Why You May Need to Rethink Your Moral Compass Now

“I believe that in healthy humans there is an inner compass that guides right from wrong. It may get modified through various lenses of philosophy, religion, and culture, but I think seeking peace and integrity and not causing harm are pretty universal. Unfortunately, it is also possible to get estranged from that compass, so it is good to stay in balance and in touch with it as much as we can.”

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Feelings or Morals?

As a therapist and mindset coach, I speak with many people that feel lost and stuck in life. They often have a difficult time making choices and knowing what the right thing to do is. I can relate to this as I have had my own fair share of difficulty determining whether or not my moral compass should be ruled by my in-the-moment emotions or whether it should be strong and steadfast.

The answer seems pretty simple- our choices should be guided by an unwavering moral compass, not by emotions. The reality is that feelings, no matter how strong, cloud the direction we should take.

Let’s say that you prefer to do what you want to do. “I’ll do what I feel like doing.”  We have a right to do whatever we want to do, when we want to do it, right? Feel your feelings and just go with it.

But isn’t that mindset like playing with fire? If we walk around doing only what we feel like doing, what will we accomplish?

Hatred, laziness, greed, jealously, insecurity, pride, selfishness, bitterness, the desire to fit in… these are all feelings that can lead to broken relationships, theft, drug abuse, fraud, violence, murder, mental illness, and chaos.

Living in a world that only honors people’s feelings and neglects the viewpoint of right vs. wrong doesn’t sit well with me. This is not to say that feelings are invalid and to be dismissed. Feelings can be intense and need to be spoken about and validated in order for them to be let go successfully. Feelings can be felt without being acted upon.

What if I just feel like taking something that doesn’t belong to me? Or if I say hateful things to someone because they are different than me? Maybe I feel angry so I hit the person closest to me or I lie whenever it suits me?

Aren’t those things wrong morally?

“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.” 

Leo Tolstoy, A Confession

Core Values

Challenge: Feel your feelings and make the right choice based on your core values.

Let’s take a look at the core value of commitment. If we are to commit to something, it means that we dedicate ourselves to that person or thing. If we have committed ourselves to a new job or task, we get up everyday and do the best we can during the work day. It doesn’t matter if we are frustrated, tired, sad, or even happy- we are still going to head to work. Commitment is independent of feelings.

Core values like commitment are all independent of feelings.  Integrity is another great example of this. Integrity means doing the right thing even when no one is watching. How many times have you thought “I don’t feel like doing this?” and you do it anyway because you know it’s the right thing to do? The thought “I don’t feel like doing this” is a feeling. If you went with that feeling every time you were tired and not feeling up to the task, there would be dishes in the sink, laundry and trash everywhere, and extra pounds on your waistline. Maybe you don’t even have a job because you don’t feel like it! Integrity, like commitment, is independent of feelings. If you have integrity, you can feel like you don’t want to do something, but you do it anyway because it is the right thing to do.

Fine Tuning Your Moral Compass

A moral compass includes our principles, values, and beliefs. In typical development, our early childhood caregivers teach us these principles, values, and beliefs. If you have experienced a break in attachment or early childhood trauma or neglect, you may have to start from scratch in developing your own moral compass.

Where do I start?

A solid moral compass includes core values that will eventually govern your behaviors. In order to begin the process of developing a moral compass, you will need to do some research to determine which core values you want to include in your compass. Before I list out some core values, let’s define the word values. If you value something, you hold it in high regard, pursue it, and even love it.

Here is a list of some core values:

  • Integrity
  • Honesty
  • Loyalty
  • Honor
  • Courage
  • Commitment
  • Selfless Service
  • Respect
  • Self-Discipline
  • Kindness
  • Forgiveness
  • Transparency
  • Trust
  • Joy
  • Humility

Steps to Rethink Your Moral Compass

These are 15 core values, though there are hundreds of them! Follow these steps to start living by your own moral compass:

  1. Do your best to find the values that resonate with you.
  2.  Rank them in order of importance.
  3. Write them down.
  4. Define them.
  5. Hang the values and the definitions everywhere you can see them- fridge, mirrors, car, desk, dresser.
  6. Make all of your choices align with these values.
  7. Practice. Practice. Practice. It will take time to develop the ability to match your choices and actions with your moral compass. Like anything new, it will require patience and practice.

