Living by your values

It is useful for all of us to develop an explicit awareness of what are our values, to identify what we value and stand for as a person.   

Our values can act as a kind of reference guide or compass for who we are, how we want to be and where we want to go in life. Our values can shape our life choices and responses to different and difficult situations.   

Knowing and living by our values can also assist in reducing the influence of childhood trauma in our adult life.   

Trauma can knock us off course 

Childhood trauma and abuse can profoundly impact our lives, consuming our energy, often derailing us from living the kind of life we want to live.  Trauma has this habit of catching us off guard and demanding our attention and sapping our energy.  To the point that our focus is on just surviving and getting through the current difficulty.   

Setting our own course 

If we possess a clear sense of purpose and direction, when we are triggered and hiccups occur or we become derailed, knowing our values can provide us with a road map as to how to act and respond in a way that is consistent with the course we have set for ourselves.  

What are ‘values’? 

As we grow up, we are introduced to a set of values and beliefs, which we often take on board unconsciously.  They might be based on individual, family or community values, on spiritual traditions, on a particular sense of ethics, or an approach to life that we have adopted along the way. 

People connect with and prioritise different life values. One person might value ‘being there’ in relationships, ‘being honest’, and ‘having a good work ethic’, while another’s values could consist of ‘giving people a fair go,’ ‘being compassionate and caring’, and ‘always doing my best.’ 

Whatever the history of our values, they are essentially ‘our’ sense of the (subjective) right way for us to live. When we act in accordance with our values, we generally see our life as purposeful and meaningful and heading in the right direction. 

Tips for identifying your values 

We usually hold our values implicitly; in other words, we don’t often consciously think about and name our values in a structured way. By identifying our values, we establish a basic guide for us in our life. 

Take some time to think about the following areas of life, and try to identify a word or sentence or two about what is important to you; what kind of person do you want to be and how would you like to act in these areas of life? 

We have included some possible suggestions of common values below. Keep in mind there is a lot of overlap between the life domains and the values themselves! This is just a very rough guide. 

Some examples 


Assertiveness: to respectfully stand up for my rights and request what I want 
Fairness: to be fair to myself or others 
Forgiveness: to be forgiving towards myself or others whom I choose to forgive 
Independence: to be self-supportive, and choose my own way of doing things 
Respect: to be respectful towards myself or others; to be polite, considerate and show positive regard 


Freedom: to live freely; to choose how I live and behave, or help others do likewise 
Honesty: to be honest, truthful, and sincere with myself and others 
Intimacy: to open up, reveal, express vulnerability and share myself –  emotionally or physically – in my close personal relationships 
Love: to act lovingly or affectionately towards myself or others 
Romance: to be romantic; to display and express love and affection 
Sexuality: to explore or express my sexuality 
Trust: to be trustworthy; to be loyal, faithful, sincere, and reliable Listen Deeply: to listen with genuine interest and curiosity, to seek to understand 


Acceptance: to be open to and accepting of myself, others, life 
Compassion: to act with kindness towards myself those who are struggling 
Encouragement: to encourage and reward behaviour that I value in myself or others 
Patience: to wait calmly for what I want 


Caring: to be caring towards myself, others, the environment 
Connection: to engage fully in whatever I am doing, and be fully present with others 
Friendliness: to be friendly, companionable, or agreeable towards others 
Generosity: to be generous, sharing and giving, to myself or others 
Humour: to see and appreciate the humorous side of life 
Reciprocity: to build relationships in which there is a fair balance of giving  and taking 
Supportiveness: to be supportive, helpful, encouraging,  and available to myself or others 

Study / Learning

Challenge: to keep challenging myself to grow, learn, improve 
Creativity: to be creative or innovative 
Curiosity: to be curious, open-minded and interested; to explore and discover 
Open-mindedness: to think things through, see things from other’s points of view,  and weigh evidence fairly 
Persistence: to continue resolutely, despite problems or difficulties 
Self-development: to keep growing, advancing or improving in knowledge,  skills, character, or life experience 
Skilfulness: to continually practice and improve my skills, and  apply myself fully when using them

Work / Career

Cooperation: to be cooperative and collaborative with others 
Industry: to be industrious, hard-working, dedicated 
Order: to be orderly and organised 
Empower and exercise power thoughtfully: to strongly influence, to empower and  exercise authority thoughtfully e.g. taking charge, leading, organising 
Responsibility: to be responsible and accountable for my actions 


Adventure: to be adventurous; to actively seek, create, or explore novel  or stimulating experiences 
Excitement: to seek, create and engage in activities that are exciting,  stimulating or thrilling 
Fun: to be fun-loving; to seek, create, and engage in fun-filled activities 
Pleasure: to create and give pleasure to myself or others 


Beauty: to appreciate, create, nurture or cultivate beauty in myself,  others, the environment 
Humility: to be humble or modest; to let my achievements speak for themselves 
Spirituality: to connect with things bigger than myself 


Contribution: to contribute, help, assist, or make a positive  difference to myself or others 
Conformity: to be respectful and obedient of rules and obligations 
Equality: to treat others as equal to myself, and vice-versa 
Justice: to uphold justice and fairness 
Kindness: to be kind, compassionate, considerate,  nurturing or caring towards myself or others 


Fitness: to maintain or improve my fitness; to look after my physical  and mental health and wellbeing 
Self-control: to act in accordance with my own ideals 

Personal wellbeing

Authenticity: to be authentic, genuine, real; to be true to myself 
Courage: to be courageous or brave; to persist in the face of fear, threat, or difficulty 
Flexibility: to adjust and adapt readily to changing circumstances 
Gratitude: to be grateful for and appreciative of the positive aspects of myself,  others and life 
Mindfulness: to be conscious of, open to, and curious about  my here-and-now experience 
Safety: to secure, protect, or ensure safety of myself or others 
Self-awareness: to be aware of my own thoughts, feelings and actions 
Self-care: to look after my health and wellbeing, and get my needs met 
Sensuality: to create, explore and enjoy experiences that stimulate the five senses 

What are your core values? 

Making a record of what you value and how you want to live your life can be useful.  

Once you have identified what you value, the next step is to take small steps that make these values an every-day part of how you live and act in your life. 

Values related goals 

While values are very important, the thing to keep in mind about them is that they are ideas, not behaviours. Once you have identified your most important values, it is helpful to then engage in behaviours that move you towards those values. This means committing to things you can do that are in line with what you value and how you wish to be in the world. 

Identify an action or behaviour that will bring your life more in line with a particular value. For example, if a value of yours is “self care,” what are some self caring behaviours you can commit to and engage in on a regular basis?  

Following your values is not always easy 

This approach to life does not mean we are never confronted by difficult situations, unwelcome thoughts and uncomfortable feelings. It is just that our focus is on calming and centring ourselves and acting in accordance with what we have established as our preferred, valued way of living life.   

Organisations as well as people benefit from identifying and living by their values 

Organisations, as well as people, achieve through identifying their purpose and enacting their values – SAMSN included: 

Our Purpose 
To build a support network that gives voice and agency to male survivors and their supporters. 

We Believe 
Male survivors of childhood sexual abuse can recover, support others to thrive and be leaders for change. 

Our Vision 
A world in which male survivors of childhood sexual abuse can easily access support and find understanding and acceptance. 

Our Values 

  • Hope  The courage to believe in what’s possible 
  • Dignity We honour each other’s inherent worth 
  • Connection Together we achieve 
  • Community  Engaging the power of networks for growth