Episode 4: What Matters Most!

A question I get more often than any other is — “why…”

Why do I feel like [insert emotion]? Why am I overeating? Why does he make me so angry? Why can’t I get myself to do the things I want… why?

So how do you answer this important question?

Your why lies deep within you — and it’s important that you know it. The way we get to understanding why you think feel and act the way you do is through understanding your values.

Simply defined- your values are the things that really matter to you

Whether we realize it or not, our values are underlying everything we do. Your values are influencing you constantly- and when you understand them, you will have so much more insight and control in your life.

With every woman that I work with, I look for her values to help me understand what matters to her, why she is hurting, and where she can look to feel clear and safe. I want you to be able to do the same! Join me as we unlock one of the biggest keys to resilience and discover what really matters to you!

What You’ll Learn on this Episode:

  • What Values are and how to connect to yours
  • How values hold the key to understanding why you get so upset
  • How to escape the trap of self-criticism and use your values to feel safe

Mentioned on the Show:

A Values list can be found here


*This transcription below was provided for you or your convenience; please excuse any mistakes that the automated service made in translation. 


Welcome to leadership parenting. I am so happy to spend some time with you today and share some thoughts with you.


A question I get more often than any other is a really simple one. One word, why? Why do I feel like this? Why am I overeating? Why does he make me so angry? Why can’t I get myself to do the things I want to do? Why? Well, I hear that question a lot and I always believe there’s an answer, but it’s not a one size fits all answer. It’s really unique to each person and even possibly to each situation.


I’m a detective by trade. And I know my training is in mental wellness, but my actual profession could be called detective work, because my job is to help you find out why. And then to kind of switch over to asking another deep question. That begins with? How? First, the why. Anytime you’re asking that question, You might be feeling upset, confused, or frustrated. The why is our fundamental human drive for understanding your brain wants and needs to be able to put meaning to things. It’s how it organizes experience in life and really ultimately how it keeps us safe. So to have a feeling or a behavior in front of me or you without knowing why we’re feeling it or why we or someone else is acting a certain way, that’s just not gonna feel good. In fact, it can easily cause our mind and our body to feel threatened. And when our mind and body get threatened, it really takes our attention and can really make us feel like we have to get the answer to that question. So how do you answer that important question? Well, I believe that our why lies deep within us. And it’s important that we know how to get there. We may not always know why, how to answer that question right away, but it’s important that we know how to get to the answer. And the way we get to understanding why we think and feel like we do is really through understanding and connecting with our values.


Simply defined Your values are the things that really matter to you. And values can be a little tricky to explain or understand. Many of us associate the word values with like a moral code that we were taught or with religious teachings. And truly values can be part of that. They come from that, but they’re not simply defined by that. They’re really much deeper and much more comprehensive and vast. Than any specific teaching or religious tenant.


Values can be something you get really excited about or they can feel a little like, oh, no. I’m back in Sunday school, and Leigh’s gonna tell me all the things I should be doing. Well, there’s no shoulds or no guilt here today. Please just consider hanging out with me for a few minutes as I try to explain the power of understanding values in a specific way. I promise it’s worth it and it’s gonna be very unique to you and be very associated with lots of choices and I hope lots of power.


Whether we realize it or not, those values that we’re talking about, they’re really beneath everything. They’re influencing you constantly. And when you understand them, you’re connected to them, your own personal set of values, you will have so much insight and so much more control in your life. Every single day when I’m working with someone, I’m looking for their values. To help me understand what matters. Why they’re hurting? Where they can look to feel clear and safe? And I want you to know how to do the same thing for yourself.


So let’s start with defining what values are. When we talk about values, we’re talking about principles and ideas that form your personal guidebook or your kind of internal compass, the things that give your life meaning. Most of my clients give me kind of a blank stare when I first ask them about their values. We just don’t really talk about it very directly in our culture very much. We actually talk about it more in organizations than we do in our personal lives. But when I’m sitting with a client and we start talking about values, after just a little bit, the same women that were kind of looking at me with this blank stare become deeply connected to their values and much more aware of what they are and how they are actively using them every day to guide them in their decision making. They use them to help them understand their feelings, and they use values to turn them toward feeling comforted and confident.