Still stumped or looking for an example? Below is a list of 10 of my core values and their definitions. With a solid moral compass, I can make my choices align with those core values, even when it doesn’t feel good. I know what I stand for and knowing what I stand for helps me trust in myself and my choices.

My Core Values

  1. Integrity – doing the right thing even when no one is looking
  2. Honesty- speak the truth and act truthfully
  3. Loyalty- faithful and devoted to loved ones
  4. Courage- Being afraid of something and doing it anyway
  5. Self-Discipline- the ability to do what I think is right despite temptations to abandon my pursuit
  6. Forgiveness- deciding that someone who has wronged me doesn’t have to pay or be punished
  7. Joy- choosing to be happy even when things don’t go my way
  8. Selfless Service- being helpful and kind to others as well as serving others without expecting a reward or praise
  9. Humility- putting others first by giving up what you think you deserve
  10. Kindness- being friendly, generous, respectful and considerate of others

Recommended Reading

I started thinking about moral compass and values after reading Mark Divine’s book, Unbeatable Mind. I highly recommend it as a resource to help develop your moral compasss.

Side note: We love Amazon and participate in the Amazon Affiliate programs. If you are thinking about purchasing these books through the links above, we do get some credit. Thank you for understanding.

Getting Help

If you or a loved one is experiencing mental health symptoms that are concerning or that are getting progressively worse, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional. Thrive is a proud provider of telehealth (tele-therapy). We offer HIPAA compliant video, phone, and text sessions for individuals, adults, and families struggling with mental health. Call 844-984-7483 or request a free, confidential screening online. If you would like help with developing your moral compass, contact me today at rose@thriveonlinecounseling.com


Rose Skeeters, MA, LPC, PN2 Thrive:Mind/Body, LLC TMB Online Counseling

Rose Skeeters, MA, LPC, PN2

Rose Skeeters is the CVO of Thrive: Mind/Body, LLC, an innovative mindset coaching & online counseling practice aimed at empowering motivated individuals to master every area of their life. She specializes in family & relationship counseling–helping couples, parents, & families get and stay on the same page. Rose is also the host of From Borderline to Beautiful, a podcast aimed at helping individuals with BPD, CPTSD, and EUPD find hope and help in their recovery journeys. Are you interested in working with Rose? Schedule a consult with her here or contact her today at Rose@thriveonlinecounseling.com.

5 Ways to Improve Your Relationship Right Now

I’m sure you have heard people say that good relationships require a lot of hard work. But what does that actually mean? What kind of hard work needs to get done to improve your relationship? Isn’t it enough to commit to your partner day in and day out? The short answer to that is no. In order to have a healthy relationship, we need to be good partners– which means more than just a commitment and a shared life together. Check out these 5 ways to improve your relationship right now.

1. Tell the Truth.

There’s nothing wrong with a little white lie– is there? Do you tell your partner that you love her cooking, even when it takes like burnt rubber? How about all of the times where you said “yes” when your partner asked if you liked their favorite ugly sweater or “no” if they looked fat in something when they didn’t look their best? Do you pretend to listen and wait to speak? Do you tell your partner only what they “need to know”?

I have had clients tell me that they lie to their partner to protect them. I had a guy tell me that he went to the bar once a month for lunch with his work buddies, though couldn’t tell his wife because that would make her jealous. He claimed to be an honest guy, though lied monthly about hanging out with his friends. My question to him (and you) is this: if you have nothing to hide, why would you lie and how is lying protecting your partner if there is no real motivation to lie?

So if you want to improve your relationship, stop lying. No lie big or small has ever turned out to be a good thing. If you are scared of your partner’s reaction when you tell the truth, you may want to have a heart-to-heart with that partner and seek relationship coaching. Lies build resentment and distrust.

Practice transparency.

Be transparent. If your partner can clearly see your intentions, and can trust your word, you will greatly improve your relationship. Broken promises, little white lies, indirect communication, and speaking in hyperboles tears down the relationship and makes for a rocky path.

