267 – Conquering Victimhood with a Stoic Mindset

Are you a victim? Do you put yourself in the role of a victim rather than owning up to and taking responsibility for yourself? Today I want to talk about why we fall into the role of victim and how we can step up and be responsible for ourselves.

“An ignorant person is inclined to blame others for his own misfortune. To blame oneself is proof of progress. But the wise man never has to blame another or himself.”

— Epictetus

Life Happens

There are a lot of things that happen to us in life. As the stoics have told us time and again, there are very few things that we control. In short, we control our thoughts, our choices, and our actions, and that’s about it. So if we control so little, doesn’t that make us the victim of the circumstances that we have no control over? When things go wrong, can’t we just blame it on the universe? Other people? The government?

Sure. We can always do that. We can put the blame for our unhappiness on someone else. It is always a choice that we can make. But, if we want to actually be happy, grow, and make progress in our lives, blaming others is a waste of time. The sooner we move out of the role of victim, the more likely we are to create happiness, and actually accomplish the things that we want to in our lives.

So why do we allow ourselves to become the victim in so many ways? Why would we let go of the power we have and put ourselves in a place of weakness?


“People think that if they complain about life, life or the world might change. But of course this does not happen. You cannot change Nature and its laws. It is what it is. No amount of complaining, resentment or mourning will help. Accept, let go and move on.”

— @TheAncientSage (twitter)

One of the main reasons that we fall into the role of victim is that it gives us an alibi for failing at something. Often we try to make ourselves feel better by making the reason for our failure something or someone else. If the reason for failing is external to us, then we feel like less of a failure because it was due to something else that we do not have control over.

Coming up with excuses also removes the pressure from having to make changes and actually do something about the situation we find ourselves in. If we can place the blame outside ourselves and find some other reason other than ourselves for why we failed, then we don’t have to change. Change is hard and we will look for all kinds of reason to not have to put in the work to improve.

I know that in the past that I would fall into this way of behaving. Much of that had to do with growing up in the church and the turbulent home life I had growing up. In both cases, if I had a good excuse for why I had done something then often things went more smoothly and I didn’t get in as much trouble as if I had just owned up and taken responsibility for my actions. If I could come up a good enough excuse, there was good chance I could escape punishment for my actions.

This bad habit took a long time to become aware of and even longer to remove from my way of operating. But just like everyone, I sometimes fall into coming up with excuses for my not so great behavior. It takes a lot of effort to change this kind of behavior, especially when it worked so well in the past.


Another reason why we will play the role of a victim is that it brings us attention. Most of us want to be noticed by others, and playing the victim, we have something that sets us apart without having to put much work into it. Rather than putting effort into something and receiving attention for our actions, our self victimization allows us to feel important with little work.

There are people who continuously cast themselves in the role of the victim for whatever life brings their way. Every new setback is something to complain about and to tell others about how unfair their life is and garners even more attention.


Secondarily to garnering attention, playing the victim can garner sympathy from others. When we are the victim and are in a position of weakness, it plays on the sympathies of others. On the whole, people like to help others who are in need, and this exploits the natural tendency that most people have to helps others. Garnering sympathy makes us a feel like we are loved and that people care for us, but again, it can easily be used to manipulate others into getting us what we want.

The sympathy we get from others in our victimhood also becomes a way of validating our feelings and our sense of righteousness. The more validation we get, the more we feel like we don’t have to make any changes to our behavior. Because we feel like we are “right” in our feelings of being a victim, we continue on on this role without ever really questioning ourselves.

Growing up I remember a relative who always had something wrong with them. Their spouse and other family members were always doing everything for them because their wide ranging ailments were used as excuses to not have to do anything around the house. Every time we would visit my dad would joke that we shouldn’t ask how they are doing because they might tells us and we’d be there all night listening to the never-ending list of ailments and calamities in their life.

Group Acceptance

Sometimes we will use our victimhood as a way to fit into a group. When we find fellow victims, we can bond over the ways that we were wronged. Victimhood becomes a sort of social currency. Because we get that validation from others, we can stay stuck in that role, convinced of the “rightness” of our position. This aspect of playing the role of a victim can be the most dangerous because it allows us to stay where we are without anyone else questioning our belief. The reinforcement and validation of others makes it easy to never question it ourselves either.


