Monday, March 26, 2012

To Thine Own Self Be True

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And so it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
~Shakespeare, Hamlet

Growing up, I was never pushed to do something I didn’t want and generally given free rein to come and go as I pleased, as long as my mom knew (or thought she knew) where I would be. I was a stubborn, strong willed child who usually refused to be told what to do, preferring instead to be left to my own devices to both entertain myself and figure out the world around me. If I was told to do something, it’s highly likely I would do the exact opposite, not only out of spite but also because I had this inherent need to do it my own way. Intrinsically I had to figure things out on my own, forge my own path, march to my own beat, and draw my own conclusions. My mom encouraged me to formulate my own beliefs, to read, question, and explore, even if my conclusions were different from her own. I was given the freedom to be myself and not forced to be something I was not. Out of this sort of childhood, I gained the necessary courage and confidence to stand strong when faced with adversity or judgment from others about my choices.

Since moving South, I’ve encountered overwhelming judgments about everything from my thoughts and ideas to ridiculous little things like the color of my nail polish. I live in an incredibly rural area that is very Stepford-esque. Women are submissive to their husbands; there is a very traditional way to do things, a very, very narrow mindset. I’m deep in the Bible belt where people generally share the same ultra-conservative beliefs and racial discrimination is very much alive. I am none of these things and people here see me as a threat to everything they believe. I’ve been the target of verbal attacks and blatant harassment because I refuse to yield to their way of life.

At first, I wasn’t sure how to handle this judgment, how to respond, or even how to cope with people challenging every single aspect of who I am as a person. There were times I was ready to crumble under the pressure, times where doing just that certainly would have been easier. Instead I remembered my post about the red flower. I remembered that it’s not my nature to blend in or yield. While standing out and being different may not be the popular choice, it’s my choice and who I am as a person. I’ve never needed that courage or confidence I gained as a child more than I have in the past few months. I’m proud of who I am as a person—my outspoken, strong-willed, stubborn liberal self and I’ll be damned if I’m going to sacrifice any part of that to make someone else happy.

The words of Shakespeare’s Hamlet have never had as much meaning as they do to me now: “This above all: to thine own self be true.” As long as I remain true to who I am and continue to live my beliefs, convictions, and most importantly, my truths, I will always come out on top. Undoubtedly there will be a few more scars and deep battle wounds, but I’ll always able to stand tall and proud of the person I am.