Marcus Aureli…us / Musings

Marcus Aureli…us / Musings

I am reading ‘Meditations’ again, the private thoughts of Roman Emperor and Stoic Philosopher Marcus Aurelius, and like always I am deeply moved.

The original audience for Aurelius’ wisdom was men. Ancient Rome was after all a deeply entrenched patriarchal society, with little regard for or movement of women in any social or academic capacity.

I choose to believe however, from all the words he wrote in his private meditations, and the way he ruled Rome (one example being how he ‘showed marked interest in three areas of the law: the manumission of slaves, the guardianship of orphans and minors, and the choice of city councillors (decuriones).[277])that had Aurelius been alive today, he would have been an advocate for all things equal.

His meditations also show a man, a stoic, grappling with the application of being a stoic. ‘Meditations’ seems to me an attempt to find peace through the stoic path, without excluding his own humanity.

One frustrating thing about my own humanity is the constant presence of insecurity. Of other people’s judgement, invented or otherwise, and my anger about this. I have wasted so much time not just looking for validation for all the wrong things (am I pretty enough, clever enough, loveable enough), but absorbing the opinions that have come back to me without first filtering their words and actions through a realistic lens of self-worth.

Why? Because I had no idea what a ‘realistic sense of self-worth’ was.

To cover all bases I landed on none at all. Opting instead to give it away to anyone who seemed to want to own a part of it. This is not fair. To me, and to the illusive ‘anyone.’ I mean, they had no idea they were walking around with little pieces of my self-worth stuck in their pockets like lint or washed out receipts, while I sat, a ball of nerves, wondering what they would do with it. What they thought of it. What they thought of me.

Validation is tied up with self-worth, and seeking it for the purpose of regaining/finding a sense of reality (especially poignant in cases of abuse and coercive control) is not just valiant, but extremely important. When you constantly seek validation for who you are however; the qualities that make you you, the waters get a bit more murky.

I have no clear answers. All I know is that we need those around us, from the day we are born, to show us love, affection and support. It shouldn’t be ‘validation,’ it should just be a steady stream of warmth and light, and pragmatic life lessons (from brushing your teeth to not being rude). There should be no need for validation if all these things have been/are in place. But, that’s not the case for many of us.

So what to do then?

Question. Notice. Pull back. Re-enter cautiously. If in doubt, filter out.

Open your heart to you. Only you for a while. Act justly for yourself.

From Marcus Aurelius’ ‘Meditations’:

Book Seven

28. Withdraw into yourself. Our master-reason asks no more than to act justly, and thereby to achieve calm.