Often we will use victimhood to try and control other people. In the role of a victim, we hold onto the idea that we have been wronged. We feel like we are in the “right” and try to use it as leverage against someone else. We may try to control them by trying to make them feel guilty and shame them into do what we want them to do.


“To complain is always nonacceptance of what is.”

— Eckhart Tolle

Ultimately, we play the role of the victim because it’s a way to try and control the situation around us. It also allows us to feel morally superior without having to take responsibility or make changes to our behavior. So what can we do to be more aware of when we are acting like a victim, and take more responsibility for ourselves?

One of the key components of stoicism is that we have to understand what we do and what we do not control. When we try to control things that we don’t have control over, such as the opinions of others, or other people in general, then we’re wasting our time and energy, and it turns us into victims. When we are not controlling the things that we can control, then again, we allow ourselves to become victims because we could actually be doing something about the situation, but we’re choose not to.

Sometimes it’s hard to see that we’re playing the role of victim. We feel righteous about our position and we hold onto the conviction that the other person needs to change for us. But the thing is, as much as we might want the other person to change, we have no control over them. We can sit around all day wanting them to change for us, but if they don’t want to, there is very little that we can do. By making our happiness dependent on the will of others we actually give them control over us.


“It is our own opinions that disturb us. Take away these opinions then, and resolve to dismiss your judgment about an act as if it were something grievous, and your anger is gone.”

— Marcus Aurelius

One clear way to recognize when we might be trying to control other people is if we are angry with them. Often, we are angry with someone because they won’t do something we want, and we try to use anger to control them and get them to change or do something. I know that I often did this with my ex-partner. When she was annoyed or disappointed with me, I would try and argue with her about why she shouldn’t be.

Now, much of this was driven from a fear that if she was upset with me that she didn’t love me, which is a trauma response that I have from my childhood, but it’s no excuse for my behavior. Nonetheless, it was my way of trying to control her by trying to change how she felt about me.

Rather than stepping up and owning my feelings about the situation and giving her space to have her have her feelings about it, I would cast myself in the role of the victim and make it her fault that I felt uncomfortable and angry. Doing so pushed her farther away from me because no one likes having someone trying to control their feelings.

Point of View

“If we know only our own side of the argument, we hardly know even that; it becomes stale, soon learned only by rote, untested, a pallid and lifeless truth.”

― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

One tool that we can use to help pull ourselves out of being a victim is to put ourselves in the other person’s point of view. This isn’t easy to do, especially when we’re convinced that we are in the right. But, if we only pay attention to and know our side, then we do not have even close to a complete picture of the situation. Our own point of view may be severely limited because we have let our emotions take over, or we may just have a limited amount of information.

Own It

“Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.”

— Antisthenes

Another thing to consider when you’re acting like a victim, is to understand what exactly it is that you are upset about. Are you upset that someone pointed out a flaw of yours? Did they say something mean or gossip about you? More to the point, is what they said actually true? We don’t like being called out on our bad behavior. But if you find yourself upset at someone for pointing out something you actually said or did, then you are arguing with reality. In this case, we need to step up and own our behavior.


“Emotions are easily hijacked by illusory threats that tap into our insecurities. We can’t be strategically dynamic if we are always on the defensive. We are more effective when we realize how many things don’t require any response at all.”

— @TheStoicEmperor (twitter)

“At any given moment, you can choose to follow the chain of thoughts, emotions, and sensations that reinforce a perception of yourself as vulnerable and limited, or to remember that your true nature is pure, unconditioned, and incapable of being harmed.”

—Mingyur Rinpoche

The most important step to getting out of victimhood is taking responsibility. Now when I talk about taking responsibility it includes a few areas.

First, we need to be responsible for our emotions and reactions in any situation. This can be incredibly challenging because it often feels like our emotions come from what someone else did or said, or what life sent our way. Our emotions are actually formed by the meaning that we give to an event, so trying to blame how we feel on someone else is a mistake.

Also, when we put the blame of how we feel on someone or something else, we are letting something outside of ourselves have power over us. We are allowing circumstances or what others do control our moods and emotions.

