Shakespeare's quote, To thine own self be true encapsulates all that is currently popular from eastern philosophy, spiritualism, psychology to Tolle, Chopra, Dyer, Williamson, Thich Nhat Hahn, and Wilbur. In essence I could stop with this first sentence and let you, the reader dwell and internalize that.
So much of Western society is caught up in looking outside of the self to see who we are. We focus on the one-up-man-ship of the world built on a foundation of sand, forever giving way and causing all who stand there to reel at the constant sense of sinking and instability. Most are caught up on gaining credibility on what one has and what one does, rather than the deeper inside sense of self. For example, men never ask one another who someone is, they ask what do you do? From this point or should I say posture, the competition is on to see who wins the prize of having/being more. The bumper sticker that encapsulates this is, He who dies with the most toys wins. This has always somewhat baffling to me, as I just thought that meant you were dead. If all this were the truth, Shakespeare would have re-framed his quote to say, To their own sense of self be true. To live from outside to in means you are at the whim of whatever direction the wind blows with regard to acceptance, inclusion, credibility, self-esteem, value, and worth.
To thine own self.... means exactly that. We must look at our inner barometer of who we are for ourselves. It means to search the recesses of our core sense of self where depth really lies and ferret out our true inner nature as we believe it and own it. And...be true means that as we own the depth of our true nature, and in realizing that, stay true to that self and our path.
Now none of this is particularly easy. I say to those I work with that the path is not easy, but glorious. What I mean by this is getting our egos out of the way, and healing our inner child wounds that make up our psychological DNA, i.e., our learned mis-beliefs of self, which we subconsciously act out on a regular basis is no small accomplishment. In fact, we never really heal them totally, but we can make great strides to clean our emotional houses. But as we do this, oh so necessary inner work, we begin to remember the divine empowered being that has been hidden from us. In reclaiming our true essence we get centered in who we are and begin to live in the greatness of our being. In this truth, we can stand strong and clear walking a very different walk of clarity and decisiveness. This in and of itself, reinforces inner worth and value that out shines any of ways we have held self worth and value before. To own oneself from the inside out is the very core of being grounded, respectful, compassionate, humble, and empowered. In this truth of self as the Zen parable goes, They shoot arrows but they find no target. We are no longer available to others scrutiny, judgments, rumors, sarcasms, denigrations, pettiness, or jibes. They simple are no longer important as we no longer validate ourselves from outside in. Where that wind blows is of no consequence to us as it is not the origin of our self definition or worth.
To thine own self be true now takes on a whole different meaning with regards to how we see and define ourselves because the rules of self have been altered. The Maharishi was quoted as saying, 'I love you and it is none of your business.' Simply meaning that the feelings I have for you are mine and mine alone and I do not say them with an attachment to what you are going to do, feel, or say about them. I am being the quintessential me, completely true to that entity and nothing else is relevant.