To Thine Own Self…


As preposterous as calling Shakespeare “The Great Bard” is, there are some nuggets in his dramas which strike chords in minds. No, not hearts. Minds.

In one of Shakespeare’s grandest ironies, Polonius gives the following advice to his son, Laertes, before he heads off to Paris:

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 I, Scene 3, 78-80

So, what does it mean? Not what do we think it says on the tongues of the self-excusing self-serving, but to us, the mere mortals?

Let’s get it wrong, first.

Today’s most prominent use for the quote is to excuse ourselves from the damage in our wake when we pursue goals most often motivated by folly, desire or egocentricity. It is a platitude we hear from our friends and family, who may or may not agree with our actions, acquiescing to our (bad) behavior.

How likely is it Polonius is telling his son who is setting sail for the city of romance (This was long before the lights.) to follow whatever his heart may desire? It was the Middle Ages. Europe was not the posh tourist Mecca it is today. With the Black Death a reality, he was not giving Laertes carte blanche to engage in whichever debauchery was offered.

To thine own self be true does not mean do what you want.

True and False

Our desires are not something we generally broadcast and share with our fellow man. Likewise, we are not often in the business of granting others’ desires. The comparison of being true to ourselves and others means we are to be true to something else, something more substantial than whimsy. If it is not our desires to which we should be true, what is it? The answer lies in What is false?

When we think about being false to others, the first thought is lying. In the myriad methods of lying, the falsehood we project to others is to what Polonius refers. Perfectly clear, no?

What you see is…

False. Before we can genuinely be an asset to another, we have to know our own capacity, capability and compassion. If we do not know who we are, we cannot possibly do that.

Do not be silly. You cannot do that.

A squire born of a knight and his lady may never have been given the opportunity to embrace his inner pacifist. The serf born on the pasture land of the fiefdom would never be given the chance to sit on a governing body. An earl’s daughter would not be schooled and encouraged to play music, despite a virtuoso talent.

Today, the caste system has fallen away in most of the world. We are free to choose the careers and life paths which we feel are true. We are not bound by our born position to do anything or be a specific way. We must choose wisely.

Bait and Switch

We all have beliefs we hold. To us they are the sacred portions of our lives we use to make decisions. We use them to bring up our children. They are also the measuring stick against which we measure Quaint and Mate. What happens when we are not true to ourselves?

When we belie our beliefs with our actions, we give others a false impression of who we are. They trust us because they believe they know how we will react to their actions. When react out of character, because we have been projecting a façade, they feel rightly their trust has been violated.

Some people have no issue being true to themselves. The pacifist rarely works in the weapons factory. The vegetarian is an unlikely employee of a slaughterhouse. Not all such choices are easy.


Before we can be true to our fellow man, we must be true to ourselves.

This above all: to thine own self be true,”

While many cannot tell you definitely what they believe, they are vocal about what they will not tolerate. The cannot abide list is important in Parents, Mates and Quaints; however, it is not enough to form truly solid foundations for relationships. Why not?

If we form alliances based on negative concepts, we are not guaranteeing the allies will be in agreement on the concepts we do endorse. Just because you meet someone who hates gambling, does not mean the person will love dogs, eat sushi and support charity. Your common negativity can and will lose its luster in the absence of positive commonality.

It takes character to know our convictions and stand by them. It takes strength… to thine own self be true.

When we are true to ourselves, we are never false to our fellow man. Our actions speak of our character. Make those actions broadcast the truth.

What are your top three convictions which govern your life? Do your life choices mirror those convictions? Can Mate or BFF say the same thing? What would it take for your life to be completely true to yourself?

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  1. I’ve worked hard to know myself, and in learning to know myself, have come to understand others. This process, born of ten years reflection, led me to cast out as much falseness as my character was holding, and embrace my own humanity. Being true to myself includes sharing my faults with Quaint and Mate, and children. I find myself loved more genuinely, and more genuinely loving of others. I also learned not to be drawn in by falseness masquerading for truth.
    Gail Thornton recently posted..Poem – My Future Speaks to MeMy Profile

    • So many never realize without knowing and loving ourselves, we truly cannot offer those to others. I am glad your journey has been enlightening. Amazing how much energy all the falseness devours. xxx

  2. Ah, the power you have to turn one’s thoughts inward, my dear! I would say the top three convictions that govern my life are personal integrity, compassion for others and forgiveness. I think most of my choices reflect these. However, some of the worst choices I have made in my life have proven these same convictions can be serious liabilities when Mates & Quaints are superficial. Somehow, even at my age I have a tendency to be naive and always believe the best even when the facts tell a different story.

