Finding and appreciating yourself is a difficult task. “One Word” by Elizabeth Gilbert, “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” by William Shakespeare, and “When I consider how my light is spent” by John Milton discuss the hardships of defining yourself, learning your talents and shortcomings, and consequently living with and being comfortable with that. They warn against conformity and praise true identity.
“One Word” creatively explains how hard it is to define yourself over the course of a lifetime. Gilbert’s friend suggests that where you live, and the one word engraved there, is what defines you. For example, in Rome the identifying word is ‘sex’. New York is identified as “achieve”, while Stockholm is “conform”. All of these words are different and have such particular meanings, which adhere to many of the people living there, but not Gilbert. She points out however, that at one point in her life she could have been these words but not now. Over a person’s experiences, family, and place or residence can one truly define themselves, with all of that and more combined. One cannot really define themselves with one word if they haven’t experienced everything they were meant to.
This relates to Shakespeare. His sonnet communicates the value of inner beauty and appreciating the different and special qualities of everyone. While Gilbert had almost conformed to the Rome-word by buying all the lingerie, Shakespeare warns against that as he appreciates his mistress for who she is on the inside. He even states that her differences from the typical beauty are what make her rare and loving. He identified the mistress’s true self.
Milford, however, has a complicated time identifying with himself and his talents. He uses his blindness as an excuse to throw his power with words away. He then realizes that God is loving, no matter what hardships you may face. You cannot abuse your talents and appreciate everything you have for some are not as fortunate. It takes “Patience” (line 8) to see yourself for who you really are, then understand, and be grateful for that self.
There are steps to take in order to achieve this, which include defining yourself, appreciating that, and recognizing inner beauty. The three authors are saying this basic same message, but differently. That important and remarkable point is that it is okay if you do not know who you are yet, you will someday, and when you do, love yourself every moment and do not take anything for granted.