The Criticism That Comes With Life Change - Advice from Epictetus
For those who wish to live on purpose there is one thing to remember; not only must we surround ourselves with people who will take us higher, but we must also let go of those who are dragging us down or criticizing our endeavors.
It is often the case that those who you believe to be closest to you will resent or mock your intentions to change. They will question your motives, laugh at your goals, and pester you until you yourself question why you would wish to change. They may tear away at your belief, all the while working under the guise that there is nothing wrong with you, and that you need not improve or change. They are right, there is nothing wrong with you, but if there are areas of your mind and your habits that are holding you back from true fulfillment then you must work to change for the better.
The Stoic Philosopher Epictetus wrote about these very circumstances when he said; “Those who pursue the higher life of wisdom, who seek to live by spiritual principles, must be prepared to be laughed at and condemned. Many people who have progressively lowered their personal standards in an attempt to win social acceptance and life’s comforts bitterly resent those of philosophical bent who refuse to compromise their spiritual ideals and who seek to better themselves. Never live your life in reaction to these diminished souls. Be compassionate toward them, and at the same time hold to what you know is good.”
We must not be mislead by the criticism of others. And even though we cannot show hostility towards their ways, we can still let go of them and allow these people to find their place in the world as we work to find our own. We must love those who would laugh at us, but at the same time we need to make it clear that we are not on the same journey as they are, and we will not accept mediocrity on our path.
Epictetus went on to say; “It is your job to comfort yourself humbly and to consistently hew to your moral ideals. Cling to what you know in your heart is best. Then, if you are steadfast, the very people who ridiculed you will come to admire you.”
Maybe those who are closest to you will not follow or join you, but it is not your duty to convince them of a higher way of living. Your only need is to continue on your way to the good life. Those who laugh at you are not necessarily acting out of love, but out of fear disguised as love. They fear that you will leave the herd. They fear that they will loose a friend. They fear that your quest for a better life will take you to places that they couldn't even imagine traveling to. Their bickering and scurrying to keep you within their grasp is a part of their evolution, not yours. You are not meant for such restriction. You have a higher purpose, and you are within reach of happiness and fulfillment that is invisible to those who hold you back. Keep the vision, and press on. Walk away from those who would hold you back.
One last piece of advice from Epictetus is this; “Content yourself with being a lover of wisdom, a seeker of the truth. Return and return again to what is essential and worthy.”
What we must do is cut out the influence from the crowd who would have us conform. We should continue on our rise to the good life and know that it is within our power to not be influenced by the doubters. The life of wisdom and truth is not always popular, and if we are to experience the true fulfillment that comes from this life we must walk away from those relationships that are holding us down, and run towards the relationships that will take us higher. Dismiss yourself from those who condemn or criticize you, and search for the people who understand your purpose. Only then will you be free to truly pursue the good life.