This quote speaks to me so strongly that I had it indelibly inked onto my body.
(Well, only to those who can read line citations)
Though, at the same time I was getting this done there was a lady getting the word “potty” tatted onto her lip because, in her words, she had a potty mouth. (Wow, that’s deep)
As I was checking out at Whole Foods last night, I noticed some script tattooed on the arm of the girl checking me out (read that as “ringing up my groceries”, not appreciating my asthetic). I asked her if I could read it, and, as she raised the inside of her arm to show me, I promptly realized I could not. She told me it was in Latvian and, even though I was paying attention at the time, I do not remember the words. However, I do remember the meaning. These words were on the wall at the concentration camp her grandmother survived, to then give birth to her mother, and so it goes…
This is not kanji that may or may not say courage.
This is not Calvin urinating on a vehicle he finds to be inferior to the brand he prefers.
This is meaning.
When people see I.iii.78 on my leg there are two responses I get- what does it mean or is that your birthday? While it is a decent guess, no, I am not a year older than my older sister. No offense.
But it is a fair question, what does it mean? Literally the line says, “This above all to thine own self be true.”
People may interpret the words to have different meaning, and that, in my opinion, speaks to the truth of the words. What do these words mean to you—that is your truth.
It is possible to take them at a superficial, look out for number one, face value. Worry about yourself first. It is possible, even, that this is what Polonius was saying to his son as he set sail for France. “Yo, Laertes, the French can be a*holes, keep your head up.”
Taking his character into consideration it is more likely he was giving his son business or career advice- situate yourself into a lofty position with power and authority over others, a situation whereby others will seek guidance and assistance from you (the line follows with, “Thou canst not then be false to any man”). Polonius, the fishmonger that he is, can be read with a sinister motive—but the words should not. First be true to yourself, then you cannot be fake to others.
A more gentle reading of Polonius’ intent is take care of yourself first, then you will be able to take care of others. In my profession these words speak to me.
There are two specific individual who, more than others and in contrasting manners, inspired me to go into teaching. Jack Dwyer was my middle school language arts and drama teacher and is, without a doubt, one of the greatest people I have had the privilege of knowing. One of my high school teachers, who has earned the helm of anonymity, worked her hardest to convince me my ideas were not creative, I was not as smart as I thought I was, I was a bad person due to variables outside my own control and the fact I was a (little more than) slightly angsty 16 year old. In this field of teaching I have the power to be either of these people and if I am not true to myself, my own heart, desires, motivations, and beliefs, it is possible I can fall into the trappings of detriment.
Be true to yourself and you can be there for others. You want to do well and thrive in your relationships, at the activities you enjoy, at work? Be honest; be truthful; be yourself. Your inner self. The real you. Listen to yourself and understand yourself. If you know your why, the rest is easy.
Though often cited as Sublime, or incorrectly attributed to Bob Marley, it was the Southern Oregon band The Toyes who said, “hard work good and hard work fine, but first take care of head.”
In a more immediate, personal, day-to-day way “To thine own self be true” tells you to be honest. Primarily, be honest with yourself. Know yourself. Temet Nosce.
Be honest with who you are; be honest with yourself. If you lie to yourself you cannot be truthful to anyone or any thing else.
It’s also a perfect example of Iambic Pentameter.
QOTD: What words have left an indelible mark on your life, whether literal, metaphorical, metaphysical, or spiritual? What words do you live by? What words do you choose to define yourself?