“Until you make peace with who you are, you will never be content with what you have.” ~Doris Mortman
As I sit here writing this, I am still in the middle of a huge shift in my life, a shift that has seen me move from living by other people’s values and expectations to identifying and living by my own.
The catalyst for change was a health scare when, on my thirtieth birthday, my doctor told me that I may have cervical cancer. Luckily, I got the all clear, but something had shifted and I realized how dissatisfied with my life I was. I felt like I was swimming against the tide; everything was a struggle.
At the time I was well on my way to achieving what I wanted: money, a high-status job, and the ability to buy lots of stuff.
I owned my own house and a car and I was out of the house twelve to thirteen hours a day working. For me, that was success. However, my ambition just seemed to disappear overnight and I went into freefall.
I felt exhausted, I was ill all the time, drinking and eating too much, and it was all I could do to drag myself out of bed in the morning to go to work. (I was doing a daily four-hour commute.) To quote Julie Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love, “You know what I felt this morning? Nothing. No passion, no spark, no faith, no heat, no nothing!”
I didn’t realize it at the time, but as soon as I started to question my life, I subconsciously communicated to the universe that I wanted—needed—to change things.
I started taking on freelance work to see if I could reignite my passion for my career. I found that people wanted my services, which increased my confidence and made me realize just how low I felt after working for years in a macho and competitive environment that was never going to nourish me.
I suddenly thought, I can earn money as a freelancer, I should start my own business. I decided to keep going at my current job for another six months and build the business in what little spare time I had.
An hour after making that decision, I had yet another confrontational email from a colleague based on a lie told by another. I resigned that day. I already felt lighter.
I went into business for myself and I hated it. Now I know that it was because I wasn’t ready, plus I went into business as a marketing consultant, which I wasn’t passionate about.
Working on my own at home didn’t suit me, and the income instability meant I hit rock bottom. There were panic attacks, more illness, and I am certain I was fast heading to the stage where I would be needing antidepressants.
As I hit rock bottom, I had an epiphany and realized that two of the main things I need in life are:
1. Human interaction on an almost daily basis
2. A certain level of security—that’s why I was so keen to buy a house, when most twenty-five-year-olds are renting and moving around. I am a homebody to my core.
If a base level of security and being alone all the time are my life ‘deal breakers,' then why had I been trying to build a life that didn’t incorporate them? I needed to get in touch with my real values.
I began reading books and articles, anything I could get my hands on, about personal values and how to identify them.
I identified the values I had been living by for the past thirty years, the values that had been the basis of every major life decision I had ever made. I have listed the top ten below:
Status achieved through career
- Money and wealth
- Advancement — This is great for me if advancement is personal or spiritual, but in this case it was centered on career and money.
- Achievement — I still want to achieve and I still have goals, but it’s different when it is a goal you have set based on your core values.
The values that I had been living by were not mine but a close family member’s. They are not bad values, but they are not my values; they are not the things that are most important to me and how I live my life.
So who was I? What were my values? I had no idea.
At this point I had been trying to carry on with my business to earn money to pay the bills while ‘finding myself’ and interviewing for jobs. I got the first role I applied for as the marketing manager for a lifestyle business and a much more suitable environment for me as a person. It has allowed me to carry on with my voyage of self-discovery.
My ten core values, the values that I now live by, are:
- Positive/fulfilling relationships with friends and family
- Contentment — I love the simple things; they make me feel at my most content.
- Peace — I can’t handle confrontation, drama, loud environments, or unnecessary competition; that’s why my previous job in a busy and noisy city for a company with a loud and competitive environment didn’t suit me.
- Fun — Since I started living by my values, life has become so much more fun.
- Laughter — I love a good laugh; my friends, family, a lighter outlook on life, and the odd funny film or stand-up comedy routine provide this for me.
- Loyalty — I am loyal to my family, friends, colleagues, and community.
- Financial freedom — This doesn’t mean earning lots of money to me, but actually keeping life simple and living within my means.
- Passion — Since writing this article I have moved forward and decided that my true passion lies in writing, so I have recently set up as a freelance copywriter and blogger. This will mean a lot of changes and new challenges, but I am very excited about the future.
- Simplicity — This for me goes hand in hand with most of the other nine values; a simple life suits me.
So what wisdom can I pass on after my journey?
1. Your core values play a huge part in how you decide to live your life.
If you are unhappy with parts of your life—if you are suffering from stress, illnesses, and feel generally uneasy in the living of everyday life—then it might be time to go inside yourself and answer honestly the questions “What is important to me?” and “How do I want to live my life?”
You need to spend time identifying your values; it’s well worth the effort.
2. Don’t live by someone else’s values.
This makes life hard because you are never being true to yourself. It is so easy to do this because so many people, parents, family members, and teachers have a say in how we should be living our lives, and this can mean that we develop their values and not our own.
3. Once you start living by your values, life shifts in the most beautiful of ways.
You don’t hold on to the things that no longer serve you because you have everything you need within yourself. For example, I realized that although I was a good marketing manager, it wasn’t my passion.
I’ve taken the leap and decided to try writing full time. This may mean many more life changes and it’s scary, but I need to follow my heart.
Photo by Elade Manu