Are My Values Really My Values?

Over the last few months, I’ve been working through various leadership resources in an effort to learn more about being a better manager through leading instead of managing. I’ve been in a couple of courses that had me dive into myself first. Knowing who you are, and what motivates you, has a huge impact on how you approach others and the problems before you. It’s been an interesting journey, and in some ways raised more questions for me to tackle. In particular I have been pondering my “core values” and my “why,” which are supposed to define a quintessential “me.” I’ve been questioning my final, distilled list, and I find that interesting in light of the list I have created. Here are the results of the 21 Day Leadership challenge (mountains and valleys core values exercise) and Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” course:

Core Values

  • Honesty: Being real, being true to myself and others
  • Trust: Something I can count on, including being able to rely on myself
  • Acceptance: Being truly seen for who and what you are
  • Exploration: Honesty comes from questioning and rethinking


To act with humanity and integrity so that everyone gets a fair shot.

You can see that honesty and integrity are important to me. What’s interesting is that I feel these very strongly in relation to myself (perhaps more so than I do for honesty with others), which makes me question if I’ve really gotten to the heart of it. Let me try to explain. I often spend time questioning my own thoughts and reasoning. I want to make sure I am being truly honest with myself about who I am, warts and all. It feels like a fundamental need that underpins everything else listed. I poke and prod myself to try to flush out self-deception. I catch myself in self-deception all the time. I examine my actions to see patterns of self-deception and look for them going forward. Anyway, it’s a big part of my internal dialog every day. So I’ve identified that as a core value, along with other things that I do think highly of and have emotional reactions to. The problem now though is that I am constantly questioning if this list is things I aspire to, or things I actively believe in. Are these truly my values, or the values I want to have? And round it goes.

I have shared this list with others in more private circles, but whenever I do I feel I need to temper it—to qualify it—with something about how I’m not sure these are my values. I’m afraid that others will look at the list, compare it to me, and find me wanting. I’m afraid others will see blatant self-deception. I bet I’m not the only one out there who feels like this, and I feel like sharing this list with room for lots of explanation around it helps me carry the internal conversation further. I’d certainly welcome discussion with anyone else who feels this resonates.

While I’ve been learning a lot about management and leadership, this plumbing of my internal depths in a new context has been a very rich experience for me—God knows, I’ve done enough therapy and self-help investigation in the past—even if it isn’t as all tidy and neat as it sounds like it should be on the tin. Like much in life, leadership isn’t something you learn and you’re done. It’s a constantly evolving exploration, and it starts with me. Hopefully I will come to a place where I feel more settled with a list of personal core values, but even if I never feel set with them, the examination and exposing of the questions themselves is something I don’t want to lose.