Finding the Authentic Self

Molly TotoroFor years I lived life for others, molding myself into roles I was expected to play: wife, daughter, mother, teacher, cook, chauffeur, church volunteer. I was ensnared in the trap of self-worth based on what I DO and in the process, lost sight of who I AM.

I used to think this was God’s will, after all, He counsels us to “value others above ourselves” (Philippians 2:3 – NIV). But I came to realize that God does not call us to value others instead of ourselves.

Ignoring our own interests leaves us as empty vessels, no longer fit to serve, and if we are not careful, this can lead to resentment, bitterness, and depression.

I had to learn to let go of some activities that defined me (and earned me external praise) in order to learn to accept myself the way God intended.

I had to release internal criticism that told me “I’m not good enough” and instead discover the gifts and talents the Lord so graciously gave me.

And I had to do some prayerful soul-searching to identify my core values.

My process was quite systematic. First, I found an online list of 400 values. I then read through the printed list with a highlighter, indicating any words that resonated with me on some level. This narrowed the list to about 50.

Next I reviewed the refined list and eliminated any that were not truly at the core of my identity OR values I thought were similar, such as responsibility and accountability. This brought the list down to ten.

Finally, I made one final run-through to bring the list to a manageable total of FIVE.

Balance – I believe in moderation of all things.

Contentment – I believe practicing gratitude is key to cultivating a joy-filled life.

Family – I believe the importance of family relationship is second only to a personal relationship with God.

Spirituality – I believe in a sovereign God whose omniscience is superior to my limited perspective. I am grateful He sent His only son as my savior so that I may readily accept His gift of Grace. I am no longer a slave to perfectionism, trying to earn His favor.

Significance – I believe we are put on this earth for a specific purpose, which is not self-seeking, but rather to help and serve others. Life-long learning and teaching others what I have learned is how I achieve this significance.

Once I identified these values, I began to incorporate them into living an authentic life. I now seek to make all decisions through the lens of these values.

It is becoming easier to say “no” when asked to do something I know will cause imbalance in my life, and it is more bearable to do unpleasant tasks that I know will lead to long-term contentment.

©2014 Molly Totoro

Molly Totoro is a writer and a recently retired English teacher who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share” and is currently establishing a ministry, Stepping Stones Publications, where she helps others discover and write their stories to impact future generations.