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How To Respond To Criticism Like A Stoic

Last week, we talked about how to stay motivated when you fail. This week, we will discuss how to respond to criticism when you’re working on yourself.

The path of personal growth is lonely. To take command of your actions and pursue a life of virtue, you will have to let go of many things you previously worked hard to gain or keep:

  • Relationships
  • Comfort
  • Property
  • Status

These things are called “externals,” because they are beyond our control. 

As we’ve said before, the purpose of philosophy is freedom through self-mastery, and self-mastery starts by letting go of everything which you cannot control, and instead taking radical ownership over the only things you can control: your thoughts and your actions.

But this is the challenge: the more you pursue a life worth living, the more people will try to tear you down. This is because your commitment to progress exposes the laziness and ignorance of people who are slaves to dopamine and external validation.

The more you work on yourself, the more you will attract the criticism of these people. At best, they may simply call you a fool. At worst, they may put you on trial and sentence you to death for disrupting the status quo, as history has shown time and time again.

If you are genuinely striving for goodness, you are a lion among pigs. The pigs will squeal as loudly as they can to try and subdue you. 

But you are a lion, and they are pigs. Ignore them.

Quote Of The Week

“When another blames you or hates you, or people voice similar criticisms, go to their souls, penetrate inside and see what sort of people they are. You will realize that there is no need to be racked with anxiety that they should hold any particular opinion about you.” – Marcus Aurelius

Are You A Lion Or A Pig?

There is only one way a pig can insult a lion without insulting itself: by highlighting the qualities which make the lion different from a pig. 

Pigs eat shit and live in cages, cared for by their masters in preparation for slaughter. It is their docile and compliant nature that makes them valuable to society for the express purpose of their exploitation. At best, they are put on display as pets and disciplined if they take any actions which go against the wishes of their masters.

Lions have no masters. They have no feeding time or water trough. They have no herd, instead living alone or in a small group of like-minded hunters. They are feared and despised for the fact that they are stronger, smarter, and more resilient than prey. 

It is the qualities that make the lion majestic and dangerous which make it an outcast among pigs. It is these qualities, and these alone, that a pig can criticize in a standoff with a lion.

So, the next time you are criticized, ask yourself this question:

Are you a lion or a pig?

Question Of The Week

Think back to the last person who criticized you for walking your path of personal growth. Should you trust them to teach you how to be a better person? Why or why not?

Live On Purpose // Die Without Regrets

Each Wednesday, I publish a 3-5 minute newsletter + video podcast that applies ancient wisdom to modern life.

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