“To stand up straight – not straightened.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
This simple yet profound command jumped right at me the first time I read it. And I am sure I am not the only one. While reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, I pictured him sitting in a tent at the battlefront in Germania reflecting on his actions and behavior. That a person with so much power must still tell himself how to compose himself properly is truly fascinating. It shows that these struggles are universal.
Believe in yourself
For me, it is the second part of the maxim that opened my eyes – “not straightened”. Not held up by others, but that one must carry herself through life. Whenever I read or think of this phrase, my instant reaction is to straighten my back and lift my head up high. A physical response, which helps trigger and strengthen the mental follow-up.
In my quest to create a life of freedom, everything depends on trusting myself and knowing what I can control. Relying on my own capabilities to get me through difficult situations and to stay on my path. Of course, there may be help along the way here or there, but if that was not available, I would still be ok.
This is the way
To stand up straight and walk through life with your head held high transmits a sense of pride and confidence. Sometimes, even when you do not feel it, telling yourself that this is the way, is the first step to increasing your self-esteem.
Recently I went through a moment where I felt unsure about everything, about the meaning of my life and of what I was doing. Deep down my instincts were telling me that I was still going in the right direction, but that did not resonate all over. It was then that I remembered this message. As I paced around in my apartment, I repeated it to myself time after time. First feeling my body responding and it made me a bit taller and my steps more powerful. Then slowly my mind became clearer. ‘Patience’, was what I told myself because I was doing the right thing, I just needed the strength to be patient and believe in myself.
What does it mean to you?
Now I would like you to read the quote again, either aloud or within. What does it mean to you? Do you believe in yourself? What is the reaction it provokes for you? Have you gone through moments where you could have used this to your benefit? Hopefully, this will make you take your responsibility and go attack your goals.
As you do this, picture the most powerful man of the Roman Empire in a dark, cold, and muddy forest, far removed from his home, writing this down to remind himself of how he must act: “To stand up straight – not straightened.”
After reading this reflection on Believing in Yourself, based on a quote from Marcus Aurelius, you might also want to read more about Stoicism and other ancient Stoics, like Epictetus, Seneca, or a more recent one like Michel de Montaigne.