I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary.
– Henry David Thoreau
The most common regret that people have on their deathbed is that they wished they had had the courage to live a life true to themself, rather than the life others expected of them.
There are many people doing work they don’t like to pay for things they don’t need. Other people literally live a life pretending to be something they are not. Is being a middle manager really your true calling? If you are passive it is easy to go with the flow and you find yourself somewhere you wouldn’t have chosen in the beginning. It’s not just about work either. Is wasting your time and being a couch potato your true calling?
Being true to yourself is being honest with yourself. What do you want to become? Do you want to thrive or just survive? What does thriving really mean? How can you become the best person you can potentially be? These are the types of questions you need to answer honestly. Find out what you want to become because when you know exactly what you want in life you’ll be able to go after it with real purpose and integrity.
Perhaps you could imagine yourself on your deathbed, what are the regrets you don’t want to have? What are the achievements you do want to have had? Some people will discount this life for the promise of an eternal afterlife. They don’t try to live authentically because they don’t need to. Just be good, work hard and you get a one-way ticket to Heaven. However, by definition, there is nothing supernatural and this life is all we have and we should live it as we believe in living it.
People are often afraid of being themselves and doing things their own way. People will conform because they have an innate need to feel that they belong and are respected. However, the price for this can be too high when you have to live inauthentically. Very often people won’t think any less of you if you take responsibility for living an authentic life. Being true to yourself really means you don’t worry about living by someone else’s standards or rules. You live as your natural self without compromise and if people don’t approve, that is their problem, not yours.
Indeed, when you’re true to yourself you’re also true to other people. In being true to others you’re being true back at yourself. To be true to yourself means never to undermine the meaning of who you really are. Try to complete yourself, and never live partially or in two different ways.
Being true to yourself doesn’t mean being selfish and inconsiderate. Jails are full of people who don’t care about the effect they have on others or the world. On the contrary, being true to yourself means being responsible for yourself and your well-being; and holding yourself morally accountable for your thoughts and actions.
“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.”