Values vs Shadow Values | What Drives You?
Do you ever wonder why you’ve always got problems with debt, or why you keep arguing with your girlfriend, or why you just can’t seem to find the motivation to get your arse to the gym? I know I used to ask myself these questions all the time. Well the answer centres around knowing what you truly value, not what you think you value. Sounds confusing? Well I’ll explain exactly what I mean in this blog.
So firstly, what exactly are “values”? We hear this word bandied about all the time, but what are they exactly?
Well, values are simply what you believe is most important in your life. They’re like your own personal 10 commandments. And they drive everything that you do every day of your life.
With this in mind, being knowledgeable of what you stand for and what you value is vitally important if you want to understand yourself as a person and what drives you day to day.
Now we all have a set of what I’m going to call “golden values”. And these are the fluffy, politically correct values that you’d be proud to discuss with people who you’ve just met and you want to make a good impression with. Stuff like honesty, hard work, eating healthy. But, and this is where things get really interesting, these golden values are actually driven by what I’m going to call your “shadow values”.
What do I mean by shadow values?
Well, this is how it was explained to me. If you had cameras set up in your house and your day to day activities were streamed to YouTube, everything you’d want to edit out of the live stream would be driven by your shadow values. So, it’s the shitty thing you said to your missus when there was nobody else listening, or eating a bunch of junk food in the middle of the night when nobody's looking. It’s the, for a want of a better word, “shameful” version of ourselves, that we should be analysing to figure out our most powerful values. Because this is when we are at our most authentic and vulnerable.
There’s also a hierarchy to your values, and your shadow values are always going to be more powerful than your golden values.
For example, we do a coaching session to elicit your shadow values, and you say you like researching how to cook healthy foods because you say it provides you with wisdom and knowledge. “Wisdom” would be your golden value. It’s very fluffy, and it’s what you’d tell your friends was the reason behind your love of researching how to cook healthy food. However, what is actually driving this value of wisdom? It could be the need to feel superior to others, or it could be driven by a need for validation that you’re “good enough” from others. The need for validation, which is your shadow value, is going to be stronger than the need for wisdom, because it’s what drives the need for wisdom in this scenario.
So, knowing what your shadow values are is vital when negotiating in any kind of relationship, not least in romantic relationships.
A wise man once said to me “if you don’t know what you value, then you can’t stand up for yourself properly, and you’ll spend your days living by someone else’s values”.
Your ability to stick up for what you truly value, even when under duress, is crucial to your ability to avoid being exploited by others.
I’m sure you know someone who’s a typical people pleaser. They’re your stereotypical “nice-guy” or “nice-girl” who’s always putting themselves out for the sake of others. Or maybe you’re the one who’s always capitulating to others.
The problem with people who allow others to dictate their actions is that they’re never allowing themselves to be who they truly are. They’re censoring themselves. So, they may think they’re doing the right thing by avoiding confrontation, but because they aren’t allowing themselves to be true to their own values, distress and resentment builds up inside them, and since they’re used to feeling repressed they resort to more passive forms of aggression, such as cheating and other forms of relationship sabotage.
For example, a couple has a windfall and the guy starts instantly looking at buying a motorbike. Now this guy is pretty honest and unapologetic about who he is and knows the reason he wants to buy that motorbike is so he can feel free and he’ll also feel superior to everyone else on the road. His values of needing to feel superior to others and his need for freedom drive his desire for the motorbike. However, his missus has other plans. She wants to put the money into the mortgage. Why? Because high on her values are safety and feeling in control. Now it doesn’t take a relationship expert to know that there’s the potential to be world war three between these two, but you get the picture regarding how conflicting values can create tension in a relationship. And unless a reasonable compromise can be reached that feeds the values of both parties, the partner who feels like they’ve capitulated in this hypothetical conflict will always feel repressed, because they’ve been unable to express their values authentically.
Which brings me to another point. If you end up with someone who has a totally different set of values to you, there will always be drama.
So, the best way to avoid these conflicts of values down the road is, when things start getting serious with you and your potential long-term partner, have those big discussions about what you both value. Find out how she feels about family, money, work and career, health, education. Does it align with your thoughts? There doesn’t need to be a perfect match, but they should at least be along the same lines as yours, or there should be a similar narrative running through her thoughts. But can common ground be found in areas where your values do conflict? Perhaps she’s not as self-aware as you are, but a good woman will assert her opinions and beliefs openly and honestly with you, rather than just agreeing with you through a fear of rejection, which would be a serious red flag. And we’ll talk more about red flags in a future video.
So how do you figure out what your true values, or shadow values actually are?
Well if you aren’t sure, or have never even thought about what your values are but are interested in discovering yours, a good place to start is to ask yourself this interesting question – When was the last time you got frustrated? Perhaps you had an argument with a family member, or perhaps you were trying to put together some Ikea furniture. Once you’ve got the memory of the last time you were frustrated ask yourself this next question – “when you were frustrated, what did you feel you weren’t getting, what did you feel was missing, or what did you think you were, but this scenario proved you weren’t?” I know it sounds complicated, but it’s really not with a bit of practice.
For example, a client mentioned he got frustrated because he couldn’t stop his baby from crying. When I asked him these questions of what was he missing or not getting, the answer eventually came back that he was not able to control the baby, and he felt he had lost authority over the baby’s behaviour. Therefore, his core shadow values included having control, and needing to have authority over others.
Interesting? I think this stuff is awesome! It’s helped me personally in so many ways and helped heaps of my clients figure out their purpose in life. Because when you figure out what drives you internally, you don’t need external motivation to get things done. And the entire process takes about 30 minutes. So, once you’ve got these shadow values sorted you can then use them to motivate yourself to solve other issues in your life. So, if you want to start going to the gym and you have a shadow value of needing to have control, I would just ask you to write out 100 ways going to the gym would give you control. And I guarantee if you did the exercise, you’d be wondering why you didn’t go to the gym earlier.