Remember this: It may be difficult to be transparent after many years, though it is equally if not more difficult to maintain a web of lies, secrecy, and resentment. Be someone your partner can rely on and stop lying.

2. Manage Expectations.

People change and grow over time. If you are waiting around for your partner to become the person they were when you first started dating, you will be waiting forever. It is an impossible task to ask someone to stay the same over the course of a relationship. Sameness may be comfortable to you, but it is unrealistic to maintain.

Make a list.

What expectations do you have for your partner? What do you expect out of your wife or husband, boyfriend or girlfriend? Make a list.

Do you expect your husband to take out the trash and keep your gas tank full? Does he know this? How about your wife? Should she keep the house at a certain level of clean or should she cook everyday if she is a stay-at-home mom?

After you list our your expectations, ask yourself this for every item on your list: Does my partner know that I expect that of them? and then… Is my partner capable of meeting that expectation?

If you expect your wife to clean and cook every day and to make sure your favorite pair of pants is clean– do you ask this of her? Does she have time in her day to meet those expectations? If you have children and your wife is a stay-at-home mom and not getting all of the chores completed that you expect her to complete– have you talked with her? If your husband never takes out the trash or puts his dirty laundry next to the laundry basket– have you talked with him?

Remember this: Expecting someone to do exactly what you want them to do without ever taking into consideration their capabilities and communicating with them is tyrannical. Be a good partner by managing your expectations and communicating directly with your partner.

3. Choose Leadership over Tyranny.

Do you use sarcasm, shame, yelling, and indirect communication to get your needs met? Are you a good leader to your partner when they need guidance or do you resort to tyranny?

A good leader is trustworthy, determined, influential, empathetic, passionate, and connected. A leader understands and sets boundaries, is responsible, and is humble. A leader takes responsibility for their actions and is able to make choices that make the most sense for the good of the group, not the individual.

A tyrant is also influential, but relentless, critical, and demanding as well. A tyrant is often apathetic towards others and displays arrogance. Tyrants are not concerned with the good of the group, rather they are concerned with what is best for themselves and have a selfish worldview.

I’m not a tyrant!

Are you thinking that there is no way that you could possibly be a tyrant? Think again. If you have low self-esteem, anxiety, and a need for things to be perfect, you may very well engage in tyrannical behavior– whether you are male or female.

Did you ever ask the question, “You’re going to take the trash out, right?” (or do the dishes, mow the lawn, do the laundry, etc.) The minute this question is asked, you set the person on the receiving end up to either fall in line with what you want or face some kind of consequence. Instead of asking, “Will you please take out the trash?” You have entered a situation where your goal (the trash going out and your partner doing it) means more to you than your partner. This is tyrannical.

How about another example? Let’s say you like your house to be clean, so you have an expectation that your partner clean the home regularly since they spend more time at home. When the home isn’t clean and you’ve had a decent day, it doesn’t really bother you, so you don’t say anything at all to your partner. On a bad day, though, it drives you nuts that the house isn’t clean so you scream, yell, and threaten your partner when you get home. Maybe you call them lazy or other names and make them feel bad for not meeting your expectations. That is not good leadership.

Being a good leader is a difficult skill. It takes practice, commitment, dedication, and willingness to fail– at first. It may take time for you to develop and enhance your leadership skills, though this time spent will be invaluable to the growth of your relationship. Need help? Schedule a session today.

Remember this: The goal of a tyrant is always more important than you and your goal. If your goals trump everything in front of you, including your partner, their goals, and the goals of your family, time to seek guidance to transform tyranny into leadership.

4. Communicate Directly & Listen to Understand.

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing his own opinions.

Proverbs 18:2

What is your communication style? Are you direct and to the point or do you use indirect communication to express yourself? Do you listen until it’s your turn to talk or do you listen to understand?

Indirect communication is when a person chooses to act out what they really mean instead of saying it directly. They can use voice tone, gestures, or facial expressions. They do this to avoid being directly rejected, avoid arguments, be in the “safe” zone, and to ultimately save face. This cycle has to end as it can and will end a relationship.

