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HGM

Chasing adventure & living mindfully while parenting through mental illness

DBT Skills For Parents: Acting On Your Values

DBT Skills For Parents: Acting On Your Values

Before kids, it is simple to come up with your own values. Sometimes you're taking a partner and relationship values into play. Most of the time, though, it is just yourself you're taking into account. But, when we have kids, our values often change. Some are solidified as we realize how important they are to us. Other times we realize that a value really isn't as important. And sometimes values cause problems when we think something should be a value, and it really isn't. 

What even is a value? A value is an ideal that gives purpose and structure to your life. It is a principle or ideal which increases your life satisfaction when you act on it, and which, when you neglect you feel personal guilt and existential anxiety.To live a satisfying life, we must both know and act purposefully on our values.

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What even is a value? A value is an ideal that gives purpose and structure to your life. It is a principle or ideal which increases your life satisfaction when you act on it, and which, when you neglect you feel personal guilt and existential anxiety.To live a satisfying life, we must both know and act purposefully on our values.


Values can be grand ("respect all living creatures") or specific ("cultivate an small, close-knit group of friends"). They can be prescriptive ("follow a religion") or be unique ("be daring"). Gretchen Rubin calls her values her 12 Commandments. 12 feels like a lot, but you'd be surprised how fast you get there. I've cultivated 4 general values for our family, and 7 specific ones for just myself.


Here are some of mine:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

1. Cultivate adventure.

2. Find and maintain relationships with people in your community.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

3. Establish security for your family and pets.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

4. Own your emotions.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

5. Show empathy to all. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

6. Smash the patriarchy (and racism and ableism). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

7. Write what is worthwhile.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

What is not on your list is almost as important as what is on your list. Two things not on my values list? Keeping a tidy home and having a high powered career. I also don't include "respect", rather I include empathy. Here's why those aren't on my list.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

I will almost always do anything other than housework. I'd outsource it if I could afford it. And a messy house does not really stress me out. It only stresses me out when I think of what others will say. That's external value, not internal. I need to keep a somewhat ordered and sanitary home for the sake of my children and their security. But toys will be everywhere, and clutter abounds. I need to work on owning this.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Similarly, I don't derive pleasure or satisfaction from anything at work other than a paycheck. My writing "career" motivation stems from wanting to be read and to be a worthwhile voice. I derive a lot of pleasure from a paycheck for the security it gives me, but not from a job beyond that. And I will never give more to my job than the necessary hours and skills (though I will work hard while I am there). My husband differs from me on this and takes a lot of pride and satisfaction from building his career and work connections. And many of my friends do as well. It has taken a lot of soul searching and guilt-unpacking for me to come to this realization and not assume I hadn't found the "perfect calling".⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Finally, I don't include "respect" on my list. It might be being picky about words, but wording matters to me. Empathy and kindness are a given. Everyone deserves them. But respect should be earned. I will show everyone kindness and empathy, but I guard my respect and do not hand it out arbitrarily. That is self-protective for me, and I intend to teach my children the same thing. Authority deserves respect if it is just, and all other humans have to earn it by their actions. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

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Values mean little when you don't act on them. So how do you go about living according to your values?


It is a good idea to break things down into smaller, more manageable tasks. It also helps to start with a value that isn't too hard. So pick a value that you enjoy but maybe have neglected a bit. From my list, if I chose "cultivate adventure", I might start by signing up for a one-day class I have been meaning to try (like SUP Yoga or Bollywood Dancing!). If I chose "smash the patriarchy", I might start with small political actions like calling my MP/senator or joining an advocacy campaign. 


Make a specific plan, decide when you will do it, double check that it SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-specific). Then, in a week or so, do a check in and review to congratulate yourself or adjust your goal. 


What values do you live by? They can be big or small. They can be serious and silly. What values do you wish you acted on more? What ideals take up space in your life and cause you more guilt than satisfaction? 

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