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Life v. Sense of Self: The Ballad of Your Twenties

On the same album as the oh-so-catchy Young Folks by Peter, Bjorn, and John is this dear song called, Objects of My Affection.

Do you know it?

It’s one of my favorite songs because, in all honesty, the lyrics were exactly what I needed to hear as a young twentysomething. The chorus goes like this:

And the question is, was I more alive then than I am now? 
I happily have to disagree
I laugh more often now, I cry more often now
I am more me

Our twenties are rife with trying to find ourselves. Cultivating a sense of self or strong inner compass. Discovering our own answers to those “IF THIS _____, THEN THAT______” kind of questions. Standing solidly in our own shoes to make the answers a reality. Learning to own our experiences and ourselves with love. And being ok with not knowing all the answers and opting to trust the process instead.

But boyyyyyy is that hard to do!

Little gems like this song can help us lean into this experience when it’s scary as shit to do so. That was what this song was for me.

Aside from songs that help us embrace our current experiences, how do we actually DO this? How do we actually develop that sense of self?

One word: Values. Let me break it down.

Values Buttons: a gateway to discovering your sense of self

In response to life stuff, we may be acutely aware of our thoughts or feelings.

“Like, oh dear, is this how this works?!”

“Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

“I feel like a grumper-mcgrumperson.”


Also, we may get preoccupied about the other person’s actions and lose sleep over what to do about XYZ situation. This can drive us to phone a friend (OR TEN) to get their perspective. But, at the end of the day, we still have to figure out a solution that would actually work for us and the situation at hand.

This is where values come in. Values are buttons incognito. Big ones. When something upsets us it’s often because a Values Button got pressed.

When a Values Button gets pressed it’s easy to get caught up in the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a situation. That’s totally valid. And, to find the unique solutions that will work for us, we’ve gotta hone into those buttons. Pull them into the limelight and grapple with them head on.

With values as your compass, smooth sailing is the result of acting with integrity.

(Even if manning the ship is harrrrrrrd work in the process.)

Next time you find yourself upset and wondering how to manage a situation, see if a particular Values Button got pressed.

What does this problem mean to you? How does this challenge make you feel about yourself? What does it make you believe about yourself? Is this new news or old news? What core beliefs does this problem bring up? Are there conflicting beliefs or priorities in the mix? Does one belief or value feel like it carries more weight than the other?


That’s probably one of the biggest questions.

Write it out if it feels like a jumbled symphony in your head. This will help you get some distance and see the answers more readily.

The answers to these questions give you honest insight into your values and beliefs. Clear values lead to clear actions. Alignment among values, beliefs, thoughts, feelings and actions is integrity. Being present to this gives us self-awareness. Embracing insights from self-awareness helps us to cultivate that elusive sense of self.

Deliberately tapping into our values in this way may not be easy at first, but it can feel more natural over time.

And when those icky feelings get loud? Crank up Objects of My Affection…or another special song does the same job for you.

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gif of Natalia Amari shaking her hair

Natalia Amari, lcsw

On a mission to help others overcome trauma and reclaim their personal power.


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