“To thine own self be true”, wrote the bard. How simple that sounds! Maybe it’s only me, but it is so complicated! To mine own self be true? Who am I that I should be true to? In a culture that bombards us with the message to throw off all restraint and “be ourselves”, I struggle to understand just what that means.Before delving into this topic, I must confess: I am a chameleon. I can blend into almost any group of people. I can play a myriad of parts. Farmer’s seminar: behold the farm girl. Business/entrepreneur gathering: no problem – enter the practical, business woman. Church gathering for a special event: meet the social butterfly all dressed up. Shopping in a bohemian, free-spirit city: introducing the bohemian me. Homeschool conference: out comes the demure outfit. Playing soccer with athletic friends: pull the hair back into a ponytail and own the field. Traveling across the globe to a village in Africa: yup – we got village fashion. (Ok, so I did stand out a little over there; but hey, I can’t change my skin color!)
All this to say that in a wide and diverse variety of situations, I can look like I belong. I can even go from church to bohemian to soccer to country club to sweats in one day without missing a beat. (Speaking of beat – I do beatnik fashion too). But the question still remains: who am I that I should be true to? If you ask my country club friends, that’s the real me. If you ask my athletic friends, that’s the real me. My farm friends will tell you that’s the real me. And my business friends – well, you get the picture. If you ask Jane, she’ll just tell you I’m a mess.
What I’ve learned through the years is that there is no singular me. All of those above images are all elements of me. But through all of those, there are aspects that stay the same. And those are determined by the “real” me.
“You shall know them by their fruits. A good tree does not bear bad fruit, neither does a bad tree bear good fruit.” This is where I found my answer to “to thine own self be true.” Who am I? I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Because of that, there are certain elements that I always incorporate into my wardrobe. Is my hemline too high? Is the neckline too low? Does this outfit seek improper attention? Am I dressed in such a way that my King is pleased?
In addition to that, I am also me. I like to live (mostly) inside the lines. I dislike frivolity. I have a serious, contemplative, intense mind. All these elements come into play in my wardrobe as well. Frilly blouse or serious, business blouse? Business every time – unless I am insanely going through one of my “curly” moods. (They’re not pretty…and yes, I am insane when they occur). Hairstyle: serious and under control or femininely flipped out and curled? Keep that hair under control!
As you can see, I like to keep myself well within the lines. But let’s take a look at another element. Say I’m going into a situation that “society” says requires heels and heavy make-up. That’s not who I am. I only wear heels on boots but never pumps, and I only wear light make-up occasionally. What should I do? “To thine own self be true.” I would still dress the part, but instead of heels, wear flats, and instead of heavy make-up, wear my normal light. In doing so, I am not inappropriately attired, nor will I be giving offense. But I also have been true to myself, projecting an image of who I am instead of who I am not.
We can never “throw off all restraint” as our culture says. We will always be playing by somebody’s rules. Maybe you play by the rules of Vogue magazine. Or a particular Hollywood star. Or maybe you’re playing by the rules from 1890. No matter how radical or rebellious you are, you will always be within somebody’s rules. No matter how much of a trendsetter you are, you got the idea from somewhere. And “there is nothing new under the sun.”
As for me, I’m playing by the rules first of Jesus Christ and second of my personality. The rest is dictated by my circumstance. Yet to mine own self will I be true.