“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.”
-Polonius (from Shakespeare’s Hamlet)
Counseling, in many ways, is a path toward being true to thy own self. How? If I know my story, my wounds, my values then doesn’t it follow that I am on the road to being my authentic self? How does this benefit us? Well, Polonius answers: what follows is being true to others.
Are you aware of who you are?
Are you true to yourself?
In my journey toward healing, I have learned that my pain matters, that no one can tell me who I am, that my desires and needs are legitimate and it is important that I make those known. In order to live this way, I have had to lay down people pleasing and go on an expedition to find out who I really am.
The fear, it seems, by many is the possibility of becoming selfish or self consumed but being true to oneself couldn’t be farther from this outlook. True self-knowledge enables us to actually give ourselves away which is the antithesis of selfishness.
Jesus once said, “love your neighbor as yourself.” Let me ask, if I have no self to give how then will I offer that self to you?
As I became aware of myself, my specific pain and trauma, the ways I have protected myself and distanced my heart from others and why, as I learned of my needs and desires and that following Jesus does not mean the disappearance of my unique self but the realization of this in a more authentic powerful way, I came to believe in my ability to offer more to the world. More kindness, more empathy, more power. In my own awareness I could then help others to be aware. I can love them in truth and not because I need them to feel better about myself.
I love myself. My mess and my beauty. This has enabled me to embrace and abide in the love of God. It has made me fit to love others, although I do this imperfectly. I can sit with an other in their pain or joy and feel settled within because I know who I am.
What a meaningful endeavor! Counseling is so much more than “getting over things” or fixing your behavior (or the behavior of others). It is about growth and wholeness. It is about stepping into your God-given destiny. Does it hurt at times? Yes. But it is in discovering who we are that we learn to cherish who an other is and help them to do the same.
Consider going on this journey.
It is worth it in the end.
“To thine own self be true.”