“This above all: to thine own self be true.” ~ Polonius (Shakespeare)

I used to think that quote was talking about following your dreams, ensuring that your actions fit who you are and all that. But as I’ve gotten older (yeah, okay, I’m not using a walker yet, I know), it’s started to have a different meaning for me. It’s not about actions at all, it’s about being.

Specifically, being honest enough with yourself to be yourself. It’s not as simple as some motivational poster telling you to be yourself. We’re a thousand times more complicated than that.

For so many years, I was a ghost of myself. A society-accepted, high-achieving ghost of who I really was. And I thought that was fine. I thought that was what it meant to be a part of a society: you present the most acceptable version of yourself. You show people what they want to see.

Except that’s stupid. Because while I was busy being a ghost self, my real self was screaming for air. Until one day.

One day, I started to let my true self out. I let her breathe for a little while before I turned into a ghost again. Little by little, she started to take over. And the funny thing was, no one ran away screaming. In fact, people seemed to like this true self. I started to realize you make more of an impression when you’re different. And that a sense of humor doesn’t make people cringe. And that many people appreciate quirkiness because it makes them smile (and wish they were brave enough to be their true selves).

So if you wanna know who I truly am, here it is:

I’m a butterfly in a world of sparrows. Sometimes I get tossed around by the wind, but I’m stronger than I look. I’m colorful and quirky but that doesn’t mean I can’t be down-to-earth. Sometimes I feel so very small and unimportant. And other times I’m overwhelmed by the impression that my life has purpose. Great, incredible purpose.

I hold myself to impossible standards and am heartbroken if I ever fail. When I encounter mean people, I really want to kick them in the shins. (I’m trying to work through that.) I’d do just about anything to help someone I care about, and only slightly less for someone I don’t even know. I love to create. Sentences, hats, cards, whatever. If I go too long without indulging my creativity, I start to lose my mind.

And what’s truly incredible is that I’m married to the best man I’ve ever known, who loves my quirky, colorful self and encourages me to be strange.

Be strange, my friends. But not just any kind of strange. The you kind of strange. Let your ghost self fade away. It’s the best advice I can give.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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