I call values the safest place you can be. And I really want you to be able to go to that safe place to better understand why you’re thinking and feeling the way you are. So how do you identify your values? You can Google values in a search and find it even longer. Like, there’s some really long comprehensive lists out there. And I think that’s a great idea because it starts getting your mind rolling around Yeah. Yeah. I I feel strongly about that one or nope. That one is not so important to me. So a list is great. In fact, I’ll put a couple links in the show notes of places you can go to look at value lists, which might help you. But and and it’s fun to look at that. It’s great.


But you really don’t have to look at a list to discover your own values. It can help, but you can also look at something like just your day. And pay attention to the things you’ve done that day that felt good to you, and then look to see what value that might relate to. In other words, the enjoyment you feel about having lunch with a friend could point you to your value of connection. The pride you feel after finishing a project organizing a closet, getting the laundry done, or throwing together a pretty decent meal at the last minute could point to your value of hard work, commitment and creativity, When you daydream about a perfect day, what comes to mind is the top of your list and things to do?


How would you spend your time, your money, or your energy if it were freed up? When you’re feeling really satisfied or happy about the way your day went. What are the things that seem to come up for you that you’ve you’re judging that question by, how are you making that decision? What do you feel driven to do? What just seems like a no brainer? Like, of course, I believe this. Doesn’t everybody believe this?


When you ask these kind of questions, whether you realize it or not, you’re checking in with your values. And this is the place where you go to measure how you’re doing or measure how you think other people should be doing. And your values are the things that call you to be better at something you care about. And there are also the things that get activated or that that are at the source of the things that you’re frustrated at or worried about. They may be the reason why you’re so hard on yourself for something you’re not doing or something you think that you shouldn’t be doing. And your values are the things that keep bringing you back around to an idea or a feeling that you may just have a hard time letting go of. So unfortunately, a lot of us ask these kinds of questions and then beat ourselves up with criticism when we start to measure our life.


So that is definitely what I I don’t want you to do. I want to invite you instead to try this exercise with as much non judgment. As you possibly can because there isn’t a value that you hold that isn’t going to have the potential to serve you in some way. So, value exploration isn’t a test or a measurement. It’s a self awareness exercise. It’s meant to be full of curiosity and observation and not really, like, judged or compared. So, I want you to be aware of your values because they can act as a compass for you. And whether you notice it or not, they really are directing you. They’re guiding you and and me as we make decisions, keeping us focused on paths that lead us toward the people that we wanna be. Because our values inform us when we’re on track and our actions are aligning with matters what with what matters to us and They also inform us when we’re off track, and we may be acting in ways that go against what matters most to us. And so to be able to connect with them and understand them are gonna really help us know what direction to go in our life.


When you think about all the things you feel obligated to do, maybe the opposite of that perfect day of freedom. Right? The things that you feel strongly that you have to do even when you don’t really feel like doing them. You’re also uncovering your values. Getting up with babies in the middle of the night, holding back your kid’s hair while they throw up, or even practicing vocabulary flashcards may simply be illustrating your deep value of nurturing and teaching. I clean the toilets at my house and scrub food off of plates and pick up the house not because I love it, but because I value the protection of health and the organization that helps my life run a little bit smoother. And this isn’t to say that my friend who doesn’t worry so much about her toilets or her dishes, or organizing our house is wrong. She may be holding some other values a little higher on her priority list that day. In fact, I often observed with a. How a friend can seem to easily do something that I really wish I could do. And here’s an example of that from my history.


When one of my sons was in fifth grade, I had my last baby. And I was nursing her. And as school started that year, the fifth grade teacher, who knew me, had asked me because no other parent had stepped up to be fifth grade room mom if I would be the room mom and here I had this brand new baby. And I kind of hammed and HUD and and tried to set an expectation you probably don’t want me. I’m very busy. I’ve got this little baby that she’s my fifth child. I just but I said yes. And we’ll talk more about setting boundaries in another episode, but I probably should have set a better boundary I was torn.


Now, can you start to listen for my values? I was torn because I wanted to support this teacher I wanted to be in the room with my fifth grader. I also had this brand new baby and I was tired. So I took it on, and I’m taking I’m I’m making a plan to help for the Christmas party that year. And of course, we put an email out for volunteers and I got crickets and it was me and my newborn and the teacher and the whole class of fifth graders, and I had a Christmas party to put on so I started calling. Started down the list of calling people I felt most comfortable calling.


