We choose our values, and our values can, and will change, yet there’s little doubt that our values initially come from our parents and early caregivers before our own choices are made.
I recently read an essay passage that reminded me of that, a passage that also illustrates that this early value-giving is most often done by a variety of accumulated actions — by doing, and doing together most of all, rather than by speaking of value lessons explicitly:
To be first generation means acquiescing to a lasting state of restlessness. It’s as if you’ve inherited not just your family’s knotted DNA, but also the DNA acquired from their move, from veritable mileage, from the energy it took your parents to reestablish their lives. I grasped early — perhaps one February morning as I warmed my feet inside the car while my mother scraped snow off her windshield, her rosy cheeks emerging through icy diagonals on the glass — that my parents were not from here but from there: Kolkata. There she was, removing snow with great purpose and rhythm as I spasmed with chills until I was toasty and warm. There she was, my Anglo-Indian mother, Dolores. She from there but now living here, wearing winter boots and a puffy coat. And me, her daughter who is from here, but also in some conveyed manner, from there too.
That distinction is one that accompanies me every day but one that I have been careful to never overly indulge. There’s only so much difference I can sustain without gutting all of my confidence. Without feeling lost. What tethers me to my parents is the unspoken dialogue we share about how plenty of my character is built on the connection I feel to the world they were raised in but that I’ve only experienced through photos, visits, food. It’s not mine and yet, I get it. First generation kids, I’ve always thought, are the personification of déjà vu.
— Durga Chew-Bose, How I Learned To Stop Erasing Myself
We do talk about our values, but very little in comparison to our dance of life lived in each others company.
Our values get cemented with our own devoted belief in them, but they initially come to be through the influence of others and the proof-positive they offer us in actions demonstrated for us to see, hear, sense, taste and feel.
Having sensed these things, we make our choices.
We always have a choice, no matter our age or time spent in their company, the choice to pay attention, to notice more than observe, to ask questions, to join in and try things out.
Or we can do nothing, which is but another choice.
Choose to “Be proud of yourself.” — it’s a rule.
Wonderful too, the essay author’s awareness that it’s very possible to ‘erase herself’ if she takes her choices too far in another direction, that of not choosing to be part of one’s heritage or upbringing.
Small choices, repeated day after day, will make a big impact.
We are wise to occasionally stop, and simply ask ourselves what it is we truly want, in the effort to self-check ourselves: Do our smallest, but most oft-repeated actions guide us toward the right goals, or are we bobbing along the tide of a less than Purposeful Following?
As Friedrich Nietzsche has said, “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”
Within our Lessons Learned:
Values essentially do two things for us: They define our WHY and they give us a HOW-TO.
Those two things don’t always go together, and when they do, the result is very, very powerful. To start with your WHY is to begin all efforts with your personal truth about something, to start with its “good sense.” To proceed, and take action with a HOW-TO connected to your WHY, is to honor your personal truth.
Isn’t that what personal integrity is all about, acting with authenticity and honor so that other people feel they can trust you?
— In our archives: Let’s Define Values.