Yes, I know that title is a little different then the original saying. I changed it. I have written on this before, but my concept has developed a little more as I watch my kids grow.
Now I don’t consider myself a greater poet that old Billy Shakespeare, but there was just something about the phrase that didn’t work for me. I was wrestling with this phrase back when I didn’t have a great grasp on my own identity. It was difficult to be true to myself when I wasn’t exactly sure who that was.
I have been watching my girls go through their life stages. My oldest just moved out of Kinder, so it has me reflecting again.
Now, my youngest thinks my oldest is the bee’s knees. I have said it for a while now, that first borns look up to their parents, second borns look up to the first born. My youngest cries more being separated from her sister for 2 hours than being separated from mom and dad for 2 weeks. Now, mirroring is something that all kids do. From what I have read/listened to, girls mirror more than boys. Mirroring isn’t just, that kid threw a rock so I threw a rock. They copy behavior, speech, decision making, the works. We would notice big changes in our oldest after she would spend a day with her cousin, the only one she interacted with for a long time that was her age. She would act and talk so differently that it was like a different kid. After a while, we started to see that she was copying things her cousin did. Some things stuck, some things were shed. That is part of growing up. We take on things from others, we like it or don’t, then decide to keep it or get rid of it.
In the world of a young child, who is discovering who they are by mirroring, think of how difficult the phrase “be true to yourself” would be. They don’t have a set identity to be true to. They are absorbing the world like a sponge and then deciding whether to keep it or not. That is so much different then how we interact with the world as an adult. We have defined who we are and then struggle to be true to that in all of our interactions.
“To thy KNOWN self be true,” seems to work better for me as a person and as a dad teaching my girls. I may not be mirroring to the same degree as my girls, but I’m still learning and absorbing and changing. My passions don’t change as much as my daughter’s do either, but they do change. Kids change what they want to be when they grow up all the time. That is a change in their passions. We may not change careers as often, but what we are passionate about does change. Self-awareness around what is a passion and what is our identity is crucial. The kicker is that sometimes they are so close together that they feel like the same thing.
What I know about myself changes. What my girls know about themselves changes. It should continue to change for all of us too. If it ever becomes set in stone…then you’re dead.
So, yes, we could keep it as, “to thyn own self be true.” We would just have to qualify it as being true to yourself at that moment. I just feel like we don’t allow ourselves the grace to grow and change these days. I changed that one word to to allow me and my kids to develop. We also tend to measure ourselves against unattainable ideals. By changing this phrase to “to they KNOWN self be true,” we can focus on doing the best we can with what we got. That is where I want us to be, not stuck in comparison to our old self or some imaginary self.