Now, I want to talk about a crucial category of values that often get overlooked, our CULTURAL values. We all have different ones. They could come from a family culture, religious culture, ethnic culture, national culture, political culture or societal culture. The core values of your most prominent cultures during your upbringing are the ones most likely still dictating a lot of your unconscious behavior and opinions today.
I’ve been doing A LOT of digging into my own subconscious these last few years, and I’ve found if we really want to understand a lot of the anxiety and shame we live with, we need to
1. Identity the values of the prominent cultures we were born into.
2. Determine how these cultural values have impacted our lives.
3. Decide if we want to continue upholding those values or not.
A few examples:
THE PURSUIT OF MORE
In the book The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist illuminates one of our core, driving values as a capitalistic society is the idea that more is always better.
When I first read the book, this idea didn’t resonate as being part of my life. Being the moralistically superior individual that am, I smugly imagined myself to be above valuing the pursuit of more. I’m not some richy rich always needing the latest trend! But as the weeks and months passed after reading the book, I started to notice just how pervasive this value- that more is always better- is in my everyday life.
I mean wouldn’t it be great if my house were a little MORE tastefully decorated? Doesn’t my bathroom need to be MORE modern? Wouldn’t it be awesome if my husband was a little MORE patient? MORE helpful? MORE happy? Wouldn’t it be better if my kids cleaned MORE? Were MORE hard-working? MORE obedient? And gosh, couldn’t I ALWAYS use MORE time, MORE energy, MORE fun, MORE patience, MORE kindness, and MORE self-control???
I stared at my life like the Genie stared at Aladdin when he realized he had been tricked into giving him a free wish- my eyes bugged out and my mouth dropped to the floor. “Wait a minute” I thought, “I didn’t choose this value! I’ve been duped! I thought my core values were supposed to be MY choice? Something that developed naturally out of my personality or my conscious inclusion? Who gave me this value that was affecting my hourly life anyway?”
My culture of course.
I decided I didn’t much care for how this valuing of MORE was making me show up in my life- as never satisfied. I decided to try to chuck this value and consciously replace it with an abundance mindset. “I have enough. My kids are enough. I am enough.” are mantras I find myself needing to repeat often to overcome my cultural value that more is always better.
(other societal values I’ve found worthy of examining: productivity, convenience, progress and liberty)
Now for a value I was handed that I wish to keep.
In the family culture I was raised in- acceptance and adaptability were among our core values. My parents are CHILL. They don’t get upset. Like ever. They are very even-keeled and mild mannered (often when my sister was pestering me, I wished they would be a little less mild-mannered 😉 ). When something would go wrong in our family- my dad lost his job or our tire blew out, my mom’s characteristic shrug was minutes away with a, “Well, what can ya do?”
We’d accept, then we’d adapt.
I love how undemanding my parents were. I love that I never felt they were disappointed in me, how accepting they were of my mistakes, and how unconditionally loved I felt as a result of their accepting nature.
I’m not as good at it, but I try to hold onto their value of acceptance in my life and in my parenting.
Quick note here: I don’t mean to pitch any of these values as morally superior. Each and every value has its up sides and its shadow side. Sometimes MORE really is better! Some marriages NEED more respect! We often need MORE self-compassion!
And there is certainly a dark side to acceptance. We can be so complacent we don’t take action when action is needed! (I also was never grounded growing up, and probs should have been).
The reason values are SO useful is because they help us to understand ourselves and every other human around us. It is tempting to say that some values are better and some are worse, but really, every value in it’s extreme is destructive and a healthy version of every value is useful.
Wanted to make that clear before I tackle my next example:
My primary culture growing up -above being American, Texan, above even my family culture- was/is the LDS culture.
Obedience is a core value of Mormonism. Two of our most-used mantras are follow the prophet and choose the right.
I grew up not seeing obedience as a value some resonated with and some didn’t, but as an undisputed way of life. THE way.
Its just been in recent years that I’ve thought to examine this value more closely and its effects on my life.
Many of the effects have been overwhelmingly positive- obedience kept me safe, gave me a strong sense of unity and belonging, pushed me to be better, to sacrifice and grow. I’m thankful to have been raised in a culture valuing obedience.
But now, as an adult, my clinging to obedience has also made me tragically judgmental. It’s made me perfectionistic, prone to wallow in shame when I couldn’t obey well enough (which was daily). It made me close-minded- often not taking into account the thoughts and experiences of others since there is ONE right way to do things. It made me outsource my conscience- relying on rules and expectations instead of my own inner light to make decisions.
I bless my past spent valuing obedience AND now choose to place it FAR further down on my list of values that govern my decisions.
Here’s the take home: often we are so used to swimming in our own cultural values that we think those values are just the way things are. I thought the pursuit of more, acceptance and obedience were just life.
But they don’t have to be.
Taking the time to 1. name our cultural values, 2. examine their effects on our lives- both the good and the bad and 3. consciously choose whether we want to uphold those values or release them – is life-changing work.
It changed mine. I feel more free, more fully me, more able to lean into my unique gifts and values and ditch the shame.
I’ve also found it extremely instructive to ask my husband about the core values in the different cultures and family culture he grew up in. It explains SO much of his behavior that is confusing to me.
Homework: Journal out what were your primary cultures growing up? What were their values? How have those values served you and how have they held you back? Which values do you want to keep and which do you not want to keep?