If You Are Praised, Be Sceptical…

Epictetus was a Greek philosopher from around 100AD. He along with Marcus Aurelius are known for advocating Stoic philosophy. The core principles revolve around focusing on what is within your control and also on your thinking patterns. These ideas have continued with contemporary techniques like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and self-help gurus like Byron Katie. But it’s always good to go back to the source material, here are some of the key excerpts from the works of Epictetus:


“There are things that are within our power, and things that outside our power. Within our power are our opinions, aims and desires, dislikes…Outside our power are our physical characteristics, the class to which we are born, our reputation in the eyes of others, and honours and offices that may be bestowed upon us. “

“Working within our sphere of control, we are naturally free, independent and strong. Beyond that sphere, we are weak, limited and dependent. “

“If you wish to have peace and contentment, release your attachment to all things outside your control”

“Instead of wishing to be a general, congressman or a celebrity, desire to be free. And the way to be is to let go of anything that is not within your control. “

“If someone tried to take control of your body and make you a slave, you would fight for freedom. Yet how easily you have over your mind to anyone who insults you, “

Thinking patterns

“Whenever distress or displeasure arises in your mind, remind yourself, ‘This is only interpretation, not reality itself.’ Then ask whether it falls within or outside your sphere of power. And if it is beyond your power to control, let it go”

“People are not disturbed by things themselves, but by the views they take of those things. Even death is nothing to fear in itself…the fear of death stems from the view that it is fearful. “

“Black and white thinking may seem powerful in speeches and debates, but real life is mostly grey areas. “

“Do not wish that all things will go well with you, but rather you will go well with all things.”


“When you embrace your wife or child, remember that they are mortal beings. By accepting their nature rather than denying it, if either should die you will find the strength to bear it. “

“Do not say of anything ‘I have lost it,’ but rather, ‘I have given it back’ “

“Think of life as play, and yourself as an actor. Your role and time on stage is up to the Author’s choosing. “


“If you are praised by others, be sceptical of yourself. For it is no easy feat to hold onto your inner harmony while collecting accolades. When grasping for one, you are likely to drop the other. “

“If you find yourself acting to impress others or avoiding action out of fear of what they might think, you have left the path. …If you want to be respected, start by respecting yourself.”

“If you win the adoration of others by pretending to be someone you’re not, you may gain celebrity or high office – but you will lose out on the fulfilment of a life best suited to your attributes and abilities. “

Other people

 “If you wish to be free, do not desire anything that depends on another, lest you make them your master”

“When anyone provokes you, remember that it is actually your own opinion provoking you. It is not the person who insults or attacks you who torments your mind, but the view you take of these things. “

 “If you have not been invited to a party, it is because you haven’t paid the price of the invitation. It costs social engagement, conversation, encouragement and praise….do you have anything good in place of the invitation? Yes – you have the pleasure of not making small talk with people you don’t really like, not praising someone you don’t admire, and not mingling with lackeys. “

 “In conversation, avoid idle chatter about horse races, athletes, celebrities, food and drink. Refuse to participate in gossip – tearing down, inflating and judging other people. Among friends, shift the conversation to worthy topics; among strangers stay silent. “

“If a friend tells you that someone has criticised you, say ‘They must not know about my other faults, or they would have pointed out those, too.’”


“Which would you rather have – money to share with others, or loyal and honest friends? Work to acquire the character of a person who attracts good friends, rather losing your character to gain riches. “

“Here are some examples of illogical conclusions: ‘I am richer than you, therefore I am more valuable than you.’ ‘I am more eloquent than you, therefore I am superior to you.’ “ The logical conclusions should be be ‘I am richer than you, therefore I can buy more things than you.’ ‘I am more eloquent than you, therefore my speech is more polished than yours.’”

“It is better to die poor, while free form fear and grief, than to live surrounded by riches and filled with anxiety”



3 thoughts on “If You Are Praised, Be Sceptical…”

  1. Extremely wise golden words of wisdom for realising a blissful existence in a world & times mostly wrapped in synthetic ways and money -power expressions. Ofcourse,few oasis of goodness,noble actions & benign thinking do exist to harbinger change and man needs to heed them, and save mother earth from strife, violence,plunder and pillage .

  2. Thank you for this article. What do you think of Ryan Holiday’s writings on stoicism? Do you think it’s worth reading?

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