“If people think you amount to something, distrust yourself.”

From Chapter Eight of William B. Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy (footnotes omitted)

SOMETHING ELSE we can do during our Stoic meditations is judge our progress as Stoics. There are several indicators by which we can measure this progress. For one thing, as Stoicism takes hold of us, we will notice that our relations with other people have changed. We will discover, says Epictetus, that our feelings aren’t hurt when others tell us that we know nothing or that we are “mindless fools” about things external to us. We will shrug off their insults and slights. We will also shrug off any praise they might direct our way. Indeed, Epictetus thinks the admiration of other people is a negative barometer of our progress as Stoics: “If people think you amount to something, distrust yourself.”

I thought this passage, and particularly the last bit about the quote from Epictetus, was interesting. Many people think that being able to shrug off insults is good, but the perspective that you should be indifferent to praise, and even suspicious of it, is much rarer. If one thinks that the world has a bunch of serious problems and has a bunch of people in it with bad values, one should seriously question the value of praise from such a world. Things would be different in a world of heroes, but that’s not the world we live in.