And one of the first people I called was my neighbor down the street who also had had a baby earlier that year, and also had a fifth grader in my child’s same class. And I called her and I said, hey, I am just trying to get some moms together to be able to show up at this Christmas party and I just, you know, if you could com for just a few minutes that would be so helpful. What do you think? And she said to me, I’m so sorry I would love to come but I’m nursing a baby right now and I’m just not able to volunteer. Well, At that time, I remember clearly I was sitting at my little desk in the kitchen with my baby actually nursing her trying to prop proper up on one kind of knee when I had my notebook and my phone up against my ear, and I felt just gut punched.


Like, are you kidding me? I’m nursing a baby and I’m doing it. How come you can’t do it? You’re nursing a baby. So I’m doing it. Let’s just go. Let’s do it.


Can you hear the values? Can you hear what she’s caring about? What’s guiding her, does that mean that she didn’t care about her fifth grade kiddo? No. Does that mean she doesn’t care about supporting the teacher? No. It just means that her her desire, her need to take care of herself, her time, her energy focused on nursing that baby, was at a high priority? And I was so bothered by that because that also was one of my priorities, but what was winning in my kind of battle of dual of the values was my commitment to show up in that fifth grade class.


Now, were either of us wrong? And I would say no. This is the tricky thing about values. They’re always going to be competing for your time and your attention. You may value staying home and nursing a baby. You may also value being in your fifth grader’s class and supporting the community and the teacher. And you’re going to have to make a decision.


And when you understand that you’re not a bad person, for making a decision one way or the other. It can help you get out of your way as far as self criticism goes and help you understand Where is it? What’s calling me right now in my values? What do I need to listen to? What direction do I need to go right now? We see this a lot with competing values. And oftentimes, it’ll feel like one of them are wrong or or we got to pick the right one. And it really isn’t that way at all. It’s okay to have competing values because They’re rich. There’s many. There are many things we care about. You may value working at your job where you earn money that protects your family. And you you’re part of a team and you keep your commitments and and you you’re performing a role at work that’s important to you. But at the same time, you probably also value time with your children and your connection to make sure that you know their inner and outer worlds and to develop a bond with them. Two really important values. We have to juggle them.


Some days our values can seem unfairly at odds with each other. Like that day for me when I so wanted to be the good room mom for my fifth grader, but I also wanted the freedom to say no, I’m nursing a baby right now, and it’s too much. I value my rest. I value this time with this newborn. Whenever I hear myself on one hand, I want to do this. But on the other hand, I feel I need to do this. Well, this is your values at play.


And when we get upset, I’ll tell you literally every time I believe there’s a value somewhere beneath the thing we are upset about. And this is especially true when we’re upset at ourselves. As I listen to a woman give me her list of failures or the things she so mad at herself about, I’m always quietly listening for the value that lies beneath it. I’m not a good mom. I’m not patient. I don’t spend enough time with my kids. I’m writing down what I hear. You value connection with your kids, don’t you? And mothering and family are really important to you. Teary eyed and upset a woman will pause and blink and look at me as if I didn’t hear her, but kind of startled by my question, yes, she’ll say I I do. In fact, I say, As you’ve been talking, this is what I’ve been writing down, as I’ve been listening for what really matters to you. I hear that you might value And then here’s an example.


Another example that I wrote down from a mom of three kids last week. You deeply care about connection relationships, being active and having adventure, learning and growing, keeping your commitments, and also having freedom. It sounds like you really care about mothering, but you also desperately wanna feel healthy and good in your body, and you value safety and patience. And then this mom started nodding and adding things. She said, and steadiness, I really wanna be steady and not all over the place, and steadiness I repeat. What else? She kind of caught the vision and started adding things. Independence but I also really want support and learning things. I’m not learning new things. Just doing the same stuff over and over and kind of sucking at it. I nodded and and I asked her, what makes you really upset? She said feeling like a failure. Like, I’m not doing any of the things right.


And so I read the list back to her. And it’s a long list and a really cool list. And it’s just the beginning of her list. It’s so cool, though. And it represents who she really is inside. And I always email this list to them if I can or I, you know, have them write it down because It is a coolist. It it’s the core. It’s the nuggets of the things that matter to them when I’m talking to them. And so it’s so much easier to get connected to your essential self when you’re looking for the things that really deeply matter to you.


