The Truth About Self-truth


In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, Polonius bids farewell to his son, Laertes as he embarks on a journey to Paris. The last bit of advice he gives him before he leaves has echoed throughout the ages as mentors, friends, family and critics impart the wisdom of self-truth:

Polonius:
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

Hamlet Act 1, scene 3

“To Thine own self be true…thou canst not then be false to any man.” What a beautiful idea eh!  Mind you, in Polonius’ time, he likely meant to be ‘true’ to one’s virtues and not bend to the temptations of  the frivolous Parisian lifestyle ; ‘true’ in this sense meaning consistency of principals and not necessarily honesty with self.  But as language evolved, we seem to have adapted the latter as the intended meaning. Now, of course we understand self-truth as the most honest and objective analysis of one’s personality, character and tendencies. This is not the convenient, pretty truth that we like to paint for others.. but the raw, unabridged version; including things that aren’t always fit for airplay; things we’re not always proud of.

But why put ourselves through this? To what end do we aspire to self-truth?

Well, I think this is such a sought-after virtue because of its credit to self-improvement and peace of mind. When you have the most objective and well-informed outlook on anything, you’re in a position to make decisions in the best interest of all involved. Knowing the truth about ourselves also helps us deal with criticism, improves our confidence and reduces the chance of inner-conflict when issues and crises arise. It also helps us to make wise  choices for ourselves in everything from seeking a romantic partner, to finding a career, and even with spirituality.

 

The Difficulty with Self -Truth

If self-honesty is so great for our emotional well-being, why don’t more of us practice it? Why is it still being sought after by people far and wide? Why are the books about self-actualization and spiritual and emotional enlightenment still best sellers? Why is this not an innate ability in all of us?

The issue, I’ve observed is that self-honesty is not a habit that’s been bred in us. This is not intentional, of course, but I think growing up, most of us have been so preoccupied with hiding the truths about ourselves from others, that we end up believing (or wanting to believe) the doctored image we show to others. To avoid being outcasts, we generally make an effort to display traits that others would find attractive. This is an innate human quality though.

Also, I think it’s a difficult process to adopt. It really doesn’t come easy to many people. It takes practice to learn to accept the things we may not like about ourselves and to ignore the almost instinctive temptation to pretty things up when we refer to ourselves: “I Guess I’m a little… Maybe sometimes I… Only when I….

 

How I’ve learnt self-truth. 

 

1. Neutral Self-perception

I find a lot of people (including me) make the mistake of categorizing the truths about ourselves. We’re somehow prone to see things as either negative or positive and it is difficult, at least for me, to adjust to a neutral state of perception. Why is it important to have a neutral self-perception? Well, I’ve realized that the potential of discovering ‘negative’ things about oneself burdens the whole journey of self- discovery. Why would I want to go through a process that reveals how selfish or arrogant or inadequate I am? Who wants to learn that they are any of these things, if there’s a negative implication behind it? Even beyond that, is the fear or concern that this will lead to poor self-image or low self-esteem. But I don’t think it’s the awareness of a particular trait in yourself that causes low self-esteem. I think it’s the societal perception attached to these traits that causes us to be like that. If like in some Northern societies, attraction to same-sex wasn’t a societal negative, persons of that persuasion wouldn’t have to deal with half of the self-hatred and self-judgement they go through. And if we didn’t grow up in schools where the star athlete with the good body was constantly glorified, the skinny book worm with no athletic prowess wouldn’t feel so bad about himself. So I think it’s important that we learn to face the truths about ourselves as just truths that are neither negative nor positive. There may be things that you’d like to change and if so, go for it. But go for it with the comfort of knowing that discovering less than ideal things does not mean you are a bad person and you have nothing to be ashamed of.

 

2. No judgement.

I try not to judge myself…for anything! There’s a difference in being a tough self-critic and being judgemental of yourself. In the quest for self-truth, I’ve discovered that I may be tempted to label myself and judge myself as wrong, misguided, irresponsible etc… It helps to remember that I am human and therefore subject to human flaws, like every other human. So, now, no matter what I discover in myself, I analyze how this affects my life and those around me, and set about changing, sustaining or enhancing it as I see fit.

 

3. Find company.

Misery loves company. This isn’t always a bad thing, though. I find that observing similar traits in others helps to remind me that I’m part of a human race, that is, despite our sometimes varying personality differences, mostly collectively predictable in behaviour and attitude. We share an emotional evolution and thus are generally affected by things in a relatively similar way. This means you’re not the only one who may be impatient or easily angered or greedy or lustful or impulsive etc.

 

So what are MY truths? 

I always think examples work best in helping people understand or appreciate certain concepts. So I’m going to be an example and share some of the truths (just some! lol) that I’ve come to learn about myself over my long (and continuing) journey of self-discovery. And I won’t list them according to “negative” or positive…they are only truths.