  3. This is a terrible lesson sometimes isn’t it? Right now I think the world is teaching it to many of us, sometimes with a sledgehammer. I could do with a bit of padding.

    Well done my sister. Myself though, true?
    Valentine Logar recently posted..Nevermore ForeverMy Profile

    • Aye, true. But as our discussions have revealed the lesson of the turkeys and the eagles, true is far from the easy path. <3 Much love and off to rest.

  4. It’s funny, before I met my Tom I had constructed a new list of characteristics I wanted in a mate that I would not comprise.

    The top 3 are:

    Before, I had never even taken a mental evaluation like this and the list included things like musician, artist, etc. So, while I attracted those the relationships did not work.

    What has this do with the post? I had to evaluate what was important to me first. The funny thing is, I got those other things too (musician, artist) without trying.
    Alexandra Heep recently posted..What Was Your Childhood Monster?My Profile

  5. Above all else, truth, compassion and sincerity rule.
    tess kann recently posted..Is It Too Late To Follow The Dream?My Profile

    • I think that is a fabulous combination. Sincerity is often undervalued as synonymous with honesty, which is it not in terms of characteristics. Being genuine about who you are and what you believe is really key to building long term relationships. I could never imagine staying friends with someone who changed facades like stockings. <3

  6. to thine own self be true,

    I always thought this was the dumbest wise saying(alleged) of all. In the 12-Step recovery programs this is an adage well proffered. But I always felt if I was true to myself I would probably go astray and need to have a moral compass beyond myself, that higher power, to guide me ,not myself or my way.

    • I think the 12-step version is just as bogus as the “my way” version. In fact, the majority of people with 12-step problems are only being true to themselves when they give in to the (alcohol, drugs, sex). While it works for many, I have never been able to embrace the 12-steps for much. Great to see you tonight, Carl.

  7. Ah, but what if “thine own self” is synonymous with a higher force?
    Alexandra Heep recently posted..What Was Your Childhood Monster?My Profile

    • I would question which voices the head hears. There are very few on the path to enlightenment who reach the stage where they are that in tune with the higher power. Culturally, I think the Native Americans and the Buddhist come the closest to aligning “own self” with “higher force”.

      • True, but is that not the goal? then
        Alexandra Heep recently posted..What Was Your Childhood Monster?My Profile

        • It is. Most religions strive for becoming more like the higher power. To fully embrace religion is to take the task to heart and attempt it. It would probably be more popular if more people actually achieved it. I find fault with the process because if we get true to self, we have a far better chance of true to higher power. Again, if we do not know who we are, how can we change to be better?

  8. You lost me after Shakespeare…haha j/k

  9. Top three: Compassion, evolution, and chocolate (sadly) and yes, my life mirrors them.
    For starters I’d need to change number three on my list, but I’m not ready to give it up—yet.

    Don’t think I’ll ever be completely true to myself, because the moment I think “I am true” something new shows up to help me grow.

    Really, really enjoyed this post Red.
    Grazie, Lisa
    Lisa Neumann recently posted..Remembering doesn’t mean resentingMy Profile

    • I love evolution. That is a wonderful ideal to embrace. I think you are being true. You are true to your own evolution, which is a stumbling block for many. One of the core principles of enlightenment is knowing there is no true border to the personality. It is malleable. While we may keep the nucleus sold, the electrons circling it change and move and support. In that way, you are very true to yourself.

      As to the chocolate, I vote keep it, but move it down the list 😉
      Red ~ A fellow chocoholic.

  10. To Thine Own Self yes. Have been blindsided by another which I believed lived the same way.
    Unusual that you place the picture of the violin; have one in my home (used to be owned by the conducter of the Pittsbutgh Symphony in the 30’s and 40’s) that I have no way to price.
    My Own Self Needs Fucking Cash.
    OH, the dude does NOT abide on the first mentioned…
    Miss R recently posted..I Rarely Leave The House…but When I DoMy Profile

    • I adore the violin. I have not played one in years. I would love to have another one. My biggest problem? Finding a three quarters. I can find halves and fulls, but I really need one which is the right stinking size. Oh, and me too neither. News on the thieving front?


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