What are the core values that you rank above all others? Whichever of your values have priority in your life will have influence over your decision making, your thought processes and help define who you are, regardless of if you are aware of it.  The question then becomes are you being led astray by unhealthy values? What makes a core value unhealthy? Let’s first define healthy and unhealthy values:

Healthy vs Unhealthy Values

A good, healthy value is one that is socially acceptable and beneficial, it is firmly rooted in reality, it has an immediate effect and is under your control.  Healthy values are internal and are not reliant on external events. One need only to orient your mind in a particular way to experience them. Think of honesty, perseverance, self-respect, resilience, integrity, charity or humility, all are examples of healthy values.  

Bad, unhealthy values are the polar opposite – they are socially undesirable and unconstructive, they may be based on superstition, are not immediately attainable and are not in your control.  Unhealthy values are influenced and determined by external actions. All require the input of external influences that are out of our control. You often gain fleeting pleasure while experiencing these values. Examples include domination, being popular (liked by all) or constantly being the centre of attention.

There are a few common, seemingly innocent, values which people adopt that can have endless negative effects on their lives.  Are you possibly being fooled too?

1.         Staying upbeat and positive

While there is definitely something to being able to stay positive in the face of adversity, there are those who define their lives by the ability to stay positive, regardless of what happens. Whether there is a loss of a job or a family member that is terminally ill, they find a silver lining to the cloud and remain cheery.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for everything and this is especially true when it comes to emotions. The truth is that sometimes life stinks, it is hard and stressful, but the best thing to do is admit it and face it head on. Negative emotions are a healthy component of emotional wellbeing. By ignoring or burying any negative feelings you are perpetuating the situation rather than finding a solution. Problems, though tough, add meaning to our lives and give us a sense of purpose and importance. Solving them gives us satisfaction and generates happiness.

So how do we deal with the negative emotions we feel? The idea is to express them… in a healthy way which does not offend others and is in alignment with your core values.

2.         Being right… ALL THE TIME

There are those of us who need to be right all the time. No matter what. No argument can be won against them and you cannot tell them anything that they don’t already know. Here’s the thing – no one is THAT intelligent. We are human. We are biased, we make mistakes, we make assumptions, we mishear, misunderstand and remember incorrectly. The problem with assuming you are always right is that you prevent yourself from learning from your mistakes (because you never make any), to emphasise with others or to understand a different perspective (because yours is the only one that counts), furthermore you stop yourself from gaining new, valuable information.

Rather ADMIT your ignorance to yourself and garner an attitude of learning and growth so that you may constantly improve upon yourself.

3.         Pleasure seeking

Pleasure is not to be confused with happiness, nor does experiencing pleasure give you true happiness. Pleasure is fleeting and superficial, as soon as the pleasurable act is done the pleasure is over, and you go back to your mundane reality. Making pursuing pleasure your life’s goal, is a sure fire way to land up more depressed, emotionally unstable and with a higher level of anxiety. It is necessary in life, but in balance. Remember that when one does experience true happiness, pleasure is a by-product that will naturally occur.

4.         Material Success

Many people measure their life’s success and self-worth by what car they drive, what school their children attend, how much money they make, what gadgets they own and where they live. The funny thing is that researchers have shown that once you have adequately provided for your basic needs there is little correlation between the amount of money you make and experiencing true happiness. For example, a person living on the streets would gain more value and happiness from receiving an extra R10 – R15k a year than your average middle class worker. In fact, to the person living on the streets that money could be a lifesaving, game changer, whereas for the middle class worker – it would simply equate to an extra dinner out a month or a trip to the salon.

Something even more worrisome is that many people become so engrossed with having it all, that they allow their pursuit of material things to overshadow their other values. Honesty, integrity, compassion, non-violence… all can be ignored in order to get that next item on their list. A dangerous, shallow path. Rather than valuing yourself by how much you have and the status symbols you have accumulated, value yourself on your behaviour and how you treat others… It says far more about a person than what car you drive.

By Debbie Taylor