This means we need to know first what our own personal values are, which may take some time and experience.
If we value honesty, reliability and trustworthiness, for example, the questions become: Am I honest with myself and with others? Do I keep my promises? Can others count on me?
And here is the true test: Do my words and behavior match? It’s one thing to say the “right” thing and another to put it into action. Many people talk about honesty, fairness and commitment. But it’s another thing to actually keep your word, stick up for other people and honor your commitments when it is hard to do so or when others may not agree with you.
I have found this pillar a very difficult one to practice. As much as I strive to live up to my values, I find that it is extremely hard to always live up to them. I may find myself coming up with a white lie to a friend, in order not to hurt their feelings. I make commitments to myself of what I will get done, then find myself procrastinating. I fail to say how I really feel in order to keep peace and harmony.
We need to remember that like all the other pillars, this is a practice. As we aspire to be honest, reliable, and trustworthy and live up to our values more and more, we increase our self-esteem. But as part of the process, we invariably run into situations where it becomes difficult to practice our values and we occasionally fail. What then?
1. We own the fact that we did what we did without beating ourselves up (self-acceptance).
2. We seek to understand why we did what we did (with self-compassion).
3. If others are involved, we acknowledge to the other person(s) the harm we have done.
4. We take action to make amends for the harm we have done.
5. We firmly commit to behaving differently in the future.
In practicing Personal Integrity, we raise our self-esteem. We may not be able to do it perfectly, but that is ok. If we set our intention, do the best we can and strive to improve, we increase our self respect. In the process, we might realize that some of the values we held no longer serve us or are not as important as we previously believed. I used to value independence a lot, and while I still believe that it is helpful to be able to stand on your own, I now value connectedness much more than I did before. We redefine our values over time: it’s all part of our journey of personal growth.
What are your most important values? What would happen if you lived 5% more in line with your values?
Personal Integrity is the 6th Pillar from Dr. Nathaniel Branden’s book “The 6 Pillars of Self-Esteem.”