Enlightened Conflict

shakespeare and self esteem

July 27th, 2010


“Be true to thineself.”



I used this quote  in maybe one of my first 5 posts but since my friend Jen referenced it with regard to self esteem I thought I would bring it back and refresh it slightly with the whole self esteem discussion in mind (as well as my recent rant on advertising agency differentiation).


Let’s talk business first.


I use this quote in every branding exercise I have ever done. I believe branding, personal or companywise, doesn’t start with the ‘customer’ but in understanding yourself. And in understanding yourself … have the kahones to be true to thineself regardless of the repercussions.


Branding experts spend so much time focusing on the customer and doing whatever you have to do to be liked by consumers that they lose sight of what a brand really is at its core … thineself.


I would imagine at its core this thought is about a company’s self esteem.


I guess if all you want to do is make money and be a prostitute, or a chameleon, and be whatever the consumer wants  and do whatever the consumer wants in search of the almighty  dollar then you should go ahead.


I guess that also means, while I would probably lose the consulting gig, I would then suggest ‘be comfortable being a legal prostitute.’ And, oh, (no offense to any prostitutes) expect that no matter how big your wallet gets you will have the same self esteem as a prostitute.

By the way.


I am not the first to suggest this (at least in the advertising industry). The original founder of The Martin Agency in Richmond said something very similar (I have the exact quote in a box somewhere).

But. Those ad guys are mad men anyway.


When I do any strategy gigs and I use this quote I typically suggest it’s like building a great circle of friends. Your circle of friends is stronger if there is some mutual respect and you truly enjoy each other’s company (flaws and all).





That doesn’t mean everyone will be your friend. Some people may like you but not be a friend. And some people will just have no interest in being your friend.

But in the end … your company, your product/service, your brand is better off … if it is ‘true to thineself.’





Personal (and this whole self esteem thing).


Heck … I believe it may be one of the most important lessons a person can learn in their personal life (and one of the most difficult lessons to actually implement I may add).  I don’t have a lot to add from what I say to business owners (above).



Similar to businesses getting caught in the barrage of consumer influence on company image an individual is faced with a similar situation (without money involved).


As Jen told me:


“realize sometimes people just get bogged down, and the external factors are definitely loud/pervasive, but still annoying to see/listen to people play “victim” or blame their upbringing/society/partner/etc on their unhappiness or their unwillingness to climb out of the pit.”



I cannot disagree.


Shakespseare was a smart dude.

I don’t think he lacked for self esteem (although I would imagine he had the typical creative artist insecurities lying below a healthy façade of strong self esteem).


But self esteem is a tricky thing.


It is made even trickier by the fact we are always growing as a person. We are always gathering external information and assessing ourselves. Part of self esteem is understanding what is good and should be respected about yourself <and kept> and another part of self esteem is partially understanding how to change and evolve and improve.


And that is self esteem’s trickiest challenge.


Be stagnant and you aren’t improving.


External factors will remind you of that.




So then you go ahead and change … uh oh … and those wily external factors have a habit of understanding that your foundation is shifting and starts seeking cracks in the foundation to weasel its way into.


My first post on “be true to thineself’ may have been too flippant.


Truth in itself is very difficult.


And add ‘thineself’ and difficulty increases exponentially.


Negative self esteem issues are a “pit.” That is true. And I am with Jen on this one … no one should be willing to accept living in this pit if you have a choice.


fire and lifeAnd I would like to believe that everyone has a choice when it comes to self esteem.




But nothing good in life is easy.


That is an non debatable truth.

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Enlightened Conflict