In Hamlet, Polonius is a bit of a pompous windbag. Nobody really minds when he dies (spoilers) though the ramifications of that murder kind of tip things into the downhill spiral of death and despair that defines the climax of the tragedy. But before he reaches his stabbity end, he does utter one bit of legitimately good advice.
This above all: to thine own self be true.
Lately I’ve been tying Jungian psychology into the Work that’s occupied a good portion of my time. To put it in rather simplistic terms, there’s a difference between the Self and the Persona. The Self is who we truly are, deep down, in ways that may frighten us or seem to good to be true. The Persona is who we convey ourselves to be to the outside word and those around us, something we construct to defend ourselves or exalt ourselves.
Actively building the Persona in relation to the Self can be difficult, since the Shadow tends to get in our way. Our unconscious minds, which hold our fears, our instincts, our potential for greatness as well as our terrible aspects, have the power to distort our Persona. We can be afraid of getting hurt as we have been in the past, and construct a Persona that keeps people at a distance. We can seek to be liked by those around us, and make our Persona malleable to the point of unrecognizable when we’re alone. I have seen both extremes, and my own Persona has been pushed and molded in different ways, sometimes without my being aware of it happening. I’ve had to learn how to seize it and change it of my own volition.
Because here is the hardest, most dire truth to learn.
If you do not do the work to define your Persona as an accurate reflection of your Self, someone else will do it for you.
And it won’t be true. It will not reflect your Self. It will be, at best, tarnished; at worst, it will be strung up in the public square, crucified, and set on fire, while those around either watch in satisfaction, turn away in horror, or exalt themselves with drinks and revelry to celebrate their own righteous execution of their perverse form of justice.
And you will have nobody to blame but yourself.
I’ve been there. I’ve let the expectations, the fears and doubts, the outright toxicity of others influence my Persona. I’ve let impulses and nudges of my Shadow do the same. I’ve allowed my Self to become obscured by so many things, some of my own making, some to serve the agendas of others.
We must be agents of our own change. We must find our own way through the noise of the world and the falsehoods that barrage us.
We must be true to our own Selves.
We owe it to those around us, and to who we truly are, to honestly convey the nature of the Self, and the influence of the Shadow, and the failures of false Personas, for better or for worse.
I’m working on conveying that. Of acknowledging and wrestling with those influences. Owning up to those failures.
I may not always get it right.
But I know of no other way to be true to my Self.
Tuesdays are for telling my story.