Life is complicated, fast paced, and multi-faceted. To manage our daily lives, roles, relationships, and goals (and there are so many!) we present ourselves differently for each one and may even set aside our own needs for those of others. We do this so often that I have to wonder whether we lose sight if our authentic selves, of who we really are. The obvious example is social media where every tweet, post, or share amplifies our voices and open doors to global connections, collaborations, and audiences potentially in the millions (especially if there is mention of Taylor Swift 😊). Who doesn’t want to put the version of themselves that they want to be (instead of who they really are at that moment) out on public view? But this isn’t about social media, there are so many examples in our lives. How often do you go home, put your sweats on and get comfortable? Would you go out that way? Likely no, you would change your clothes, groom and accessorize as appropriate before presenting yourself to the outside world (or at least put on a button-down shirt before a Zoom call 😊). So, which are we? The polished version we present to the rest of the world, or the scruffy, comfy version we share with our pets and loved ones?
By now you are wondering what the heck does Polonius, a much reviled character in Hamlet, have to do with all this? For all his faults (and there were many), Polonius lived by “to thy own self be true”. Staying true to ourselves, our values, and our authentic self-expression gives us an anchor and the guideposts needed to guard against being influenced by others or vying for virtual applause and envy. We shouldn’t all agree, follow the crowd, or otherwise appear to blend in or create a fictional story about our best selves. I think we should all recognize that life is messy; that’s just the way it is. No one is perfect 24/7, so why pretend we are? What do we gain from it, other than stress?
Have we lost our anchors? It sure feels that way sometimes. Don’t misunderstand me; there’s nothing wrong with putting our best foot forward, but we should do so authentically. We are all works in progress, and will be our entire lives, so why not embrace that?
So, next time you are stepping into one of your roles, remember: life isn’t about being perfect, and we can’t be all things to everyone. Life is about being authentic. In the whirlwind of daily lives, let’s not forget the Polonius’ timeless wisdom – “to thine own self be true,” because we each have much to offer, and nothing replaces the joy of being unapologetically, authentically you.
“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night and day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” – William Shakespeare