing and respecting your values is a stepping stone to claiming your unique power and creating a truly fulfilling and meaningful life.

And when we get disconnected from ourselves and/or values, it really helps to understand how we got disconnected in the first place. This knowledge is empowering and is the stepping stone that allows us to take action to (re)connect to our true values.

So whether this applies to you, a friend, loved one or a client:

Here are 7 examples of how we get disconnected from our values

1) We’re living (or have slipped back into) outdated values

We’ve grown up, moved on and formed new opinions about what matters most in life—but we’re still living life by values that we no longer believe in.

This can also happen when you get stressed and tired, as you slip into old ways of being!

Example: A parent taught us, “Hard work, that’s what it’s all about!” but lately we’ve realised how important rest and relaxation is. Yet we keep pushing ourselves harder and experience increasing levels of dissatisfaction with life and internal conflict.

2) ‘Should’ values

We have learned how we should be and behave, but not who we are. Perhaps we grew up in an environment where we were constantly told how we should be. And perhaps we were only given love and affection when we did what was expected of us. So now we’re living life in the ‘acceptable’ ways we were taught, but it’s unsatisfying and unfulfilling.

Example: We’ve done everything right, we have the ‘perfect’ life and everyone says how lucky we are. We know we should be happy, yet it feels like we’re living someone else’s life. We may well be unhappy and frustrated but can’t explain why. We’re doing what we think we SHOULD, but not what truly matters to us.

3) Negative associations

Did you ever express a core value when younger that led to strong negative reactions in others? Perhaps you loved creativity, fun and play, yet adults responded negatively causing you to feel emotions like shame or fear?

It’s quite common that we learn (intentionally or unintentionally) from our caregivers that something we do is considered “bad”. Then as adults we go out of our way to avoid expressing this core value—even though it may be really important to us.

Examples: A small child expresses wonder at something, and a harassed parent angrily points out they’re wasting time dawdling. A teenager is idealistic about the world and a favourite teacher makes fun of them or lets them know they’re being ignorant or stupid. So we learn to shut down and stop expressing our wonder or idealism but later in life feel miserable—like something is missing in our lives.

4) Fear of change

Sometimes we’re afraid of what our values represent. Perhaps you have a life changing realisation. And it means facing some difficult challenges or changes to our behaviour. But it’s much easier to ‘stick our head in the sand’ and go back to living our life the way we always have.

Example: During recuperation from a major health threat we learn how important rest and relaxation is to us, yet once recovered we go back to working late and on weekends. We have more health issues, arguments with our spouse. We feel trapped but don’t know how to break the cycle.

5) Hyper-focus on one value—at the expense of other values

Sometimes we get so focused on one value that we lose sight of the bigger picture. This is where we put so much effort into one value that we lose perspective and balance, and stop expressing other equally—and possibly more—important values.

Examples: We might become hyper-focused on our health, exercising so much that we don’t have time for friends. Or we work such long hours that we eat a lot of junk food and our health suffers.

Sometimes it can become extreme: a hyper-focus on the value of excellence could mean that we sacrifice our weekend (and attending our child’s football match) to finish a work document to an excessively high standard. Excellence became perfectionism—and trumped important values like love, family and happiness.

6) You don’t know what your values are, so you emulate others

We’re unsure who we are, and what matters most to us. So we observe qualities in someone we admire and try to emulate their values—when it isn’t really us.

Example: We admire Julie’s devotion to helping others. We think we want to be like her so we continually volunteer which leaves us no time for our own passions and activities. We end up tired, grumpy and unhappy—but don’t know why.

7) A “negative” value is so deeply ingrained, it’s a habit you’re not even conscious of

Sometimes we’re simply blinded by habit. We may consciously reject a value we were taught, but because it’s so deeply ingrained, we still unconsciously express that value in our lives.

Example: We had a parent who taught us that ‘one-upmanship’ was where it was at—to always be better than those around us. Our parents divorced as a result and we decided to be different. Yet, we keep upsetting our spouse and co-workers through our unconscious habit of having the last word. Why are people upset with us? What’s wrong with everyone?

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So, do any of these resonate with you? Or do they apply to someone you know?

Living your values connects you to yourself: it’s authentic living and it’s deeply satisfying.

So it’s powerful to notice where we are NOT living our values. This is the first stepping stone to making change, and living a more authentic, meaningful and fulfilling life.

When we begin to cultivate awareness of our thoughts and emotions, we begin to see just how much we live according to other people’s and society’s beliefs and actions. Don’t get upset by this. Just get in touch with how you really think and feel inside and begin to express your authenticity. Alan Keightley

Change the world. Start with you!

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