This is a time when many of us are reflecting on values and boundaries, which I know is kind of a hot topic as our boundaries have been erased with so much sheltering in place and working from home.

So I want to share something with you from The Real Self Love Handbook to help you define your values and set clear boundaries. This is something I wrote extensively about in the book.

“Values are your driving force and your motivation. They’re a part of you that is intrinsically you. What you value in life can be clearly reflected in your lifestyle, relationships, and your career.”

I say it ‘can’ be seen in those areas, but we all know that sometimes we tolerate situations and people that don’t really match our ideals. But if you were really living in full integrity, aligning your life with your values then everything in those areas would match.

There are a lot of influences on our values our family system, the society, the media, there are so many things that drive us, but I want you to be able to define your values for yourself.

Where do our values come from?

When people ask how do I define my values, I suggest you look at your family first. We may have been brought up in a certain culture or family situation that drove us to be perfectionistic, to enjoy music, to favor wine over beer, for example.

For me growing up the way I did there was a high value on education. There was a high value on being articulate. Now when I remove my parental influence the things that govern my life are integrity, authenticity, compassion. And so these values are what I use to establish boundaries.

How knowing your values helps you set clear boundaries

If you’ve struggled with saying no to people or you find that people-pleasing is a part of your make up then you need to start to take a step back from your pre-programmed life and find out what you truly value for yourself.

With people pleasing you the ‘pure’ value would be something like appreciating harmony in relationships. But if you’re going out of your way to please others at the expense of yourself, that’s not creating harmony for yourself.

If you’re constantly putting other people’s needs before yours, taking on projects or saying yes to engagements that ultimately drain you just because you don’t want to annoy, disappoint or upset someone then you are not truly honoring the value of harmony.

In The Real Self Love Handbook I have listed the various values into tables, shown here.From The Real Self Love Handbook, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

There are fear-based emotions that drive a lot of us include competition, scarcity, self-interest, like I gotta get mine. Conformity is al fear-based emotion, victimhood, criticizing, blaming, resentment.

But then on the flip side, there are love based values like collaboration, expansion, creativity, abundance, integrity, celebration, generosity, forgiveness, compassion, inspiration and hope.

From The Real Self Love Handbook, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

Signs your values are being compromised

And so what you’ll see is that if you start to really define your values for yourself you can bring to mind the words above to see what it brings up for you energetically. What is the feeling in your body? Do you feel light, tingly, energized? Or do you feel heavy, tired, burdened? How does your stomach feel? How about your muscles? Are they tight and ready fight or run?

If you find yourself in a situation that you feel uncomfortable, again tune into your body or whatever sense triggers you. If you feel that something is wrong while you’re hanging out with someone or you see some content online or you’re listening to something and it just it rubs you the wrong way, However, that shows up for you, those are signs for you to see that your values are being challenged.

So the basic example that so many of us use is if you and I set an appointment and we’re supposed to meet at the top of the hour. And you don’t show up. Well, I have a high value on open clear communication and my time for example, and so if you didn’t show up, I might feel angry, irritated, frustrated if you know if I feel like you’re violating like my time or my trust.

I also may feel worried and compassionate like what happened? Did they get stuck? Is there something wrong with their kid? Whenever you feel something coming up you know that your values are at play — whether they’re being challenged or you need to defend them.

That’s one way that you can start to unravel all of the the ways that you’re living out of integrity with your values or you recognize that you’re living by a value that doesn’t suit you anymore.

In my early days of being an overachiever, perfectionist, I felt like I always had to be doing doing doing. And for me to take time off would bring up feelings of fear, judgment and criticism. I would be worrying about what people would think.

Go back to the source of your programming

When I look back on where is the source of that self judgment, criticism and fear came from, it was a belief that I’m only worth something if I’m being productive.

When you recognize that placing the value on a human life is based on productivity, you should question it. You and I both know that it’s not true that our value comes from what we do.

I had to look for myself and realize that whether I do work or don’t do work, I am valuable at my core. Period. And the same is true of you. No matter what you do or don’t do, you are a valuable person with infinite potential to have a meaningful contribution in the world.

I understand that my elders were well meaning when they emphasized the need for education and getting a job, but my immature developing mind took it to an extreme that led me to burnout and feeling insecure. It set me up for imposter syndrome and constant stress later in life.