Most importantly though, the area of responsibility that falls to us when we no longer want to play victim, is that we recognize that we need to be ones the take action in our lives. While you may not be to blame for whatever happens in your life, you are the one who is responsible for doing something about it. Waiting around for someone else to fix things leaves you powerless.

Even if someone else did something that put in you at a disadvantage or harmed you, they may not want to change in the way that you expect them to. Since we don’t control other people, you need to step up and do what you can do, rather than waiting around for others or the world to change for you.


Playing the role of victim is something that is easy to do. Doing so is a way to escape having to do the hard work of taking responsibility for your life, and putting in the work to improve your life. Taking that kind of responsibility means that in any situation you are able to find opportunities for growth and improving your situation. It takes awareness of yourself and the situation. It takes a willingness to control what you can, and let the rest go.

When you place blame on someone or something outside of yourself, you forfeit the power you have to do something about it. So the next time you find yourself a victim, rather than waiting for someone else to do something, ask yourself, “What can I do in this situation?”, then step up and start doing it.

Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

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Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow.

Thanks again for listening.


246 – What do You Deserve?

Last weeks podcast got a quite a few responses and questions. Some of them turned into some back and forth discussions about some of the ideas, so I want to dig into them a little deeper.

The first question was from a listener who asked:

“What if instead of looking at human existence as, "you don't deserve anything", we instead look at it as “you deserve exactly what you receive?”

Now, I understand that "you don't deserve anything" seems kind of harsh, but it is what I meant. When you say that you deserve something, it means that you feel entitled to it, that it is something owed to you, and I truly believe that nothing is owed to you in this life. If life were fair, we would all be born with the same advantages, but we all know we are not.

Think about it from a very basic level. The universe or god doesn’t owe anyone anything, even from they day we’re born. If this were the case, then things like infants dying in childbirth wouldn’t happen. The reason that fewer children die in childbirth now than say 100 years ago, is because we have worked as a society to improve healthcare, as well as the whole process of giving birth.

This did not happen because we wished the universe would let more children survive childbirth. It happened because people over generations took actions to improve healthcare. We decided as a society that it would be better for all of us if more children survived.

Some may think this attitude is cynical, but I think it’s far from it. I think the fact that we have created societies and worked to improve the health of everyone is an amazing achievement of humanity.

In the Bhagavad Gita it says:

"You have the right to work, but for the work's sake only. You have no right to the fruits of work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working."

(Note, this does not refer to legal obligations. Work here means the work of living, of doing good in the world.)

Nothing is ever owed or guaranteed to you in this life. Live your life in a way that you find honorable not because of some great reward, but rather because you want live honorably and in a way that you're proud of.

So to circle back around let's take what the listener said, "you deserve exactly what you receive". This would mean that if someone got cancer, they somehow deserved it. If someone got screwed over in a business deal, they somehow deserved it. To me, this attaches a moralistic judgment around the person. "They must have done something to deserve it!"

We do this because want to believe that life is fair, and it is not. Life happens, and we want to make sense of it. We see an effect and try to assign a cause, a motivation, a reason for it.

We especially do this to ourselves. When we fail at something like a relationship, we often blame ourselves thinking we deserve what we are getting. We may be in a relationship that is not healthy for us, but we may think it's what deserve so we hold on even though we're miserable, because it's what we think we deserve.

Epictetus warned of this when he said,

"An ignorant person is inclined to blame others for his own misfortune. To blame oneself is proof of progress. But the wise man never has to blame another or himself."

What this means is that when we blame others or ourselves, it is because we had expectations that were not met. If we can understand that, then we can deal with "what is", rather than getting upset about what "should be".

This listener then responded saying that they were leaning towards the idea that the universe gives us was we need to learn. I know that many people feel this way, but that begs the question: who or what determines what we need? Is there some god/universe/intelligence giving us these things for us to learn?

I'm of the mind that life just happens. I think there are plenty of opportunities for us to learn if we decide to take them. Plenty of people do not take them. This is why the stoics were so insistent on understanding the things you have control over – your thoughts, your choices, and your actions. In short, your will.

The only way that you can learn something from an experience is because you choose to do so. Because you give some kind of meaning to an experience that helps you learn from it. This means you have to make an effort and choose to learn and grow. It doesn't just happen.

