“Be true to yourself” or, to quote Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “To thine own self be true” is perhaps today’s most popular self-help advice. People who offer and adhere to this maxim, however, fail to recall that it was advice given by a babbling fool.
This above all, — to thine own self be true;Polonius from Hamlet, I.III.78-80
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
We see in Hamlet that this advice does not end well; after all, it is one of the most famous tragedies to take the stage. Polonius promises that if a man remains true to himself, he will necessarily be of honest character. This, however, is far from the truth. It is in being “true to ourselves” that we become selfish, hardened, and prideful. It is, instead, the way of self-denial we ought to follow. Certainly, we ought not to abandon our unique giftings, callings, and personalities, but we must avoid at all costs the hubristic lie told to us by the world: that we are the source of our own truth and it is to this and this alone that we owe ourselves.
That’s all. Happier posts are in the making, I promise.