Jay Skeeters

Communication breaks down when what we hear are our own assumptions and insecurities projected onto the words of someone else. Direct communication and active listening will repair these breakdowns in communication. Listen to your partner by taking out any assumptions you may have when they are talking so that you can develop empathy for them and see the world from their perspective.

Jay and I talk a lot about communication in our work because it is a key component to having healthy, connected relationships. It is important to change from an indirect to a direct style of communication. Saying exactly what you think and feel makes listening and giving feedback much easier. This opens up the communication lines to a sharing of ideas, thoughts, and feelings. If you use indirect communication and aren’t sure what else you can do to get your needs met, schedule with us today. We can guide you on how to communicate better so that you will feel heard and respected.

Remember this: Listening communicates love, compassion, and empathy to your partner. Listening also helps you understand each other, connect and communicate effectively.

5. Be Supportive.

Would you take a bullet for your partner?

Okay, that’s intense– or is it? Throughout this post, I have referred to people in a relationship as partners. Why? Because if your husband or wife/ boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t have your back then your relationship will feel like its failing because you won’t feel supported or safe.

Have Your Partner’s Back.

A partner would have your back always. They would be supportive of you even if your choices didn’t align with their preferences. Read that again: They would be supportive of you even if your choices didn’t align with their preferences.

If you want to improve your relationship- practice having your partner’s back. Instead of getting annoyed and angry, help them out. Do they forget important dates? Get a calendar to help them remember. Text them reminders the day before and the day of an event.

Do they love NASCAR, football, soccer, ballet, theater, basketball, or disc golf? (insert other activity that does not interest you in the slightest) Make sure that they have snacks on race, show, or game day. Give them space to watch without pressure of doing something you want or need to do. Respect their hobbies and interests just as you would want your hobbies and interests to be respected. Go with them to places you don’t want to go because you love them and respect them as people in the world so their happiness means more than your temporary discomfort.

Do they hate being sick? Get them some vitamin C packs, cough drops, and plan to take care of dinner, dishes, and the nightly routine so they can rest. Do they have a big meeting tomorrow? Make sure their favorite pants are clean and ready to go and ask if there is anything else you can do to help them. An early night? Taking over with the kids? Taking the dog out?

Remember this: Having your partner’s back is key to developing trust and emotional safety in a relationship. If the things I listed above seem too over-the-top and inconvenient for you, it’s time to reevaluate things. Maybe you like the idea of a relationship, though not the work that goes into building a great one. And that’s okay. Telling yourself the truth will go a long way.


Rose Skeeters, MA, LPC, PN2 Thrive:Mind/Body, LLC TMB Online Counseling

Rose Skeeters, MA, LPC, PN2

Rose Skeeters is the CVO of Thrive: Mind/Body, LLC, an innovative mindset coaching & online counseling practice aimed at empowering motivated individuals to master every area of their life. She specializes in family & relationship counseling–helping couples, parents, & families get and stay on the same page. Rose is also the host of From Borderline to Beautiful, a podcast aimed at helping individuals with BPD, CPTSD, and EUPD find hope and help in their recovery journeys. Are you interested in working with Rose? Schedule a consult with her here or contact her today at Rose@thriveonlinecounseling.com.

Do I have Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety makes it difficult for people to engage in everyday activities such as just going to work or heading to Starbucks to have a coffee with friends. These activities can be incredibly intense for someone with social anxiety. The fear of having a panic attack in public or being humiliated or embarrassed is so strong that many people choose to avoid social situations entirely. If you have a friend with anxiety and they are inconsistent with plans or cancel often, try not to internalize this behavior. Anxiety causes a fight, flight, or freeze response, which is biological in nature. Someone with anxiety needs help to overcome their intense fear before they can be more consistent in social situations. 

Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is the third largest psychological problem in the United States today.  Millions of people quietly endure this pain every day, believing there is no hope for them getting better.

What is life with Social Anxiety like?

