“To thine own self be true,” is a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet in which Polonius asserts that the best life is lived in accordance to our own core values, beliefs, and characteristics. These words are wise. Your best you will always trump your imitation of others, and following your true nature will help you find meaningfulness and success with sincerity.
That being said, how many of us have wished we were someone else with characteristics we do not naturally possess to alleviate suffering? If I was an amazing singer, athlete, actor, or had a prestigious graduate profession or a lot of money, I would not be suffering so much. Those who are unkind to me or fail to regard me with respect would change their position. Sometimes when we are really upset, we say, “and when I am on top they will regret it.” I don’t know exactly who “they” are, but the future does not sound great for them!
We come by these hopes naturally. We are suffering sometimes for just being ourselves, and we dream of an equalizer that prevents a reoccurrence of such painful feelings. The set up, however, is a doozy.
Wishing to be someone else is the first step in convincing yourself that you are not good enough. If you work hard enough and acquire that wish, then you will feel like you have to maintain the status you have acquired (stressful), and that, at best, people have grown to like you for someone that you are not (very stressful).
To get out of this trap, let’s go back to the beginning. We experience suffering and it is connected to a relationship. Let’s go one step further and say that someone actually told you that they did not like you for your natural characteristics.
To deal with someone who has made you feel wanting for being yourself, you must ask yourself 3 pertinent questions.
First, What are my goals?
Second, who do I want to be?
Third, will this person help me to achieve my goals and help me be who I want to be (ie: an evolved you filled with self-acceptance)?
If the answer to question 3 is no, then this person is irrelevant to your life. It is actually not more complicated than that. You only have so much time on this earth and your goals are to be the best you possible. You want to live a good life full of self-acceptance, so that you can live with ease.
A life lived in which you have to sacrifice yourself for what you want is not a happy life. It is an illusion. It is impossible to truly be happy and to not like yourself. So, there is absolutely no room in your life for people who do not support that journey.
Believe it or not, you are actually helping the people that you cut out of your life for needing you to be someone you are not. The kind of people who criticize you for being yourself are often people who are not at home with themselves, and thus not living good lives. To live good lives these people need to answer the aforementioned questions themselves. If they are too busy criticizing you, they will not be able to answer these questions for themselves and will miss out on a good life. We don’t want that!
Whatever happens in your life, whether or not you currently experience great peer or social acceptance, remember that this state is transient (will not remain the same). It is more helpful to focus on the constant, which is you.
The combination of characteristics that makes you who you are is unique. The world will literally never have another you. If you care about other people and perhaps even yourself, you will not deny the world and you a chance to experience the full expression of those qualities. In other words, the most clearly defined you, aligned with your goals and at ease.
As we are frequently unable to accurately predict the future, we are equally unable to predict how we will affect others. Even in the worse situations, such as ending a relationship with someone, our connection with other people in the long-term can be positive, such as when our former relational partners find healthier ways to self-acceptance or a vocation. At the very least, they have an opportunity to see what did not work in their relationship to you, and can use that information to find a better fit.
Dr. Christopher Germer, one of my favorite mentors, an inspirational force in the field of Mindfulness Psychology and the Co-creator of Self-Compassion Psychology sums up the reason to discover your true nature and follow it to find a life of greater meaning and ease. According to Dr. Germer, the spirit (your true nature) is amazing because you come by it naturally (birth), it stays with you always (it is transcendent), and it cannot be pilfered (taken from you). Holocaust Survivors and former Tibetan prisoners of the Chinese army have supported these claims in narrating how they survived, in some cases, years of torture.
There are many ways to access your true nature and make a road map for your goals: meditation, yoga, quiet walks, quiet reflection, workshops, life, relationships, and trusted family members just to name a few. This pursuit is worthwhile because it helps you set a course of navigation for happiness that endures.
Of course, as with all people, suffering will present itself even to those aware and accepting of their true nature, but it will pass more expediently and leave less harm in its wake because you will understand that while the self endures suffering does not.
The take home is that you are more than enough. May you always seek to be true to yourself, and may others support you on your journey. Be kind to yourself by choosing allies on that journey who support you and by discontinuing relationships that do not afford you that well-being or success. May you wish those who are poor allies a good life, so that you do not invest even more time distraction and maximize your time in self development and ease.
365 Days of Kindness. Self Compassion. Day 21. In the Books.