You’ve heard it a million times:
To thine own self be true.
Did you ever wonder what line comes next? I didn’t. I thought that was the end of Shakespeare’s thought process. You know, be true to yourself. It’s the way to go. It’s so much better than being false to yourself.
Then he put down his quill, poured salt on the ink, and went for an ale at the local public house.
Because that message itself is good enough:
Wear yellow if you like yellow, even though everyone else is wearing pink. Get a tattoo, or don’t, because it’s what you want to do. Sit on your porch and stare at the tree branches against the sky when you should be writing a brief. In fact, get rid of most “shoulds.” You know how a cow will just follow the rump ahead of him? Don’t be a cow.
Sleep. Give your body fruit and water and the grains of the earth. Listen to your favorite song every day.
More importantly, listen to your gut—the same animal instinct that tells an impala to run tells you when something’s not right. Maybe it isn’t a cheetah in the grass, but a relationship that bleeds the life out of you one pinprick at a time is just as deadly.
To add some Seuss to the Shakespeare stew: There is no one alive who is youer than you. You are the shit. (That last part was me.)
EXCEPT: Shakespeare wasn’t that simple. He wasn’t writing some day spa commercial: “Pamper Yourself.” It’s not just about us.
So this morning, I’d like you to meet the rest of that quote, whether for the first or forty-first time, because this is the part that really defines the entire thing for me:
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.
Doesn’t that just make it ten times better?* When you do what is good for you, you are doing what is good for others. This applies to couples, to families, to whole communities.
Here’s one way it applies to my own personal life:
If I take a break for myself, I don’t resent my husband for taking a break for himself. There. We’re both taken care of. No fights, happier selves, happier children.
There are a million other ways to take Shakespeare’s quote and use it. As usual, he whittled down a human truth to a few lines that are still, and always will be, pertinent. So take his big lesson, and use it in small ways every day.
Advocate for yourself. Be SELF-ish, and … ?
*I haven’t read Hamlet yet, so I don’t know the context and I’m taking poetic (blogetic) license.