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The Challenge That Tested My Values

A guest post by Anthony Zhou


In November 2018, I had a situation where I had to choose between my values or a potential positive outcome if I ignored my values.

In self-development, the idea of values and value-based living are common concepts, and I guess they can be considered the building blocks (to identify your core values click here).

I try to live my life by a number of values, and I do mean try because I’m not always successful (I am human after all).

The four values that were challenged that day were:

Authenticity: Being true to who I am (what you see is what you get) not changing my views or beliefs to make other people like me or to fit in.

Courage: Doing what I believe is right in the face of fear.

Honesty: Being open about my thoughts, feelings, intentions, and past.

Integrity: Doing and standing up for what I believe is right.

In late October 2018, I started the application process for a government job. I progressed through all the stages of the application process comfortably, and I reached the final stage which was the medical and physical assessment.

I passed all the tests that day, but earlier in the day while filling out a medical questionnaire I came across the question

Have you ever been admitted into hospital?’

I hesitated and I was conflicted with how to answer this question.

The truth is that I was admitted into hospital in 2015 after my failed suicide attempt (to read about that experience click here).

I knew that by answering ‘Yes’ it might delay my application and I could miss the January intake. By the time a medical report was created and sent to the Recruitment Branch, it would be early December, and Christmas was just around the corner.

By answering ‘Yes’ it means that I was living up to my values of Authenticity, Courage, Honesty, and Integrity. But most importantly, it means that I’m not ashamed of what had happened.

I could answer ‘No’ and the chances of them finding out the truth would be slim. I could leave my current job which I dislike, and start a new job in the new year.

But if they did find out somehow then I could lose my place in the intake by being dishonest – let alone not living up to my values and being a hypocrite.

I was at a cross-roads as I weighed up the two options, my pen hovering over the potential answers. I could go either way, and in my mind both options had its pros and cons.

But I decided to answer ‘Yes’.

It was the answer I felt that I could comfortably live with.

By answering ‘Yes’, I was told by the doctor – who did my medical assessment – that I needed to get a letter from my GP to say that I wasn’t at risk of a relapse.

A week out from Christmas, I got a call from the head doctor in charge of the medical assessments who told me that the letter from my GP wasn’t good enough and I needed a letter from a clinical psychologist. I was frustrated and annoyed that I wasn’t told to do that from the beginning, as I will now definitely miss out on the January intake.

After I calmed down, I knew that if I wanted this job then I will have to do what they instructed me to do.

I had my risk assessment done by a clinical psychologist in mid-February 2019 and am now just waiting to hear if I have passed the medical assessment. The psychologist has given me the green light but the final decision is up to the head doctor.

There have been moments throughout this process where I did question my decision.

Maybe it would have been easier to have answered ‘No’.

As much as it has been a hassle financially and time-wise, I realised that my attachment to the outcome of getting this new job caused me to be affected emotionally e.g. getting frustrated and annoyed (to learn how to let go of outcomes click here).

There have been times where I feel that I’m still being punished for a past mistake, and it would be easier to not mention it or cover it up. For instance, I can’t re-join the New Zealand Defence Force because of what happened in 2015, even though there is no risk of relapse.

But I can’t deny what had happened, and the truth does eventually come out. With the benefit of hindsight, I know now the path I took in 2015 wasn’t the right one and it could’ve ended my existence.

But I’m still here today, and by being open about that part of my life I hope that in my own way I can help unravel the stigma and the feeling of shame around asking for help when we are struggling emotionally or mentally – especially for men.

The new job I’ve applied for is in a role where I can help young people – some who are suffering or have suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts. My life experience is invaluable and I hope I can be a role model to them, and show them that there is another way to face the struggles and challenges that life throws at us.

Regardless of whether I get the job or not, I don’t have any regrets. I know I have made the correct decision by answering that question on the form honestly, and that I had lived up to the values that I believe in.

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