Montaigne: Don’t Care About What You Are to Others

montaigne care about your own happiness

We live in a world where external validation dictates our self-worth. Isn’t that a shame? That’s something the French Renaissance philosopher, Michel de Montaigne, talked about hundreds of years ago.

This isn’t a new problem. After all, social media magnifies our inferior feelings when we see so many rich and perfect people every day.

No matter where you go for your content, whether that’s Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, or Netflix, you’re exposed to the lavish lifestyles of people. Think about it. Why would those platforms feature normal people with normal lives?

No one cares. We care about the out-of-the-ordinary things. That’s always been true.

As a result, we’re too focused and engrossed with the lives of others.

Montaigne emphasized the importance of cultivating a strong sense of self. Montaigne wrote: 

”I do not care so much what I am to others as I care what I am to myself.”

This idea encourages us to embrace our authentic selves and focus on our own well-being, rather than seeking validation from external sources.

Embrace personal experience as a path to self-actualization

When we prioritize our own values, beliefs, and goals over the opinions of others, we become more confident, resilient, and content with our lives.

But what’s our first inclination when we run into challenges? We look outside for answers. We came into this world as helpless babies and had to rely on our parents for our survival. As we grow older, we should become more independent. But for many of us, that’s not true. 

We have a strong urge to belong to some group. We just don’t want to be alone. Montaigne, a big believer that success and happiness lie within you, said:

”The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.”

In our quest for self-improvement and personal growth, it’s easy to get the answers from others. Montaigne reminds us that we should not underestimate our own ability to learn.

Montaigne was a big proponent of using personal experience as a source of knowledge and wisdom.

He believed that direct experience should guide our understanding of the world and inform our judgments, rather than relying solely on the beliefs and ideas of others. He argued that real-life experiences provide valuable insights and lessons that can’t be gained through theoretical contemplation alone.

To illustrate this idea, Montaigne wrote in his essay “Of Experience“: 

“There is no desire more natural than the desire for knowledge. We try all the ways that can lead us to it. When reason fails us, we use experience.” 

For example, look at the process of learning a new skill like playing a musical instrument or cooking a new dish. 

Reading books and watching tutorials can provide useful information and tips. But it’s only when we actually pick up the instrument or start cooking that we begin to understand things better.

Through hands-on experience, we learn from our mistakes, adapt our techniques, and become more proficient and knowledgeable.

Tips to cultivate a stronger sense of self

By combining theoretical knowledge with hands-on experience, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. 

So, how can we apply Montaigne’s wisdom to our everyday lives? We must strengthen our ability to think for ourselves. We must cultivate our sense of self.

When you’ve learned to trust yourself, you no longer underestimate your abilities. You also begin to solve and answer life challenges by looking within yourself.

Here are some actionable steps to help you focus on your inner self:

  1. Practice self-reflection: Set aside time each day or week for introspection. Journal about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and evaluate your personal growth and progress toward your goals.
  2. Improve your self-awareness: Pay attention to your emotions, reactions, and thought patterns. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and work on improving areas where you feel less confident.
  3. Define your values: Identify the principles and ideals that matter most to you, and use them as a compass to guide your decisions and actions.
  4. Set boundaries: Learn to say no when necessary. That’s how you protect your time, energy, and well-being.
  5. Celebrate your accomplishments: Acknowledge your achievements, both big and small. Take pride in the hard work and dedication that led to your progress.
  6. Find the balance between theory and practice: While it’s important to learn from books, articles, and other sources of information, don’t forget to apply what you’ve learned in real-life situations.
  7. Reflect on your experiences: Regularly take the time to reflect on your experiences and the lessons they’ve taught you. This practice will help you internalize your newfound wisdom and apply it to future situations.

When you do these things regularly, you develop your character. If you keep doing that, you will no longer care about what other people think or do. 

You will care about what YOU do. You will keep yourself accountable.

Look, it’s okay to care about what your friends and family think and to be considerate towards your neighbor. Just don’t let their opinions dictate your self-worth or happiness. 

By focusing on your own personal growth and well-being, you’ll build a strong foundation for yourself.

In an age where external validation often seems paramount, Montaigne’s wisdom reminds us that true happiness and contentment come from within. 

Let us strive to be true to ourselves, embrace our unique qualities, and find solace in our own company. After all, that’s the best way for us to thrive.

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