I’ve been thinking a lot about identity recently, and not in a weird “let’s sit in a circle and talk about who we are” way but more in the sense of what drives us all. Going through this stage in life and making lots of decisions about what to do with my life, how to spend my time, who to spend it with and all that jazz, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can possibly decide all of these things without some kind of guiding principle. There are a lot of decisions that we go through each day so there must be some underlying motivations that help us get through all these decisions? I think that these underlying guiding principles are our set of personal core values, a part of our identity that drives what we do and how we do it.
My middle and high school had a set of “core values,” they were things like responsibility, integrity, and excellence that all students were meant to exemplify; to be honest, rather than people exemplifying these, they were more often the butt of a joke in school. However, I understand what my school was trying to get at in creating these core values: they were meant to be things that us students were meant to incorporate into our lives and use as guiding principles in our education. So when I was recently reflecting on identity, I got thinking about if this idea could be translated over to my own life. Personal core values – a similar set of unique guiding principles that we develop over our lives.
If someone were to ask me to describe my personality, there are a lot of things I would list: like the fact that I’m an introvert, a perfectionist, appreciate the small things in life, am a sensitive person, love a good joke, and can get extremely hangry. However, while these are all characteristics that are integral to who I am, they aren’t the characteristics that motivate me to do what I do. Sure, knowing that I can get extremely hangry can motivate me to make sure I’m always equipped with a snack, but it doesn’t drive me to make any of my big life decisions. By personal core values, I mean really taking a step back and looking at when it comes down to those tricky life decisions what the factors are that you feel like drive your decision.
I’ve come up with three of these personal core values for myself and they are authenticity, compassion, and paying it forward. I’m aware that these make me sound like I’m an amazing person, and while some people might argue that I am… just kidding, I think our personal core values should sound a little idealistic! After all, they say a lot about the type of person we are trying to be.
Starting with authenticity, I think that this is something that I’ve only recently discovered as a personal core value. I have a tendency to be a people-pleaser and I think in the past that meant that I tried to be different around different people. However, as I’ve grown up I think I’ve gotten a pretty good idea about who I am and while I may adapt around different people, I’m still authentic to myself. I don’t try and put on a facade or try and be any different to who I am depending on who I am with. I realized this core value pretty recently because I’ve been going through lots of pre-professional networking chats and interviews; In these situations I feel as though I could have definitely put on a show and pretended to be someone else, but I’ve still found a way to be authentic to myself and let my personality show while being more professional. Similarly, with the different people I’ve met in college, I still feel confident being myself even if that’s not exactly the same as the other person. When making a big decision, probably the most important factor I think about is if this decision is authentic to me and who I am.
My second core value is compassion. Again, this makes me sound like I’m really hyping myself up, but this is one of my core values that I feel strongly about. I’m a pretty sensitive person myself so I feel like one of the things that I’m always thinking about is how my actions are going to affect others. Sometimes I think that I think about this too much which is why it is definitely one of my core values. In any decision I make, I always try and think about how I can bring a little bit of happiness or joy to others, whether that be through remembering the small details, small acts of service, or just being an enjoyable presence. I feel like this is something I try and emulate through anything I do which is why it’s extremely important to me.
My last core value is paying it forward. This might sound like a weird core value and I wasn’t exactly sure how to phrase it, but when I think about what motivates me to do all the things I choose to spend my time on, this was definitely one that kept coming up. I feel at my happiest and most fulfilled when I’m able to share something I’ve learned or pay some of my experience or knowledge forward. For example, I serve as a mentor and teacher for one of our student organizations at Georgetown and I absolutely love it. I’ve noticed that I’ve unconsciously put myself in positions like that throughout my life because I love to share what I’ve learned and try and impart some a little of my “wisdom” on others.
In fact, I think this blog where I write about different experiences and try and share some advice is probably the perfect example of my three core values in action. I’m authentically myself – I try and put my personality down on the page and share what’s going on. I’m compassionate – I’ve cultivated this supportive community. And I’m paying it forward – this whole blog is centered around sharing my experiences in order to help others.
Looking at our personal core values might sound cheesy when they’re listed like this on a page and they might just sound like I searched up a list of personality traits and picked three at random. However, I challenge you to think about your own personal core values because I think that you’ll be surprised at how different all of ours can be. It’s sort of a fun exercise to take this time to reflect on ourselves and the motivations that we often just take for granted. Let me know in the comments what you think.
See you next week,