The Cost of Accepting Counterfeits

In today's Daily Stoic journal practice I got to reflect on the question

What bad assumptions, habits, or advice have I accepted?

…and this corresponding quotation from the philosopher Epictetus (Discourses, 1.20.8; 11):

When it comes to money, where we feel our clear interest, we have an entire art where the tester uses many means to discover the worth …  just as we give great attention to judging things that might steer us badly. But when it comes to our own ruling principle, we yawn and doze off, accepting any appearance that flashes by without counting the cost.

Let me tell you about the counterfeit I've accepted in the past that has cost me the most.

Everybody likes you!

If people tell you this or similar, your alarm bells should be ringing!

You might be

  • struggling with some form of codependency
  • bad at setting personal boundaries
  • bad at building transformational relationships — that is, your relationships mostly stay transactional (you give to get)
  • boring (because of your apparent lack of flaws and character)
  • dishonest with yourself and others
  • having problems being intimate
  • overly approval-seeking
  • suffering from anxiety
  • overly perfectionist
  • passive aggressive
  • manipulative
  • controlling
  • secretive.

If this rings a bell, you need to change a few things, and get support from people that you can trust. This could be as simple as talking with them about your issues, deciding what exact changes you are going to make, and then have them hold you accountable for it.

However, I wouldn't necessarily ask people that I'm too close with, like for instance my parents or my romantic partner, for that type of support. They're often too biased, and you might risk making things worse by creating even more emotional exhaustion that thereof already exists in your relationship. In that case it's important to have actions speak first. Then, when you've made your first steps towards improvement, it can be helpful to tell them. They'll likely appreciate the positive change and you taking responsibility.

As there's virtually an endless amount of self-help resources available in terms of books, videos, online courses, and more, it's easy to get overwhelmed and lose track. That's why I think that the most effective way is to consult a qualified professional. Even if you can only afford very little: I can tell you from my experience that just half an hour of consultation can get you resources and pointers that are appropriate for your individual situation, and help you get started on the right track.

In terms of professional online counseling, I can recommend BetterHelp for finding a therapist that matches your needs.