It’s just like Hamlet said: To thine own self be true.
Uhh, Hamlet didn’t say that.
I think I remember Hamlet accurately.
Ha, well I remember Mel Gibson accurately, and he didn’t say that. That Polonius guy did.– Clueless
We talk a lot about being our true selves but what is your true self?
For most of my life I’ve considered my true self to be some core part of me that has always been there and always will be. An unchanging component of my persona. But over time I also saw myself… change. Growing in lots of ways but regressing in others. Developing fear of more and more things as I came to understand the fragility of life. But that fear held me back and so I thought of it as a loss, maybe even obscuring my access to my self.
I mourned that loss and felt that events in my life had pushed me off course from my true self. I started to question what parts of myself I was born with and which had developed through events in my life. If I could reverse those events, maybe I could become my true self again. But who was that really?
Although it’s not really true that all of the cells in your body regenerate every seven years, many cells in your body die off and regenerate on different timelines. Our consciousness or personality seems to do the same thing. Normally, attributes of our personality change over time: our sense of humor, self confidence or even extroversion. Abnormal circumstances can lead to more dramatic changes. Brain trauma can change a person’s personality which isn’t always a change for the worse. Does that mean this isn’t the same self? And, of course, trauma doesn’t even need to be physical to change our personalities.
It’s hard to deny the idea that we only consider our positive attributes as our true self while feeling like negative attributes were caused by outside forces. File that as a theory favored for reasons other than its likelihood.
While I’m obviously building up to the idea that I no longer believe in one truest version of my self (a deeper philosophical question that many more qualified than me debate), I also have started to feel like it doesn’t matter all that much.
It’s just like Hamlet said about being your true self. But Hamlet didn’t say that, it was a line from Polonius that says to be true to yourself.
Does one have to do with the other? Well, yeah, how can you be yourself when you don’t really know who that is? I think you do and that the concept of true self may be one of the biggest obstacles to understanding yourself and thus being true to yourself.
There is value in reflecting on the past but don’t let it pigeonhole you into serving a true self that doesn’t really work anymore. Be true to who you are today. Love yourself today.
I also referenced some information presented in this article on Vice.