Thanking Messrs. Wilde & Thoreau

I love and cherish various phrases that, for me, put reality in a clear light, and, in some cases, inspire.  I like phrases that right-size some or all of life’s ingredients. Lately, I’ve been spending time with Oscar Wilde’s, “Be yourself’; everyone else is already taken.” While there appears to be a nearly endless string of speculations as to why we exist in the first place, I think it safe to conclude that part of the answer – no matter the speculation – is, to be yourself.

(Note: I will not be surprised if a reader writes in informing me that one or more meaning-of-life speculations does not include, to be yourself. More than okay. In the event I am so informed, I have my response fully polished and ready to go: I don’t agree.)

So many of us get the message or messages that there is something wrong with who we are. That somehow, were we to give ourselves permission to, as Henry David Thoreau wrote: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined,” we would be mucking up the works. Not true! Giving ourselves permission to live the life we’ve imagined will undoubtedly result in a happier life. In the first place, living the life you’ve imagined likely means you will be engaged in things you enjoy. Whether you meet every single solitary goal is, when it comes down to it, not the sole point of things. The joy and wonder is the journey itself. Conversely, denying yourself permission to live the life you’ve imagined or, more precisely, denying yourself your right  to be you, will undoubtedly result in a less fulfilling and, as a result, less happy life.

There is another gift that comes with being yourself. You will find yourself among those of similar interests, a reality that makes for solid and healthy friendships (or more) because you don’t have to abbreviate or surrender parts of yourself in order to connect with the others.

Yes, it is quite true that no two people are alike which means any two people will have their differences. There will be, in any meaningful connection between people, the need to compromise. But, and listen closely, healthy compromise and giving up who you are are worlds apart. Healthy compromise is a way of adapting to your environment which, of course, includes the people in your life. Compromise, adaptation, is how species continue to exist and, if they are lucky, flourish.

Compromise promotes one’s growth. Giving up who you are stifles growth, fuels resentment, and leads to a story that never ends with the words, And (he, she or they) lived happily ever after.

So, this writer would urge you to heed Messrs. Wilde and Thoreau: Be yourself; everyone else is already taken, and, Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.

Lastly, consider this. Had Messrs. Wilde and Thoreau not given themselves permission to be who they were, we would not have these two wonderful quotes to guide and empower us.


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