Sense of Self

“To thine own self be true,” Polonius says in Hamlet. It seems to be a quote that gets repeated a lot, especially on tacky inspirational refrigerator magnets that probably would have deeply confused poor Shakespeare, especially since we live in a society where many people seem to believe the exact opposite of this saying.

I was thinking about this the other day when I was arguing with someone about something that I feel passionately about, and I refused to back down, because I felt that it would compromise myself, that by giving in I would be giving away a little part of myself, and the person obviously didn’t understand this. Objections were rationally laid out, valid criticisms were raised, and I still held my line, because it was important to me. Because I believe that when you abandon yourself, you have nothing. I’m willing to be persuaded and to seeing new information which changes my opinion of something, but I’m not going to quietly give in for the sake of social harmony; it’s just not who I am.

I’ve noticed that a lack of a strong core seems to be a problem for much of our society. We have politicians who are unable to articulate their beliefs because they don’t have them, and people who can’t defend their beliefs because they don’t want to upset the applecart. What’s wrong with a little believing? What’s wrong with having a firm opinion on something, a line which you believe shouldn’t be crossed, and sticking to it?

Minds change and beliefs change, and that’s all well and good, part of the process of evolution. But I fail to see why people don’t stand up for themselves, why they remain silent when they want to speak, and why we criticize the people who do dare to speak out, to raise a ruckus.

When I read the news this morning and found out that Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated, I shouted the news upstairs to my friend who is visiting, and we both had a moment of silence.

“That sucks,” I said finally.

“Yeah,” she said.

It sucks that people with courage, strength, and self confidence get assassinated, both literally and figuratively.

I want each of you, gentle readers, to resolve to be more true to yourself in the coming year. When you’re in a social situation and something you don’t like is happening, say something. Or leave. Assert yourself. Remind the world that you are a human being, with feelings. When you hear someone else speak up about something, listen to them and support them, instead of telling them to be quiet for the good of the group. Break out of your culture of convenience and complacence and ruffle some feathers. Don’t do it for me. Do it for you.