To Thine Own Self Be True


To thine own self be true. Sounds like a great idea yet we all know that it's not necessarily as easy or straightforward as it sounds. Why is that? Why is it challenging to be true to ourselves? Why doesn't authenticity come naturally to us? After all, the words 'natural' and 'authentic' are practically synonyms.

To Thine Own Self Be True - The Quest for Authenticity

The effort to align with our true inner self isn't an ideological quest. Nor is it the result of an immature hankering for a perfection that doesn't exist. We aren't trying to step into an idealized version of ourselves. We aren't trying to erase all flaws.

Authenticity is a primal urge. Animals live this primal urge naturally - since they have no false self to interfere with it. We feel the full force of this urge standing behind a veil of the mind that separates us from the authenticity that is naturally ours.

To thine own self be true is a quest for the real. Rather than settling for a narrow picture of reality - we want to know the whole of it. We want to live the whole of it.

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Real Self - False Self

Nature is such that where there's an up there's a down, where there's an in there's an out, where courage appears it is always on the coattails of fear - and where a real self exists, there will be a false self operating in it's shadow.

This is why being true to yourself isn't to be taken for granted. Living authentically is a challenge thanks to the dual nature of our existence.

To Thine Own Self Be True & the False Self

The false self has many faces.

Most forms of stress, procrastination, anxiety, fear, indecision, lack of purpose or meaning, avoidance, denial, victim mentality and general malaise can be traced to the false self. The false self embodies the challenges we need to overcome in order to grow and evolve.

The good news is that our false self is, well...false. It isn't something we are born with - it isn't innate. The false self comes from our conditioning. In other words it is learned; and what has been learned, can be unlearned.

False self is full of resistance and reactivity. It meets the events of life thinking, "this shouldn't be happening to me" or "this shouldn't be happening, period." Letting go of our resistance is the first and most important step we can take to reconnect with our true inner self and leave the false self behind. It is also the first and most important step to positive, proactive change. By resisting 'what is' we reinforce it and keep it in place.

To Thine Own Self Be True & the Real Self

To thine own self be true requires that we get in touch with who we really are - beneath the masks of the false self. Authentic self is who we really are. It is us - minus the distortions created by our past conditioning.

The real self, or true inner self, isn't something we need to create. We were born with it. We will die with it. We will also live with it over the full span of our allotted time on this earth. In a world full of change and uncertainty it's one of the few things we can truly rely on.

This doesn't mean that our real self can't change or evolve. In fact, true self sees life as an ongoing opportunity for self-definition. To the real self, it is almost as if every moment comes with a whisper, "so who do you want to be now?"

Our true, authentic self, is utterly proactive.

Authentic self is so potent - and open to change - that it's not bothered by external threats or accusation. The real self knows that it can redefine or recreate itself if it chooses to. There is no need to be defensive.

As powerful as it is, our real self can be obscured by our conditioning and reactive habits. Acquired patterns of thought and behaviour distract us from who we really are. 'The six mind habits we do well to manage' discusses some examples that most of us can readily identify with.

This is why an authentic life doesn't necessarily come naturally to us. We often need to work hard at it. We need to work hard to remind ourselves who we really are. This is the real meaning of 'to thine own self be true'. It's about knowing yourself and remembering yourself as often as you can.

Working With Duality

"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone elses' opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation."

~Oscar Wilde

To become aware of what is true we need to become aware of what is false as well. Awareness of truth and falsehood are inseparable. Becoming aware of a falsehood, we awaken to a corresponding truth. Remaining ignorant of a falsehood, we remain ignorant of it's corresponding truth. Truth and falsehood reveal each other.

Pretending we're completely false (or 'bad') or completely authentic (or 'good') doesn't get us anywhere. The potential for both are always with us.

Our real self wants us to live our best, most rewarding, most fulfilling, most meaningful life possible. The real self is our guardian angel throughout.

Do you doubt your real self? Good! That's your false self at play and you can now put your finger right on it. The false self will always doubt the real self and the real self will always doubt the false. They are of different nature's and do not recognize each other. Yet, our awareness encompasses both.

The false self is harbour to values, desires, and beliefs acquired from sources external to us. Family, loved ones, society - are all active contributors. This external input isn't part of our authentic self, unless we evaluate it and consciously choose it as our own. Until we do this, parts of our self and our life remain unowned.

Reactivity & Proactivity - Two Very Different Worlds

What does the world of 'to thine own self be true' actually look like? How does it feel to be living in the world of the real self? How does the world of the false self feel like? Developing this kind of awareness helps us to recognize when we're living authentically (proactively) or perhaps not as authentically as we may like (reactively).

The World Of The False Self (Reactive)

The World Of The Real Self (Proactive)

I am a pawn of circumstance. My experience is determined by events that aren't under my control.

I am the cause, the source, of my experience.

The approval of others is of primary importance. I sacrifice myself in the process.

I am willing to risk the disapproval of others to live my life.

If I hold a belief then it means it must be true.

Things aren't true just because I believe them.

I am who I am.

"Who I am now is a result of my past actions; who I will be is what I do now." ~The Buddha

I am run by my emotions and urge of the moment.

I respond based on my values, conscious intention or purpose.



I need to be respected by others.

I cultivate self respect first.

I try to be what others think I should be. I want what others have. I fear I will never get it.

I know who I am. I know what I want. I trust I can get it or live it.

Life just seems to pass me by. I'm asleep and living unconsciously. Life is a gift?

I feel engaged with life. I'm keenly aware and awake to life. I often feel grateful. Life is a gift!

I know it all. There's nothing new under the sun.

I'm curious. I wonder. I question and want to learn more.

I feel numb and lifeless.

I can hardly contain myself.

I'm lonely and therefore depressed.

I'm alone and therefore free!

Life is predetermined. I have no freedom.

Life is determined by the freedom I have.

I feel like a fraud; like I'm living a life that isn't really me.

My life feels right. I have found or am finding my rightful place in it.

I can't seem to give myself permission to pursue what I want. I have a hard time even admitting to myself that I want it!

I do what I will and will what I want. If it isn't harming anyone - it's fair game. Full steam ahead!

'To thine own self be true' means to make a shift in the way we think, feel and act - shifting our thought patterns away from reactivity and towards proactivity instead. Identify the thought patterns in the left column that are specific to you, and practice replacing them with their right column, proactive, alternative.

Of course, these are only a few examples of reactive (false self) vs. proactive (authentic self) thought patterns. Search your own experience, explore your own mind - hunt down the reactive thought patterns that are keeping you trapped in a false self and the false world that comes with it. Align with truth instead.

To Thine Own Self Be True & Stepping Out of the Mind

'To thine own self be true' remains nothing more than an inspiring slogan without cultivating the self-awareness that actually makes it possible. This is why stepping out-of-the-mind is such an important self help skill to master.

Stepping out-of-the-mind gives us distance from the false self. It enables us to see it. It allows us to re-visit our values, beliefs and standards and to choose them consciously this time.

Stepping out-of-the-mind also gives us the opportunity to re-examine our doubts, hesitations and fears. "Are these doubts, fears and hesitations really my own, or do they come from the values and beliefs planted in me by others?"

"What do I believe in?" "What do I choose to value?" "What do I want to do?" Ask yourself these questions and find your truth. Then go out and live it. This is living the proactive life.

Stepping out-of-the-mind empowers us to see the false self for what it is - a shadow of reality. Stepping out-of-the-mind we align with our true purpose and intentions, leaving confusion behind.

More and more we become our one true voice.

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