This line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet first squirreled its way into my brain in 10th grade English class.
But why does it take so long to learn it? And what does it really mean?
The full quote is:
“To thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
For me, it goes way beyond the “be yourself,” “be authentic” advice.
For me, it’s about following my passion. About doing the thing in life my heart is telling me to do, regardless of whether the world sees my work as a commercial success. It’s about not sitting in an assisted living center wondering what would have happened if I had written that book that was my life’s dream.
Your heart will tell you if you just listen
This week, I had an interesting conversation with someone in the book publishing industry. This person told me that I shouldn’t write a memoir. That it won’t sell because I am not a celebrity. That I should consider writing it in some other format.
And I knew in my gut that this person was wrong. That I had to do this.
“There are people out there who tell you you can’t. What you’ve got to do is turn around and say, ‘Watch me.’”
To the kiddos in my elementary school classroom, I used to say, “Do the thing you didn’t think you could do” and “Figure out your own way to show me what you have learned.” That philosophy spilled over into every part of the classroom. For a social studies project, one student wrote a rap song, another created a short play with historical figures as the main characters. Someone else used mixed media to make a visual arts exhibit.
They did it their way.