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  • Writer's pictureAshley Floyd

The Link Between Your Values, Self-Esteem, and Relationship Satisfaction

Updated: Nov 2, 2022

Ashley Floyd, LMFT


First of all, what are values? Unfortunately, I’m not using the Webster’s dictionary definition here, otherwise this would have been a perfect set-up for an Office joke...


Values are your personal beliefs, attitudes, and feelings. Values are qualities or attributes that you wish to embody yourself. Values are things that are important for you, but can’t be taken from you (i.e. a thing you own is not a value, even if it is important to you). Some examples of values are freedom, flexibility, tolerance, humor, knowledge, and compassion.


Identifying your values

It may take a bit of mental digging to identify what your core values are. I would suggest googling a values list, identifying your top ten, and then cutting that list down to 5. This will require you to keep only the values that are most important to you. When I go through this process, I end up with these five values: authenticity, learning, flexibility, empathy, and play. Everyone will have a different list and your list may even shift over time. And that is totally okay.


Improving self-esteem

After going through an activity like the one mentioned, or talking through it with a trusted person, you will now have a clearer understanding of your values. Knowing our values can help us decide how we want to act or respond in certain situations. For example, when I pick out my clothes in the morning, I sometimes have the thought, “People will probably think that’s weird”. When this comes up, I gently remind myself that I value authenticity more than I value conforming to expectations. This helps me to make the decision to dress in a way that aligns with my values, which always makes me feel better about myself. In other words, you can use this new knowledge to improve your self-esteem.


Here is another example of how knowing our values can improve our self-esteem. Let’s say someone values growth. When they are faced with a situation where it is more comfortable to stay stagnant, they can remind themselves that they value growth over comfort. And when they make the decision to do the hard but rewarding thing, for the sake of growth, they will feel more confident knowing that they are acting in accordance with their values. It feels good when we embody the qualities we value.


I want to take a moment here to clarify a few things about values and self-esteem because, sometimes, we can experience the opposite effect. Using the example above, let’s say that person decided to stay comfortable and not do the hard thing. This may lead them to feel bad about themselves or see themselves negatively. We will all face times when we act in ways that don’t align, or are in opposition to, our own values.


I would encourage you to get curious about those times when you act in a way that doesn’t align with your values. What was blocking you? Are your values shifting? Were you worried something would happen? Why do you think that felt more important than a core value at the time? You are not bad for acting out of alignment with your values. You are human.


Improving relationships

When we understand what we value, we can also improve our relationships with others. For instance, we can more easily spot the root of a conflict before it becomes a much bigger conflict. We can say to a partner, for example, “Clearly, we both really value our relationships with our families. How do we make this work for the holidays?” Understanding values as a concept helps us to take someone else’s perspective, even if we don’t feel the same way. For example, say you’re on a hike with a friend. You value adventure and you want to charge ahead, but your friend values beauty and wants to literally stop and smell the roses. Without an understanding of values, you may feel frustrated with your friend and not want to hike with them.


AND HERE’S MY FAVORITE THING ABOUT UNDERSTANDING VALUES IN RELATIONSHIPS:


It is totally okay if you decide that you want to prioritize your sense of adventure and stop going on hikes with this friend. It doesn’t make you a bad person to want to do that, and it doesn’t make your friend a bad person because they like to stop and look at their surroundings. You just value different things. And it is such a different conversation when you start with “I love hanging out with you, but let’s try doing something else next time. It’s really important to me that when I’m exploring nature, I can feel free and adventurous, and I don’t want you to feel like you can’t enjoy your surroundings as much as you’d like.”


Without that understanding, the conversation may sound like “Dude, hurry up. Why are you stopping every 5 seconds? You’re like a snail. Oh my god, you’re stopping again?” While in certain friendships, this may be a totally acceptable way to talk to each other (looking at you Jean and Mae), in others it can breed frustration, anger, and even contempt. Understanding values can prevent small situations like this from escalating into real problems in your relationships.


It is absolutely worth taking a look into your personal values, and maybe even talking with trusted others about their values as well. Values have a huge impact on our relationships and on our self-esteem. So, it makes sense that getting clear on your values can improve your self-understanding, your self-esteem, and your relationships with those you love.


If you want to explore your values and their related impact with a mental health professional, please set up a free consultation with me to see what type of work we could do together. I would love to hear from you!

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