What can Marcus Aurelius teach you about being unpopular?

In a world dominated by celebrity culture, reality television, and how many likes a person gets on their twitter account, it’s easy to loose a sense of self worth when the approval of others seems more important. 

Given all our modern technology, it seems strange to think a philosopher who lived nearly two thousand years ago might have something to say about fame and popularity in the modern age, but Marcus Aurelius, the Emperor of Rome, and stoic philosopher, was well aware of the cost that popularity (or the lack of it) can have on a persons’ wellbeing. Like many politicians before and after him, Marcus Aurelius had to contend with people who hated him, both at home and abroad.

Unsurprising then, Aurelius has a fair bit to say about fame. Aurelius notes that although fame of an individual lasts after the person’s death, sooner or later they are forgotten.

Being popular, Aurelius tells us, is a false happiness that will leave you feeling hollow.

For Aurelius, fame was not worth bothering about as people change their minds, and forget about you. There was nothing permanent in it. Think of all the important celebrities from last century that are quickly being forgotten, such as Carey Grant, Gregory Peck, Doris Day or Katherine Hepburn.

Instead, the only real  thing that matters is getting to know who you really are and doing the right thing – not worrying about how popular you may be.

– Thomas Green

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