“The wise man is content with himself.”Seneca, letters from a Stoic, Letter IX
Let me not pretend to be a wise man, but at the moment I am quite content with myself. This was not always the case as we will explore. I will also try to show you how I turned this around.
The opinions of others weighed strong and forced me to be someone I was not. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being with people, but it was often the extent and nature of the activities that made me feel like someone else.
The dark side were the mornings
Before I stopped drinking, it was my belief that to have a good time, alcohol had to be involved. Which led to many crazy adventures and I have zero regrets about any of them. I know that I needed them in order to get to where I am now. They also helped me shape some strong friendships.
The dark side of these good times were the mornings. The waking up; feeling physically and mentally ill and drained. Not wanting to see anyone. I was definitely far from being content with myself then. Many questions stormed through my mind, whenever my recovering body allowed it: “Why did I drink so much?” “Why did I go out again?” “What happened?”
This is one example of the internal struggles that used to cause me a lot of anxiety. There was this uneasy restlessness within me that I couldn’t understand or shake off. It was only when I started reading philosophical texts that it dawned on me that I had to evaluate what was important to me. I didn’t even think about drinking alcohol whenever I was alone, so how big a part of me was it really?
Going back to the letter this quote was in, Seneca goes on to say:
“…we say the wise man is self-content; he is so in the sense that he is able to do without friends, not that he desires to do without them.”Seneca, letters from a stoic, letter ix
I consider myself to be quite fortunate to have all the people around me that I do. Even now I have the feeling that I should spend more time with them. But over the years I’ve learned that it is alright to be by myself.
Those solitary moments give me time to think, reflect and ask myself questions. The difficult questions are the most interesting ones. For me to be the best person that I can be, I need to understand myself and be content with myself. Sometimes we need to use the examples we get from the people around us. Some strong and influential people close to me showed me that I didn’t need alcohol to have a good time. I now realize that, including at parties, I enjoy myself a lot more without drowning myself.
Be a pure version of yourself
We get a lot of information thrown at us all the time and lack the time to process it all. In these fast-paced times, I sometimes have the feeling that we have lost control of all the forms of media we have at our disposal. All the happy cheerful moments I see flashing by made me feel that I was not doing enough with my life. When I am overloaded by the input around me, I desperately need some time alone. I then examine my life and look at what I am doing. I almost always come to the conclusion that I am doing exactly what I should be doing.
One of the main points of Stoicism is to live according to your nature. Before we can do this, we need to know what our nature is. This brings me back to the quote; “The wise man is content with himself.” When you are alone, there is no need to put up a show. You can be the pure version of yourself. Since I started getting a better idea of what my nature is, I have been able to be more at peace with myself.
Learning how to be content with myself was a turning point
Searching for yourself is a continuous process. For me, this is one of the most interesting explorations we can take on. More and more I am getting a better picture of myself. The next step is to be firm and act the same when I am around other people or when deciding to join in with their plans. I need to take the responsibility for my life. Learning to be content with myself has been a turning point in how I see myself.
Try to reflect on the moments you felt most at ease with yourself. And if you can’t think of any, then try new things and see how you feel. I have found that experimenting with all aspects of life is how you can learn what works. Things like relationships, nutrition, activities, work, etc. We don’t need to know it all now, the fun is in the discovery. Here is another interesting view on finding out who you are.
Let me know in the comments where you are in this process and what you are doing about getting to know yourself.