What you have — whether it’s a new car, a mansion … or herpes — is much less important than who you are … underneath it all. Your core values (integrity, honesty, vulnerability, connection, truth, love, humor, creativity, and on and on) speak volumes more than whatever “stuff” happens to be orbiting around you.

“You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your f–ing khakis … The things you own end up owning you.” — Fight Club

Who are you really? One way that we get caught up in what we have instead of who we are is identifying with what we have. What we have becomes our identity. Remember that line in fight club? “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your f–ing khakis … The things you own end up owning you.” If you were to lose everything tomorrow, who would you be left with? I wouldn’t wish this on many people, but it’s an interesting what-if scenario to play through in your mind. Having a healthy separation between our selves and our stuff can help to develop a truer sense of who we really are.

Values are valuable. What do you stand for in your life? Do you live that in your life as fully as you can? Personal values make us rich in the ways that count. Find out what is important to you by what fulfills you. Take a personal inventory of what strengths you have and why. If something drains you, it’s not a strength; it’s a weakness. Even if it’s something that you do a lot and have gotten good at. Something you’re “good” at can still be a weakness if ultimately it doesn’t fill you up. Inside each of your strengths lies a value. Look for it and build your list of top 10 values. If you feel fulfilled every time you help out at the soup kitchen, look beneath that feeling: is the value of service important to you? If you feel fulfilled when you clean up your house until it shines, look deeper: is the value of organization important to you? Don’t let others dictate what your strengths are. Only you know. Check out Marcus Buckingham’s The Truth About You (video at bottom) or look into strengthsfinder.

See how having herpes really isn’t much different than a lot of other draining things in our life? Having herpes or having a term paper due or having a traffic ticket to have to pay off — it’s all different facets to the same stuff. Different things affect different people in different ways. But the bottom line is that if we aren’t aware of how we’re relating to what’s draining us, we can get sucked deeper down into suffering. This is why herpes can be seen as an opportunity to examine some deep-seated self-defeating beliefs. Herpes tends to be so disrupting that it forces us to look deeper in order to truly grow and live our lives.

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