August 23, 2018 by Dymphna

The secret message in old Shakespeare

Shakespeare had some amazing things to say about being in integrity, generous and abundant.

Shakespeare left the world a lot of wisdom and many wonderful turns of phrase. After 400 years though, you do have to wonder if some things are not getting lost in translation.

Take the saying, “to your own self be true.” That’s one that has survived into popular culture and the modern day.

It has also made its way over into the New Age world a bit – it’s there right along side ‘follow your bliss’. But I do wonder if people are missing the point a little, and Shakespeare didn’t actually mean what we think he meant.

Like, we tend to take ‘to your own self be true’ as a command to live your ‘true’ life, and to be ‘true’ to your divine soul.

So if it’s your heart’s calling to be a marine biologist, you should be a marine biologist. To your own self be true.

Maybe that’s right. But I wonder if there could be more to it than that. Remember the full quote is,

“This above all, to your own self be true. Then it does follow, as the night does day, that you can be false to no one.” (retweaking a little for modern speech.)

So the key to having integrity and being true to others is to start by being true to yourself.

This is an idea that I can recognise. A lot of our ill-feelings towards others – our anger, jealousy, miserly resentment etc, come from a sense of injustice.

“Why do they get to be a marine biologist? I never got to be a marine biologist. I had to study medicine like my father told me to.”

If we are not looking after ourselves, if we are not taking care of ourselves, then we can become resentful of others, particular others who are doing right by their true selves.

That resentment can then be manifest as anger, judgement, condemnation, withholding support, whatever.

But if we are showing ourselves self-care, then why would we resent other’s doing the same. Why would we resent their success? It has nothing to do with ours.

Taking care of yourself is often the first step in putting yourself in a generous and abundant mindset.

It’s not always easy. Sometimes the easiest path is to sell yourself out. It’s not about confronting your father and putting your foot down and saying, “Dammit Dad, I will study turtles!”

Sometimes the easiest path is to roll-over, follow your father’s wishes, and become a highly paid proctologist.

… while you die a little inside, and resent every marine biologist who got to follow their dreams.

But if you are true to yourself, if you can show commitment to your self and your own needs, then you can be abundant and generous with others, because you have been abundant and generous with yourself.

This is a discipline, but perhaps this is what Shakespeare meant. If you want to be a good friend / parent / colleague, be true to yourself first.

The rest will follow as night does day.