Don’t Sell Yourself Cheaply

In his Discourses, Epictetus asks a probing question: “Your respect, trustworthiness and steadiness, peace of mind, freedom from pain and fear, in a word your freedom. For what would you sell these things?”

The answer, too often, is “for pennies on the dollar.” We trade our word for a small edge in business. We give up peace of mind for a bigger house or a nicer car. We give up our self-respect for fancy friends or fame. We trade our freedom for a job that makes us miserable, or a relationship full of incessant fighting.

Stoicism helps us keep a better ledger of what things are truly worth. It places the highest value on honesty, on self-respect, on tranquility and freedom and security. It reminds us that everything else is cheap and that only a sucker trades the former—that no bargain is worth giving them up.