This above all, to thine own self be true

Yesterday, I encouraged you to read Anna Quindlen’s commencement speech. It’s really a speech about being who you truly are, and I shared it because it struck a chord with me. For the longest time I felt like I carried that metaphorical backpack, striving to appear perfect, to live up to everyone else’s expectations. Anna encourages us to lay the backpack down, to stop trying so hard to be perfect. Which is far easier said than done…

Over the course of the last year, I began to notice major changes in my attitude. Essentially, I had taken on more than I could handle, and made living up to expectation completely impossible for myself. I had no choice but to let parts of my carefully crafted façade slip, and so they did. I didn’t make a life-affirming choice to be more true to myself, I genuinely had no choice in the matter. I had too many balls in the air, and as any juggler will tell you, when you drop one ball, the rest soon follow.

I had also spread myself thinly amongst friends and family who had widely differing expectations of me. Anna talks of learning the zeitgeist necessary to shapeshift to any situation, something I had become expert at as daughter to two vastly different parental units. But shapeshifting had spilled over into my friendships too. Major events had changed my role in certain longstanding relationships immeasurably, whilst new friendships were built on the new me, altered, as we all are, by experience. The two shapes could not co inhabit the same shell, and cracks began to show.

I don’t want to veer off down the path of self-analysis and evaluation here, so I’ll come straight to it: my point is this. Far from choosing to lay the backpack down, sometimes we are forced to. If we take on too heavy a load we can cause irreparable damage to ourselves and to others. I urge everyone to heed the lesson Anna preaches sooner rather than later, before the weight you bear breaks something truly invaluable.

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3 thoughts on “This above all, to thine own self be true

  1. You look gorgeous here – love the belt!
    I think I know what you mean – I was doing too much last year. I’ve taken a backseat in most things to reassess this year, which is giving me more time to spend with friends.
    xx

  2. That struck a chord with me also…before cancer I was the caregiver, taking care of everyone but myself. I hated to go anywhere for fear of what everyone else thought of me. My father is a minister and I a remarried daughter I felt a strong judgment from my small town. But cancer changed all that…I was forced to look long and hard at the person in the mirror and decide who I wanted to be not what the family or world expected. I lost my hair and a few people I thought were friends, which sadly happens a lot with this type of illness. But I’ve gained so much more…I have a new appreciation for the love of my husband and my son…I know who my true friends are and I’ve made a point to appreciate and nurture those friendships. I no longer try to be what I think that person wants, I am just myself…take it or leave it! I’ve come to look at cancer as a cleansing…closing doors and wiping the slate clean. I’m so happy that you have reached this place in your life. Only good things from here on out!!

  3. If I put my back-pack down I might turn into your granny! I wonder, where does backpack end and being the person you want to be begin? Love the outfit by the way xxx

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