  • “I couldn’t go on dates or to parties. For a while, I couldn’t even go to class. My sophomore year of college I had to come home for a semester.”
  • “My fear would happen in any social situation. I would be anxious before I even left the house, and it would escalate as I got closer to class, a party, or whatever. I would feel sick to my stomach–it almost felt like I had the flu. My heart would pound, my palms would get sweaty, and I would get this feeling of being removed from myself and from everybody else.
  • “When I would walk into a room full of people, I’d turn red and it would feel like everybody’s eyes were on me. I was too embarrassed to stand off in a corner by myself, but I couldn’t think of anything to say to anybody. I felt so clumsy, I couldn’t wait to get out.” 
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How to Overcome Food Addiction: 5 Expert Tips

I grew up loving food. I was well-fed by my Italian mother. She cooked delicious meals for us all of the time. We would have a protein, a starch, a vegetable, and a dessert. My favorite meal growing up was chicken cutlets, Velveeta Shells & Cheese, spinach, bread with butter, and brownies or anything cake-like for dessert. I wasn’t a particularly active kid, so that was a lot of food for a young couch potato. I quickly became overweight and obsessed with food. When my parents would leave the house, I would jump on the opportunity to grab a glazed donut from the dining room table or some chips and cookies from the cabinet. I loved icing! I would eat entire jars of icing and knew enough to hide the evidence. I was around 9 or 10 years old when I became addicted to food. 

The doctors would tell my parents that my BMI was too high and they would try to make healthier food choices, though I traded my healthy snacks for Tastykakes and oreos at the school lunch table. By the time I was in college, I was big and hungry. I wanted to lose weight and joined one of those medically supervised weight loss programs where you eat pre-packaged “food” and drink “shakes”. I lost a lot of weight on this program–over 60 pounds. I loved being thin so much that I took not eating to the other extreme. It wasn’t long before I was labeled disordered and sent to nutritionists and therapists to cure me of my food addiction. 

Throughout my life until after the birth of my now 10 year old son, I struggled with all that is food and internalized this struggle as my fault. Having been told I had a disorder and an addiction that will always be a part of my life by “experts” in the field of eating disorders was a detriment to my health and well being. The truth behind my food addiction and my ability to overcome this addiction was not found in a label or a medication or a even a therapist. The truth was found in my ability to take matters into my own hands. 

I am going to share my 5 expert tips with you today that will help you overcome your food addiction. 

“I couldn’t cope with my feelings,” she said, “so I ate them.”

Trevor Butterworth, in a story by Christine Winter on a woman who had joined Overeaters Anonymous, The Chicago Tribune, September 1, 1975

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Choose Joy.

Having Joy & Being Happy: What is the difference? 

Do you ever find yourself stuck in traffic and tired of the same old playlist? Podcasts are a great way to switch things up, especially if you have a long commute. Recently, my family and I traveled out to the Mid-West to visit family. On the way home, we listened to a podcast that talked about the difference between having joy and being happy. It was such a great discussion that I thought I would share it with you today. (The word “JOY” also reminds me of the holiday season and it is a snowy December day here in Pennsylvania.)

So what is the difference between happiness and choosing joy?

Being happy is a temporary state of being. Sure, it feels good to be happy, though happiness is not always something that we can choose– especially when life gets us down. Happiness, as a feeling, is also not based on something necessarily being good for us.

Joy, on the other hand, is at least grounded in the idea that something is good for someone else. We have joy when — even in our pain/suffering — we are acting toward someone else’s well-being. If you have ever selflessly given of yourself or that which you own– you are certainly familiar with this feeling.

Now think, if all of our efforts are focused on trying to be happy — I think that we may be missing the point of life. But if our purpose is to have joy in our lives then we have committed to one another in a way that seeks something better than simple self-satisfaction.

So let me ask you this: What are you doing in the world that is causing you joy?

If you can’t answer that question, then make it your goal for the rest of the month of December to choose joy.

But, how?

Try putting yourself out there and doing something good for someone else (and also try to be humble about it- do it for the other person, not for others to see you doing something selfless and give you likes and attention) — and feel what happens.

Write the following quote down on that dry erase board on the fridge, on a sticky note above your coffee pot, on your palm, make it the background on your smart phone or laptop— put it somewhere. Read it every morning. In the spirit of the holiday season, choose joy by finding ways to be happy even when things don’t go your way.

In Strength,

Rose

Choosing joy means: Finding ways to be happy even when things don’t go your way.

What is the difference between stress and anxiety?