In an earlier post personal-development, I chronicled my journey to intentional personal development. My journey of course started during a painful period. Whenever personal development is mentioned, most people envisage a glorious linear progression. Unfortunately, personal growth and development are rarely linear.
On this journey, I have had to endure rejection, pain, shame and other unsavoury emotions in attaining some of my goals. Recently, I got passed up for a lucrative job which I felt I was uniquely qualified for. To my mind, I assumed I had done everything incidental to manifest the job, only to be rejected. It stung, and in a way, the shattered expectations humbled me.
It was while brooding on this rejection that I recalled some stoic teachings which have stuck with me for some time.
WHAT IS STOICISM?
Literally speaking, this refers to the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint. This implies total acceptance of the moment/challenge as it is, rather than how you would wish it to be. Stoicism does not correlate to repression of emotions, rather the wholesome feeling and adaptation to those emotions.
Some of the most prominent stoic philosophers including Zeno of Citium, Epictetus, Seneca the younger and Marcus Aurelius (noted for his wisdom in leadership), have espoused time tested ways of encountering some daily vicissitudes of life.
Because of the fragility occasioned by society’s modern way of living which, abdicates personal responsibility while placing blame on phantom forces, it has become pertinent to re-echo the lessons of stoicism to enable people to overcome challenges, and endure pain and rejection better.
This article explores 3 stoic principles that will enable you to endure pain and rejection much better than you currently do.
- PERSIST AND RESIST.
“There are two vices much blacker and more serious than the rest. Lack of persistence and lack of self-control. Persist and resist” Epictetus.
There is no gainsaying that in the game of life there will be pain and rejection. How you choose to react and respond towards them will be the determinant factor on the quality of life you have. Life will definitely spring surprises. Are you capable of weathering the storm? When you are down from pain and rejection, you must take out time to reflect. Considering alternative courses of action would be one of the benefits derivable from this. Upon reflection, you may identify actions you omitted to take and things you should have done.
At some point in your life, you will fail at something. How you pick yourself back up will be what separates you from the rest. No matter the circumstance, persist and resist.
- BE DISCREET ABOUT YOUR MOVES.
“Suppose I should say to the wrestler, ‘show me your muscle’, and he should answer me ‘see my dumb-bell’ your dumb-bell are your own affair, I want to see the effect on you” Marcus Aurelius.
Sometimes, when you feel confident that you will achieve something, you usually tell people around you. We are social beings after all and revel on connection. But telling too much about our plans which have not yet crystallised sometimes gets us anxious and puts undue pressure on us.
The way out is to remain very discreet and detached till the sought after goal materialises. Having being a victim of this in the past, being discreet will save you the anxiety of feeling the need to explain why the goal or object of anticipation did not materialise. Most of us broadcast our goals. I am not saying don’t share projects you are proud to be starting, but be mindful that failure is a possibility and discretion and detachment can save you a lot of mental stress.
- ACCEPT THE MOMENT AS IT IS.
“Adapt yourself to the things among which your lot has been cast and love sincerely the fellow creatures with whom destiny has ordained that you shall live” Cicero.
Humans use the mind to visit the past (memory) or envisage the future (imagination). The only problem is that none of them are real. I.e. the past is gone and will never come back, while the future has not come yet. They are all figments of your imagination.
Seek to constantly embrace all that is going on around you. The present moment may not align with your mental picture, but to live realistically, accepting what is will allow you room for better planning and adaptation. When we reject the present moment or refuse to accept our circumstances we hurt ourselves and deprive ourselves of the benefit of feeling the moment as it is. Acceptance allows you to take stock of where you are and realise what needs to be done to get to where you need to be.
BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
It has been stated that stoicism is not some grand instructor but a balm, a soothing ointment to an injury wherever we might have one. According to Epictetus: “life is hard, brutal, punishing, narrow, and confining, a deadly business.”
You will encounter pain and rejection. That I assure you. You should take whatever help you can get, and the best help are those that come from ourselves upon deep sober reflection.
Pain and rejection have elicited a lot of literature world over; from the scientific, to the philosophical and religious perspectives of it. To become better at enduring pain and rejection, we must remain steadfast.
When you encounter a setback, take a pause, assess the situation and head back in. Sometimes failure or pain is just an indicator from the universe that you need to adjust the sail. Upon starting a new project or setting a new goal, be mindful that failure is part of the process, keep your cards close to your chest to minimize anxiety. Finally, always seek to accept the present moment as it is, because the present is the only moment that exists. Applying these three stoic principles will enable you to thrive in life and endure pain and rejection much better.