 

 I’m “moody”.  An ex once described as being ‘moody’. I find this true. My tolerance for people (in general) varies on what appears to be a biological shuffle mode.

I am very open (maybe too open). I like to learn, meet new people, make new friends, and have new experiences. I want to hear your justification for everything and I generally don’t judge  you for your opinions, habits or beliefs. We’re all coming from different places, afterall.

I am a lazy ass. Yep… lazy as all hell, I am. Aside from my love for walking, I don’t like to do anything that requires me to well…do anything! I’d rather not do it at all or take the easy way out any day.

I’m excitable. I find my reactions to things (bad or good) often excited and overstated. I often wish I were (and sometimes try to appear) calmer and less affected.

I’m a terrible drunk. Loud, frisky and HONEST…

I’m cheap. I don’t like spending money, even if it’s on something I like. I can appreciate the value attached to things of good quality but ultimately, I don’t like to spend. (yet I’m always broke..go figure).

I’m a know-it-all. Yes, I like to know things and I like you to know that I know. Makes me feel smart – and of course I won’t easily let on that I don’t know something. I’ll ‘mm-hmm‘ until I can google it and then know more about it than you! lol!

I’m not always honest. I have a tendency to lie when I’m afraid you won’t understand, appreciate or believe the truth; or if I myself am not fully comfortable with the truth. I always feel bad about it though and I try and make it up to you in some way that, admittedly, you may not be conscious of.

I don’t take orders and very well. Ordering me about will make me feel inferior and it will annoy me to no end.

 I’m selfish. This was one of the more difficult things to accept. But yes, I can be selfish at times. Not with food or money or anything like that. But with my space and time. I generally don’t like to share my spaces (home, school, work spaces) with other people.

I am easy to get along with. I like to laugh and enjoy myself and I hate conflict and confrontation. No matter who you are, I’d rather be your friend than your enemy.

I’m terribly impatient. Man oh man am I impatient! Move out of my way, get to the point, don’t waste my time, and give it to me NOW because I do NOT like to wait…for ANYTHING.

I’m shy. I often feign confidence because I know it looks good but underneath it all I’m terrified of gatherings where I’m expected to go around talking to people I don’t know because I’m just terribly shy.

I’m pretty good at admitting my mistakes and apologizing for them. When I make mistakes, I find I can become humble and apoplectic with ease. I will genuinely apologize and do what I can to make amends.

I can be cold/insensitive. Often I am unable or unwilling to identify with the frustrations of others if it’s not a frustration that I share. Generally I think most people complain too much.

I envy. Though I’m always genuinely happy for my friends and others for their earned successes ( I really do love to see people’s effort pay off well), I can be jealous at times and may end up feeling bad when I realize I just didn’t work as hard.

I compare. I find I compare myself to others a lot. He’s more handsome, she’s smarter, he has a better lap top, he’s got a 6 pack and I’ve got…well.. yeh you get it! lol!

I don’t manage time well. Facebook… that’s the only expansion this needs!

 

OK So that’s it for now! I’d love to hear what your experience with this journey has been like. A great way to start your comment would be with one truth about yourself… no pressure tho!

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    • Steve
    • March 18th, 2014

    Polonius:
    This above all: “To thine own self be true”

    I like where you are going however, I struggle to find absolute truth in your understanding of self? Are you sure you’re looking for the honest “self-truth” in you, or are you actually looking for the easiest way to define what others may question about the way you often are?

    Although I can’t say we are yet to be in agreement, I can say I respect the journey you’re on. I trust you will find your true definition of Happiness as you explore the endless depths of the journey.

    Having said that, I can’t say I’m entirely done with my own journey. What I can say is that I have discovered a slightly different approach to understanding personal self-truth, self-realization and self-actualization.

    Truth be told, I had been “un-knowingly” working on my self-introspection for almost 20 years before I realized its true value a few years ago.

    It wasn’t until just before I reached 50 that I truly seemed to fully understand and embraced the actual differences between Self-truth and Self- actualization. Which are nano in size and quantity.

    For this understanding…I am thankful…”Maslow should be embraced, blessed and damned”

    At this point I’ve shared my approach with a very select few however, being true to myself has resulted in the creation of well over 3-TB of such personal realizations from which I’ve learned the true foundation of self-understanding for each and everyone of us.

    I wish you the best with yours.

    Regards,
    Steve

  1. This is the first time I’m discovering your blog Klieon. Amazing post. Made me think about SO much, and I will definitely be doing a self truth like this myself 🙂 You can check it out when I’ve finally put it up on MY blog 🙂

    leaningonmybeloved.tumblr.com

    Thanks so much for this! You have no idea what this means 🙂

    • WOW Eve! Thank you so much for that comment. YOU have no idea what THAT means…to know my humble little musings has the potential to help someone else makes it all worth it. I’ll definitely be checking yours out!

  2. Aww thanks Pat! Glad you like!

  3. Great post Klieon 🙂 Truly inspiring…

  1. July 1st, 2013

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