Values Compass

Allow me to set the stage: A 20 year old junior at university, probably wearing baggy sweatpants and an ill-fitting tee. She surrounds herself with truly lovely people who become family. She pours herself into a local Southern Baptist church. She might occasionally, to relieve some shame, mention “having unhealthy expectations in female friendships” to her mentor. She is entrenched in a culture that will reject her. Her entire support system won’t know how to be her friend if she finally says... If she...Maybe I’


Were any other queers out there truly scared of anything that might be related to queer culture? All I ever heard were the bigoted remarks made by friends and family growing up about how awful and sinful LGBTQ folks are. I’m still stumped by the sheer amount of references to San Francisco's pride event in my southern Alabama home. Queer people were actively condemned at any hint of “that lifestyle”. So to survive I, like so many other queer folks, burrowed into shame: I’m not like them.

Not like them.
I just happen to be attracted to women.

Not like them.
I cried when my best friend in college started dating (men).

Not like them.
Secretly dates a woman for 2 years.

So how do I know who I am supposed to be when my whole life I’ve been fiercely knowing what I’m NOT supposed to be, but am. As a therapist, much of the work I do is helping people work through these kinds of difficulties, traumas, and abuse. To begin this process in therapy, I want to equip folks to navigate the hard stuff with something that can be constant and reliable. One way to give yourself this kind of compass is to think of several people you look up to, respect, or are drawn to and think of what values or character traits you appreciate in them. Here’s a recent copy of mine:


From this list of people and values you can then extract your own list of values. This has been something that I come back to time and time again when I don’t know what to do or how to handle something.

> If you are making a decision...ask yourself: How do my options line up with my values? Can I make this decision and be gentle, generous, and value this relationship?

>You’ve already made a decision and you’re doubting your decision... Was my decision instilling values in others? Was I being curious and kind and emotionally aware?

>Turn it inward... Am I being gentle towards myself right now? If I make this decision will I be valuing me? If I choose to enter this space will I be welcomed as I am and loved well?

Try it on your own time, share it with friends, use it to enrich your interactions with others. Now that I am used to thinking through things this way I find that I am much kinder. I allow myself to ask for space in difficult situations and conversations. “Actually, I’m not sure about that. Can I get back to you tomorrow?” I feel confident that I have the tools to treat myself and others in a way I can be proud of. Go try it and let us know if you have any questions or need any guidance!

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