Marcus Aurelius and “The Good Life“

white notebook and pen

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by.” – Marcus Aurelius

Accepting and cherishing your own individuality is the most important thing in leading a good life. The greatest step in doing this is focusing your time and energy on people who accept you for what you are. The next part is to learn to live with both the good and the bad things about yourself. The opinion of others shouldn’t matter all that much; as the saying goes, those who mind don’t matter.

While it’s wonderful if many people have a good opinion of you, you must not let others be the most important factor in living your own life. Who should be most important are your friends and family. It’s imperative to have good, true friends, not fair-weather and fickle acquaintances that masquerade under the title of ‘friend’. Choosing your friends carefully is how you will find the most happiness.

Marcus Aurelius in his Meditations wrote, “I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.”

This is an excellent observation. American society, in particular, is quite concerned with how you look to others. Despite being taught as children that being unique is important, very little actual emphasis is put on understanding what your individuality means. When someone breaks the norms, many people seem to think that person is being anti-social and rebellious; this is after being told that it’s good to be different. The double standards of how we treat people only as individuals whenever it’s convenient is not only frustrating, it’s immoral. 

Society should never tell you who you are, as long as you aren’t hurting anyone, anything, or yourself. You must learn who you are by your own measure. Yes, your friends and family can help guide you towards better self-understanding. After all, they are who you have the best memories with, but also the worst, as well. True friendships are those that can survive the worst times and flourish in spite of them. 

But, when the sun sets, we have to live with ourselves, and we have to find contentment within our own self, not simply through the compliments and criticisms of others. Even the most constructive criticism still can’t take into account the most important factor of all: your own perspective.

The world is full of adversity. So, on paper, it’s impossible to live an absolutely “good” life. The closest you can ever get is living it with a few best friends and family members who understand you and appreciate you who for you are. Don’t bother with those who are worried about what you’re not. The opinions of your friends, as well as your own of yourself, are the only ones you should really heed. But even then, you should come to better know yourself and measure those outside opinions against your own understanding of your self. 

Above all, the only way to live your life is to frame things as positive as you can about everything you encounter. Life’s too short to remain negative for too long. Considering how the world has treated me, I’ve spent a great deal of my own life being negative. It took me well into my thirties to realize that, for me, living the good life is in finding what you like to do most and trying to make a living out of it. That for me is finding solace in the written word and collecting cardboard artifacts of things I enjoy. What anyone else thinks about it simply doesn’t matter. If my wife is fine with what I’m doing, no one else’s opinion matters.

There are so many ways to be successful. You just have to be creative, find your own way, and work really hard at pursuing that path. A good life is worth the hard work. As long as you’re true to yourself, whether your friends or family are with you or not, you’ll always pull through. Never look back too long and never surrender.

~ Amelia Desertsong

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top