See, there’s all this struggle going on inside of us because we value a lot of things and we measure ourselves by these things. And sometimes, If not most of the time, it’s just impossible to have every one of our values win the top spot in our priorities. So we get critical and we start to make decisions about how we’re failing rather than see how actually deep and value based we actually are. So the things this mom is spending her time on are important to her. She’s nursing a baby, working on home washing the same clothes over and over each week because she is committed to nurturing and loving her children. But she also values her health and being patient and tender and she isn’t sleeping enough or getting any time to herself. And she hasn’t had an evening out with her husband alone or even by herself in a while and she just isn’t loving her mom life. Because she doesn’t have any time to feel like she’s learning things or growing. And because she’s depleted, she gets impatient. And acts a little gruff or loses her temper and all of that good stuff, her dedication and her intention gets thrown under the bus and she feels like crap.


Because she’s measuring her performance against what really matters to her, her values only it’s getting confused. She thinks that she’s not good enough or on deserving and powerless to get where she wants to go because she’s only focusing on the current outcome. On the surface of her situation. Instead, I want her and I want you to focus on the deeper place of what matters most. On your values. This will help her get connected to the best part of her instead of what feels like the worst part of her.


So remember your essential self, that core identity that’s beneath our self concept? Well, your values are an extension of your essential self, and your values aren’t your goals. GOLs are things we decide we want to accomplish based upon our values. None of us can possibly meet all the goals all the time, so we get a little off track and think something’s terribly wrong with us. So this confusion of our values with our goals, I think it’s a trap that all of us fall into and we judge who we are based upon our day to day ability to act in a way that perfectly aligns with what matters most to us. And instead, I want us to focus on the fact that we even try to be a loving and patient mom or even try to exercise or take care of ourselves and others. We care about this stuff because deep down we value it. That’s what truly matters. Not getting a perfect grade on how we do it each time. It’s just too discouraging to measure our success by perfection standards it’s just impossible.


So if you notice that you don’t like what you’re doing or you don’t like what you’re not doing, Knowing your values can help you get back on track from a place of connection and compassion for yourself. You’re just upset because you care about it. That points to your wellness, not to your brokenness, Your values can be like stars lighting the path and feeling good and so motivating, or they can be like little alarms that screech at you. Trying to get your attention to help you course correct and steer you in the direction that you are longing to go. So whenever I’m upset about something or upset it myself or someone else, I try to remember to pause and look for the value that’s getting activated.


If I’m irritated at my husband because he’s looking at his phone, instead of at me when I’m talking with him, It helps for me to pause and connect to the should that’s running in my thinking. Right? He should be looking at me, not at the screen. I think, even though I probably caught him in the middle of finishing a text, or maybe I just did the exact same thing earlier when he was trying to talk to me. But see the story in my mind can go a couple of different directions. I can jump into blaming him for not doing what he should be doing or I could pause and notice I’m getting upset and look to see what in my values is trying to talk to me.


Because I value connection, and I don’t feel connected right now, that could be the thing that I’m getting upset about. I value respect and I’m interpreting his behavior as disrespectful. No wonder I’m feeling upset. But it’s not really your partner’s words or actions that are upsetting you. It’s your thoughts and beliefs about those words or action. This is really important in knowing what to do next because if I just respond to the feeling of irritation I have, I’m likely to blame him or attack him instead of responding from a value led place. Instead of thinking, I’m getting upset because I value connection and I just don’t feel connected right now. Certainly, if I blame or criticize him, heart connection is going to be less, not more. And I’m sure that’s happened to all of us. Right? Wait. Wait. Wait. This isn’t how I wanted it to go. I just wanted to be more connected and now I don’t even feel like we’re talking.


But if I can connect to the deeper thing that’s upsetting me, the need for connection, I can take ownership for the feeling and decide to respond in a way that might bring me more of what I actually want. So how can we respond when we’re hurt by others? Or when we’re judging ourselves harshly? We can go to our values and find the things that are calling out to us and then act in a way that align with those values. So we’re gonna look to our values to inform us of why there’s that why question, why we might be having those thoughts or feelings and then look to those values again to help us know what to do or how to respond. It’s the privilege of being human that allows us to have the ability to think and feel one way and actually decide to act in an alternate way that better aligns with what we value. This is being value driven And in my profession, there’s now whole methods of therapy focused primarily on making our decisions based upon our values.


