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  • Writer's pictureMeg

Living By Your Values

Updated: May 26, 2022

One of the greatest opportunities to live our values – or betray them – lies in the food we put on our plates” ― Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

What does it mean to live by your values?

What is most important to you?  

How do you feel when your behaviour is not in line with your own personal values?

Values play an important role in our emotional wellbeing. We feel authentic when our behaviour is aligned with our deepest values, numb when we’re indifferent to them or guilt and shame when we violate them. My line of work involves trying to convince people that they still have values and even more importantly deserve to have their values. People entrapped by addictions can be at the extreme end of this, were they often feel they have lost touch with their values completely and as a result experience feelings of utter meaninglessness. Your core values may be meaningful relationships, humanity, spirituality, justice, creativity, compassion, equity, nature – the list is endless.

For me, health and wellness is a core value. I think this originates from growing up in a family with heart, thyroid, weight and alcohol issues. The desire to be free of this has been present in me for as long as I can remember. Caring for the environmental has also been a core value of mine from a young age, which started when my grade three teacher taught us about greenhouse gases. And of course, I have always felt a closeness to pets and other animals that have come into my life – as I think almost everyone has. However, I ate animals up to the age of 20. Until then I was still not close enough to the animals that ended up on my plate. Back then I did not realise that identifying as an animal lover and eating meat was an oxymoron; that saying that I care about justice or equality and eating/wearing animal products was hypocritical. When I stopping eating animals I realised my previous thoughtless choices were in fact betrayals of my own personal values and that more thoughtful choices were in themselves joyful.

“To live an ethical life is not self-sacrifice, but self-fulfillment” – Peter Singer

Is it possible that vegans at times don’t live by their values?

At a recent vegan activism workshop Professor Melanie Joy highlighted something so obvious yet so profound about personal values; people that are interested in social justice movements (women’s rights, LGBTQIA rights and animal rights etc) tend to be people of great integrity, or in other words, people that highly value personal integrity. Integrity tends to be associated with moral or ethical uprightness. The assumed moral superiority of vegans tends to get non-vegans on the defensive and into shaming arguments. These sorts of interactions are likely to go against many vegan’s values around empathy and compassion. As a result vegans may also experience feeling less aligned with personal integrity and more so with the opposite – hypocrisy.

“Most people would agree that practicing integrity precludes shaming. Integrity is the integration of values (such as compassion and justice) and practices, and when we shame others, we violate such values. So, shaming others — vegans and non-vegans alike — is simply unethical” – Melanie Joy

If you don’t know what your personal values are, explore them, align with them and its like magic. Simply making more thoughtful food choices was transformative not only in health and wellness but in my sense of self and the world around me. When I learnt of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in my first year of university I wondered how one could possibly reach self-actualisation.


But when I transitioned to veganism the following year I felt the exact characteristics that Maslow had described as self-actualisation, that I had studied so closely; achievement of one’s full potential through creativity, independence and a grasp of the real world. I don’t think this experience is unique to me or that I’m special. I think this experience of self-fulfillment is accessible to everyone who is brave enough to take their alignment from carnistic cultural values to their own personal values.

Thanks for reading,

Meg x

References and Resources



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