Learning this I had to set new boundaries for myself. I chose set up my life to honor my human body that I’ve been gifted so that it gets the rest, the nourishment, the play, the exercise and the meditation that I need to feel fulfilled.

I had to kind of uncouple this false limiting belief about my worth and recognize that I am worthy no matter what. No matter what I do or don’t do and taking time off is totally legit.

And I’ve seen so many of my clients who struggle with that as well. They say things like, “If I don’t answer these emails right away, or if I don’t post content everyday… I’ll be no longer relevant.”

Reprogram your mind

When your identity and sense of self-worth are tied to performance, looks or productivity, then you’re bound to feel shame or blame when you fall short of your ideal. So unraveling the source of those beliefs will empower you to flip the script so that you establish your values based on what you really care about and what’s real and true for you.

This is part of this unlearning some of the behavioral programs and the emotional patterns that we were taught early in life. Fortunately, we can rewrite them. As I outline in the book, you can unlearn victim mentalityimposter syndrome and feeling unworthy of love.

It’s going to take practice. So be patient with yourself. It’s not like you’re going to make a bold declaration like “this is what I value… I value myself. I value my time.” and think that your old habits of behaving will go away.

Because we’ve been programmed during childhood we’ve got brain circuits that have been used and reused repeatedly. It’s like our brains have grooves in them. And those are their most used pathways because we’ve used them for so long.

In my case, I really had to remind myself of what I was doing. I had to continue to practice setting new boundaries, relaxing on some of these unrealistic goals and expectations. Over time, by reinforcing them and adding in positivity so that I could feel good, it worked.

And this is a key factor:

You need to install new habits and celebrate your courages so you feel good for your choices.

I don’t want to feel bad and I don’t want you to feel bad. But as you add in the positivity to feel good you create new pathways. So practicing compassion is not just some trendy thing that everyone’s talking about and neuroscience is now proving that it’s worthy.

It’s something that is fundamental to good health, good psychological well-being.

So grab a copy of The Real Self Love Handbook and check out the section about values and with the audiobook if you like you can listen to me for nearly 10 hours.

My LifeWriting exercise from the book is available free in this video course which includes guided meditations & journaling prompts that help you tap into the subconscious mind to identify any limiting beliefs or stories that have taken away your confidence. Use this program to learn how to awaken the hero within and begin living with more confidence and success.

If you’re struggling and you need some support, I’d be happy to help. Check out my private coaching and mentoring here.

Be sure to tune in every Wednesday at 8am Pacific / 11am Eastern / 4pm UK / 17h France for my live show on FacebookYouTube, and LinkedIn. Subscribe so you get notifications when there’s a new video or when I go live. You can ask questions live and I’ll share more tips and insights on how to liberate your Authentic Self and activate your innate vitality code so that you build resilience, heal trauma and experience real self love. (Replays are available as well.)

This article was originally published on on December 26, 2020.


  • Dr. Andrea Pennington

    Chief Wellness Officer, Integrative Physician | Resilience | Healing Trauma | Holistic Health | Free Ebooks @ &


    Dr. Andrea Pennington is an integrative physician, acupuncturist, meditation teacher and a #1 international bestselling author of several books. Dr. Andrea’s extensive study of medical nutrition, positive psychology and neuroscience led her to create a health media platform, In8Vitality, blending ancient wisdom and modern science to empower you to recover from stress and burnout. All of her books, corporate wellness programs, documentaries and products are ethically and consciously designed for enhanced vitality and life mastery.  Andrea is also a documentary filmmaker, international TEDx speaker, and health technology advocate. As both a healer and teacher she is also sought-after media personality who has shared empowering insights on resilience on the Oprah Winfrey Show, the Dr. Oz Show, iTV This Morning, CNN, the Today Show, Thrive Global and as a news anchor for Discovery Health Channel. Now, as Founder of the #RealSelfLove Movement Andrea speaks globally to reduce the stigma of mental illness and to support people on their journey to authentic living. In Andrea's latest book, The Real Self Love Handbook, she explores her personal journey from depression to real self-love and how The Cornerstone Process, a 5-step self-discovery process is setting people free from limiting beliefs due to trauma and adverse childhood experiences. Other popular anthologies include Holistic Healing and The Top 10 Traits of Highly Resilient People, each compiled by Dr. Pennington.