William Shakespeare ~ In Act 1, Scene III of the famous play, Hamlet, Polonius says, “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/Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!”
There is a lot of Greek philosophy embedded in the quote, especially the Stoics and Epicureans, and Shakespeare was a wise and learned guy who certainly borrowed ideas and words from previous writings. The idea of copywright and intellectual property wasn’t well formed in 1603 or 350BC and citing sources wasn’t as prominent. Over the years we seemed to have reduced the meaning from Polonius’s mouth to make it sound more like Ayn Rand. Rand suggested that commitment to yourself is a commitment to your mind and as such an extension of the individual. She articulately and cleverly used this idea to demonstrate the futility of collectivism (I disagree with her thesis but still admire her intellect).
I am not sure what the Greeks were thinking and don’t have anymore than the context of Act 1 to know what Bill meant but for me the meaning is a paradox that I have been uraveling for years, both abstractly and in practice.
For me it plays out as a choice to think or act. With my tendency to impatience and imperfection and my bias to action and destinations, I struggle with the reflection and analysis. I can convince myself that by the time I arrive at a moment of truth, I have already equipped myself with research and advice. When I am feeling impetuous and instinctive I hear “to thy own self be true” as a siren call to trust the loud inner voice.When I am less certain hear the progression and rhythm of ” as the night follows the day” and worry that I am being impulsive rather than logical. On my best days, I am able to see the biggest picture and realize that all the fretting into one decision isn’t as monumental as I am making it. I can act, evaluate, adapt and decide to move on again or not.
I do want to be true to me and ergo true to you so I will commit to disclosure of the best and not so best that arises.
Make Today Remarkable, for you,