Epictetus part 22: Prepare to be ridiculed

This article is part of the weekly Epictetus series. New articles will be published every Monday.

Epictetus warned us that the pursuit of philosophy as a way to get happy and flourish is not easy. On the contrary, we must give up some things, and postpone others. Moreover, we should learn to ignore the things we can’t control. This includes the view that others have of us: status and social standing are outside our control and should therefore not be of our concern.

If you choose philosophy, be prepared from the beginning that many people will ridicule you, will mock you, and will say ‘suddenly he returns to us as a philosopher’ and ‘where does that frown on us come from?’. Don’t frown: but hold on to those things that seem best to you, as you are stationed on this post by God. And remember that if you are persistent in these things, then the people that ridiculed you earlier will admire you later. But if you give in to them, you will receive twice the ridicule.

Especially today, philosophers are sometimes considered ‘weird’ or ‘out of this world’. When you tell people you study philosophy, there is a good chance they will laugh at you or question the relevance of such a study. Epictetus warns us: don’t let ridicule and mockery discourage you. Instead, remain faithful to the things that really matter: the things that are in your control. And if you persevere in this, you will get closer to happiness and flourishing. Perhaps those who laughed at you will even change their minds and start to respect or admire you. Anyway: what matters most is your pursuit of a good life, not the ridicule of others.

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