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10 Ancient Books That Can Inspire You Even Today

10 Ancient Books That Can Inspire You Even Today

In this day and age, many people feel lost. They don’t know in what direction their life should be headed, how to overcome the different challenges that life throws at them, or just how to be relaxed and happy. Oftentimes they try to find outside sources to help them in this. The self-help industry is worth billions of dollars and keeps on growing.

Many people spend huge sums of money to try to get answers to their questions. They often don’t know which advice to choose and how to proceed with changing things that need changing.

If you really want to get to the core of self-improvement, happiness and success, it is time to get back to the basics. A wise man once said, that whatever question people have today, a wise man from thousands of years ago had already provided the answer.

The people of yesteryear lived hard, and challenging lives, but that did not stop them from working on improving themselves, achieving their goals and enjoying the little things.

Whatever question you might have, whatever challenge you are trying to overcome, the answer can most likely be found in the one of the books below. Best of all, all of them can be found totally free on the internet.

1. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius was the Emperor of the Roman Empire at a time when the pressure from the barbarians in the North was growing stronger. He spent much of his reign on campaign. Yet he was also a philosopher driven on improving himself and living life as a good person.

As a way to drive his own self-improvement, he started writing a journal for himself. This is what later became the “Meditations”.

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This books contains different quotations of things he was thinking about, different reflections, worries, challenges, snippets of wisdom. He had to face and overcome many challenges in his life and this book contains a summary of what he learned on the way. It can serve as a good source of inspiration for you in the modern world, since many of the challenges were of internal nature. You are most likely facing the same challenges today. If you want answers to common everyday problems, this book provides them.

quote:
Never regard something as doing you good if it makes you betray a trust or lose your sense of shame or makes you show hatred, suspicion, ill-will or hypocrisy or a desire for things best done behind closed doors.”

2. Enchiridion of Epictetus (compiled by Arrian, a disciple of Epictetus)

Epictetus is considered one of the greatest Stoic philosophers of the ancient world. He was a Greek who lived during the time of the Roman Empire and his teachings inspired countless people to live a life of balance.

His sayings were compiled by Arrian, one of his disciplies, in order to serve as sources of wisdom for all the generations to come. One of the basic tenets of Stoic philosophy is to focus on things that you can change and not worry about the rest and this little book teaches how to do that. The advice it gives can serve as useful guide for people struggling in a world of instant gratification and temptation.

quote:
When you imagine some pleasure, beware that it does not carry you away, like other imaginations. Wait a while, and give yourself pause. Next remember two things: how long you will enjoy the pleasure, and also how long you will afterwards repent and revile yourself. And set on the other side the joy and self-satisfaction you will feel if you refrain. And if the moment seems come to realize it, take heed that you be not overcome by the winning sweetness and attraction of it; set in the other scale the thought how much better is the consciousness of having vanquished it.

3. Nichomachean Ethics by Aristotle

Aristotle is considered one of the greatest philosophers of the ancient world and one of his greatest most enduring works is the Nichomachean Ethics. It is a hard read, but those who finish it are rewarded with a different perspective on things, most notably on what is happiness.

How will you achieve happiness according to Aristotle? By being a good person, for only a virtuous person can truly be happy.

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quote:
The pleasures arising from thinking and learning will make us think and learn all the more.”

4. Art of War by Sun Tzu

One of the most well-known works from Ancient China is the Art of War, compiled by Sun Tzu. It was originally meant as a guide for generals, teaching them how to win battles and wars, but in the modern world, it has been used in different contexts, for example in the business world. It contains much practical wisdom on what types of tactics to use in order to overcome challenges and can serve as an inspiration for strategy in any walk of life.

quote:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

5. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu was the founder of Taoism and the Tao Te Ching is the main source of his teachings. The book contains different types of advice for different life situations and for different types of people. It has to be read several times in order to get the full impact of the sayings and to discover how to apply them to your life.

quote:
When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.

6. Parallel Lives by Plutarch

One of the best ways to become a better, more accomplished person is by learning about other great people and how they got to the top. You should adopt their virtues and discard their vices and you too can become great.

This was the main aim of the Parallel Lives by Plutarch. By writing the biographies of great Greeks and Romans and especially focusing on their traits of character, he tried to create a teaching aid for people struggling to find their own path to greatness. By studying what other great people did to become great, you can make your own path to superstardom much easier. Their lives can serve as a source of inspiration.

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If you want to know what it takes to become great, this book is the one you should turn to.

quote:
It is not reasonable that he who does not shoot should hit the mark, nor that he who does not stand fast at his post should win the day, or that the helpless man should succeed or the coward prosper.

7. The Art of Love by Ovid

Since time immemorial guys struggled with one thing: how to get the girl. Two thousand years ago, one man came with the answer. Ovid, a Roman poet, wrote a very detailed manual on how to pick up girls, what to say and what to do. It became such a best-seller, that it angered the more traditional authorities, which had Ovid banned from the city of Rome and sent into exile.

The book is divided into 3 parts, with the first two books giving very practical advice to guys on how to find, seduce and keep a woman, while book 3 reverses the tables and gives advice to women on how to find a guy. The Art of Love proved such a success, that Ovid even wrote a sequel, which dealt with how to fall out of love and mend a broken heart.

quote:
If you want to be loved, be lovable.

8. On the Orator by Cicero

Cicero is considered one of the greatest statesmen and orators of the Roman Republic. Giving speeches was his life and he became very good at it. Speaking in public and generally having conversations is a thing that is still a need for many in today’s world. Cicero wrote one of the greatest manuals on this ever. His advice on how to deliver a speech, move your audience and convince them of your truth is still as pertinent today as it was over two thousand years ago.

If you don’t know how to efficiently engage in conversation or if you need to give speeches, pick up his book as soon as possible.

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quote:
Brevity is the best recommendation of speech, whether in a senator or an orator.

9. Anabasis by Xenophon

During the height of the Persian Empire, one pretender for the Persian throne hired a group of ten thousand Greek mercenaries and marched them to the territory of modern Iraq to confront his brother, the ruler, and try to overthrow him from the throne. However, he died in the ensuing battle, meaning that the Greek troops were now stuck thousands of miles from home, in enemy territory, with no supplies and no friends.

This was the beginning of one of the greatest adventures and stories of courage ever told. Xenophon was one of the participants in the expedition and one of the commanders of the retreat. The troops marched thousands of miles, battling enemies left and right, to finally make it home. The truth is sometimes stranger and more powerful than fiction and this story qualifies. Pick up the book, if you want to read a riveting story full of adventure and one that can inspire you to overcome obstacles that you think are insurmountable.

10. Analects of Confucius (compiled by his disciples)

Confucius is the person who arguably had the greatest effect on the evolution of Chinese society out of anyone. Much of his wisdom is compiled in a book called the Analects. There you have a collection of sayings of this great teacher and philosopher. This book is considered one of the central tenets of Confucianism and can serve as a great source of practical wisdom for many situations.

quote:
The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.

Featured photo credit: Man Jumping In Old Temple Ruins/Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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