And this is critical for showing up in a resilient empowered way as an individual and especially as a parent. So that we have this purpose driven life and that we have this meaningful, grounded, and connected life to the things that matter most to us. I really think this is the key to learning to love that mom life, which on first glance is like not very glamorous or exciting. And yet, when you talk with people as they evaluate their lives, particularly at the end of their lives, The thing that they will tell you is the most valuable that they did. It’s usually related to these deeper connected kinds of things. Things they did in their life very very much like being a mom and the challenges of being a mother. These challenges are huge. On paper, I just don’t know if the benefits outweigh the challenges. If we just took them, you know, one to one because they’re just not measurable in the same way that we measure most things. But it’s the weighted value. That comes from all of the effort and the commitment and the kinds of things that lead us in our parenting. They’re really connected to that value system.


And so when we’re parenting, when we’re mothering, and we’re not noticing our values, front and center, it can so much feel like what we do is just untethered in a way that it it just isn’t that important. And I know we’ve mentioned things like, you know, those day to day tasks that are so repetitive and not really very shiny or sexy. They can sometimes feel very meaningful. Things like washing the same clothes over and over again and cleaning the same dishes and performing the same routines with our children. And yet the kinds of things that we are passing on to our children through those activities, through our showing up, through our staying committed, those are values. That’s how we’re teaching our children, our values, and helping them grow and giving them a pattern for their lives and truly, that’s probably the most powerful work we could ever do. And we don’t get a monetary reward for that. We rarely even get acknowledged for that. And so it’s important to be able to get your own acknowledgement, being able to connect to that drive, that you have inside and recognize there’s something much bigger at play here and your value focus can really be the source of your greatest joy in your life. And we wanna pass this concept on to our children. We want them to be able to explore and gain their own sense of their values. And we want them to learn to be value driven. I think that’s just one of the main jobs, most important tasks that we have in our parenting.


Lately, I’ve noticed an argument out there floating around that parents should not teach their values to their children. Rather they should let them figure out what is important on their own as they grow without being air quote indoctrinated by parental views. Well, I will tell you I do not think this is a good idea. It’s like leaving your child in Times Square, in New York City, and letting any and all influences shape her sense of who she is and what matters in life. Children learn from those around them and we want to give them a rich and varied experience of how our personal values, as parents, how our values guide us, and even let our kids try on our values and get a sense of how it feels to be led by something deeper and bigger.


Our job is adults and our kid’s jobs as they become adults is to sort through and get to know our values as parents. To keep the ones that they resonate with and even let go or move farther down our priority list the ones that don’t serve them. So ask yourself what really matters to you. And in our work together, we’re going to use your values a lot all the time in fact. To anchor you and hold onto you, and direct you when you have to make decisions, and give you comfort, and even allow you to bounce back from challenges. Resilience is all about using values to help us recover and return to what matters most. I hope you find joy in searching out and uncovering the things that matter most to you.


I’ll see you next week. Take care. Hey, thanks so much for listening. To catch all the details from our show today, you can find show notes at my website, Leigh Germann dot com. That’s l e I g h g e r m a n n dot com. Thanks again, and I’ll see you next time. The Leadership parenting podcast is for general information purposes only. It is not therapy and should not take the place of meeting with a qualified mental health professional. The information on this podcast is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition illness or disease. It’s also not intended to be legal, medical, or therapeutic advice. Please consult your doctor or mental health professional for your individual circumstances. Thanks again, and take care.

End of Transcript



This podcast is not intended to provide mental health treatment.  Leigh Germann is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and not a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist.  She does not provide diagnosis nor offer therapy through the LeighGermann.com website or in the information offered on the website. It is important that you do not disregard professional medical or mental health advice or delay seeking professional medical or mental health treatment because of any information on the LeighGermann.com website including but not limited to blogs, newsletter, videos, podcasts, e-books, programs, webinars, courses and other services. Leigh Germann and offerings on LeighGermann.com are not providing legal or financial advice, business advice, psychotherapy, supervision, religious advice, or medical advice. The information contained on this Website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

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