In my first couple of therapy sessions, my therapist made it a point to be sure that I started to actively think about and define my values. Spit-balling these values as they came to mind began to make every missed connection I’ve had pretty clear. From my relationships with my parents, my friends, my past partners, I started to see very clearly why I’d disconnect from them. I don’t know that I’d ever made an effort to define my values before this point, so this process really helped me to learn a lot more about myself. She framed it by asking me what’s important to me, what is essential for me to feel. My very first thought: freedom.
In that particular context, we were discussing how I want to feel as a result of my interaction with others. How I wanted to be treated by potential partners, my peers, my friends, family, colleagues. Everyone. Freedom was my first thought because I thought about how much I don’t like to feel obligated. I also thought about how much I shut down when I experience judgement. There were other values that I added to the list, but saying out loud that freedom, in particular, is important to me has started to reshape my thoughts and behavior.
In spaces in the past where I was made to feel limited, I didn’t really know the reason I rejected those moments. I knew I didn’t like how I felt, but that was it. I’d feel my nose wrinkle up or feel that little tingle in my chest, but never knew to read those physical sensations as emotions. Now, with that phrase readily in mind, “freedom is a core value of mine”, I’m much better prepared to set a tone for how I want to be treated before getting to the point of rejecting a moment completely. It’s been feeling like great progress, but I just realized that there’s more to it.
I’m a firm believer in treating people how you want to be treated until you learn how they want to be treated. I also believe deeply in the law of attraction, that what we put out into the universe is always returned to us. With this in mind, it hit me the other day that freedom being a core value of mine has to mean more than just what I’m willing to receive; I have to give freedom. Me reacting negatively in spaces where I don’t feel “free” was not only teaching me what matters to me, but also teaching me to catch myself and avoid treating others in a way that impedes upon their freedom.
I need to feel like I can be my whole self, so I need to make sure that I am a space for someone else to fully be who he/she is. I need to not feel judged for my thoughts, my actions, and my beliefs, so I need to make sure that I’m not judging others’ thoughts, actions, and beliefs. I reject the feeling of obligation, I don’t like to be made to feel like I don’t have a choice in a matter, so I need not to make others feel obligated.
I’m thankful for having the realization that defining my values was only step one. I’m thankful for now knowing that my values aren’t just about me and about what I demand from my connections with myself and others. I have to do the work of building myself and my character around what is important to me, so that my values, like freedom, aren’t just flowing to me, but flowing from me in my connections with others.