“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
—— Hamlet, Act 1, scene 3
These words of Polonius have stayed with me since I first read them at age fifteen. But it’s hard, isn’t it, to be true to yourself as a teen when the urge is to conform? We come into this life fully being ourselves and then lose who we are under the parental guidance of early childhood and the peer pressure of adolescence. At least most of us do, and I was no different. I always knew, though, that I felt happiest when I allowed my inner light to shine on my own uniqueness.
As the years go by, many of us become more familiar with our true selves. Perhaps we have grown more confident because we’ve found recognition and success in using our natural talents or skills. Or, it might be because we’re fortunate to have solid emotional support from close family or friends with whom we’ve dared to share our deepest thoughts or craziest ideas. Regardless, they still love us. Best of all, maybe it’s because we’ve learned to genuinely love, as well as like, ourselves. It simply feels good when you know you are saying, acting or writing in a way that is an honest reflection of your true self, doesn’t it?
As a therapist and social worker, I‘ve come across many adults from all walks of life who worry too much about what others think of them. Perhaps they are still trying too hard to please a parent or a spouse. Maybe it’s a writer who hesitates to write about controversial issues or an actor or musician who denies some of their creativity and presents himself or herself in a way they believe will be most approving to their audience. It’s more important to play to your soul than to your audience. Ignore the negativity that haunts the internet, the press and the chatter from those who are not capable of understanding you. You will touch those who are meant to find you in very meaningful ways.
If you have trouble connecting with your real self, take a little time to meditate, listen to your favorite music, or simply enjoy nature. That relaxing glow you feel after a glass of wine takes you right there also and is a good time to write down your thoughts or feelings. Journaling daily, with or without the wine, is another pathway. For others, the joy of a religious experience puts them in touch with that deepest part of themselves.
True success lies in living your truth, whatever it is, both professionally and personally. This doesn’t necessarily mean achieving a worldly measure of success, but rather success in the eyes of your soul. It means being open and honest with others to the extent you possibly can. If you can allow your real self to consistently express freely, you will undoubtedly find peace in your life because you have become who you were born to be. You are accomplishing your goal by doing the work you are best suited for and touching others’ lives in very special ways. Your soul will applaud you.