“This above all: to thine own self be true”William Shakespeare
In 1601 Shakespeare wrote Hamlet and gave us the wonderful line “This above all: to thine own self be true”. Over four centuries later, these words of wisdom are more important and relevant than ever.
In my experience, it is so easy to betray the truth of who we are, especially at work when there is often a subtle yet insidious pressure to comply and conform. We can find ourselves engaging in a futile quest for belonging – striving to fit in, and prove ourselves when what we truly yearn for is to be seen.
In the words of Alicia Keys “We shift ourselves not in sweeping pivots, but in movements so tiny that they are hardly perceptible, even in our view. Years pass before we finally discover that, after handing over our power piece by piece, we no longer even look like ourselves.”
On the very first day of my very first job as a ‘cake shop girl’, Mrs Donaldson the cake shop owner matter-of-factly informed me that my name would be changed to Sandy because there was already another Cassie working at the bakery. It was clear that I did not have any say in this decision, or my allocated new name. I remember feeling slightly upset by the unexpected realisation that my much-anticipated enrolment into the world of work required me to change my name. But, without even a hint of quibble, I diligently complied. Much later, a male manager told me in a performance review “The problem with you Cassie is that you care too much”. Then, a few years after that, a female manger said “If this was 1980 I would be telling you to put on shoulder pads and red lipsticks”.
On that first day of work at the tender age of 15, I could never had imagined that I would spend the next three decades of my career trying to stay true to who I was – often feeling pressured to be someone else.
Why is self-fidelity – the practice of being true to our essence – more relevant that ever?
Now more than ever we desperately need to activate and share the very best of ourselves, and yet human potential continues to be overlooked, suppressed or diminished in most workplaces across the world. We have been conditioned to believe that who we are is inconvenient, not enough or somehow broken. As a consequence, so many of us have lost faith in ourselves – and in each other.
We have become disconnected with our essential nature as humans – our caring, playful, worthy, vulnerable, creative nature.
Suppressing our essential nature is like trying to hold a beachball underwater – it’s wobbly and exhausting. As the pressure builds, the suppressed parts of ourselves can make surprise appearances in ways that are exaggerated, unhelpful and sometimes hurtful. Over time, we can become sick and jaded.
Our working lives are a pilgrimage of discovery. A pilgrimage that can illuminate how we might best serve the troubled world we inhabit. The practice of self-fidelity is an invitation to create a working life that activates our potential, honours our humanity and nourishes our hearts, minds, bodies and souls. A working life that supports us to better serve our colleagues, customers, friends and family. A working life that works in harmony with our other big loves and the delicate ecosystems we inhabit. A working life that tumbles and brings forth the brilliant jewels buried deep inside of us.
So, where can I start?
Self-fidelity is a practice of remembrance and reconnection. I have discovered that self-fidelity is something we can all practice by:
- Waking up to the reality we find ourselves in to become present
- Letting be our essential nature as human beings
- Letting go of the things that weigh us down
- Letting in the nourishment we need to lift.
These four core practices combine to offer us a life-long learning loop.
John Mellencamp sang, ‘Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.’ So many of us feel we have no choice but to settle for a kind of half-dead existence. But life does not have to be this way. Through the practice of self-fidelity, we can rediscover the thrill of living – through our work. This is what I offer through the practice of self-fidelity and the community of thrill-seeking pioneers it is bringing together.
Self-fidelity Practice To Play With This Week
I invite you to play with the four core self-fidelity practices this coming week. Here are some burning questions to help illuminate the key elements of your unique self-fidelity practice.
In moments of true presence, what is your experience of who you really are?
What new possibilities might emerge if you were to allow the vibrant expression of your essential nature?
What are your heaviest attachments? (beliefs, expectations, relationships or cherished outcomes) and what might be possible if you refused to keep weighing yourself down?
What might shift in your life if you were to respond from a state of vitality and wellbeing, instead of reacting from a state of resentful depletion?
We get lost in the weather of our minds.
Yet above the thick cloud, clear sky always awaits.
We get pushed around by constant winds.
Yet we can all learn how to find shelter.
We are held down by an invisible heaviness.
Yet we can gently let go of this burden.
We all contain a powerful lifeforce.
And by learning how to feed it, we are buoyed.
Remembering the truth of who we are, we lift.Cassandra Goodman