Two people can go through a car wreck and have two totally different outlooks on what happened. One can come out and think it was the worst thing that ever happened because it almost killed them. The other can see it as a life affirming event that reminded them of the shortness of life so they are grateful for every moment they have left.

Ryan Holiday says:

"The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition."

For me, this means there’s is always the opportunity to learn from any experience, but we have to step up take it. You have to develop a mindset to learn from any challenge that comes your way. That way it doesn't matter what experiences happen to you, you will learn from it. You will take those opportunities where others won't.

Alright, let’s move on to another question. This listener writes:

“Hey Erick, I think the problem is most of us think that when we do good to others, then we will get the same but it doesn't happen and many of us end up being sad. Right now I am in the same situation where I feel I deserve something but as I am not getting it and constantly fail to achieve it. I feel sad. I want to know how can I avoid this mental obstacle and how can I cultivate a habit in long term where this type of mental blocks don't slow my growth or doesn't affect my well being. Also, do you believe in karma. I want to know what are your thoughts and stoic views on it.”

One of the fundamental stoic principles is to recognize what you can and cannot control. To be honest, I think that it is probably the most important principle, and I think that most other principles are built off of this one simple yet powerful idea.

As Wayne Dyer eloquently puts it:

“Your reputation is in the hands of others. That's what the reputation is. You can't control that. The only thing you can control is your character."

If you are only nice to others so that they’ll be nice to you, then your actions are really just a way to manipulate others. I mean, I know what it’s like to be around someone that is just being nice to you because they want something. That something might just be for us to like them or because they’re tying to get us to give them something, but nonetheless, it doesn’t feel good when others are trying to manipulate us.

The way that you inoculate yourself againts this kind of unhappiness, is to decide to live the way that you want to live regardless of what others do. Your choices and actions are the only things that you control, so you decide to follow particular principles in your life.

In this case, the principle is that you want to be a kind person, not because of other people, but because it’s the kind of person that you want to be. You cannot control if others will be nice to you. If you’re only nice to others when they’re nice to you, then you are allowing them to control you. You act with kindness regardless of how others act towards you. How they act should not dictate whether or not you live a certain principle.

So, for the second part, do I believe in karma? At it’s origin, karma is a belief in Hinduism and Buddhism that your actions in this life have consequences in the next life. Since I don’t believe in an afterlife or reincarnation, I don’t believe in this definition in karma.

I also don’t believe in karma in the more modern tit-for-tat way that many think about it. For example, many people think of karma as a force that if you do something bad, then something bad will happen to you. I don’t think it’s ever that cut and dry. That would mean there is some unseen external force that is judging what you do, and again, what’s the criteria? Who or what is making those decisions?

What I do believe is that your actions have consequences, though those are often unseen and hard to trace. I believe that what you put out in the world comes back to you. For example, being kind to others doesn’t mean they’ll like you, but if you are mean and angry with others, then there is a good chance they won’t want to be around you.

If you are kind to others, even when they are not kind to you, then you feel good about yourself. How they feel about you doesn’t matter. You are in control of your life because you have made a decision of how you want to live. This spills over into all other areas of your life. I find that when I am kind to others, then I generally am surrounded by others that are kind to me. If they are not, I do my best to still act how I want to, and usually just don’t spend time around them.

The idea of a fair world is a hard one to shake. We think that things should just balance out a certain way, and we are often frustrated when they don’t work out how we think they should. Really, what it comes down to is that we have expectations on things outside of our control, and when those aren’t met, we aren’t happy. When you recognize that you have the power to be the kind of person you want to be in any situation, then you have the opportunity to control the one thing that you can.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or twitter.

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow.

Thanks again for listening.


245 – Whining or Winning

Do you think that life is fair? Do you think it’s unfair? Are others “winning” when you are not? Today I want to talk about how fall into a pretty bad way of thinking that reduces our ability to take responsibility for ourselves, and blame our unhappiness on the world outside of us.

Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining.

— Teddy Roosevelt

There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.

— Epictetus

From time to time, I like to hop on the stoicism sub reddit and participate in discussions. I really appreciate is that most people are pretty thoughtful and respectful, and I often learn something new or see things in a new light.

But there’s a kind of post that I see on there from time to time which I find is pretty sad. It is usually some who is upset that they are not getting all the things in life they think they deserve. They complain that the job sucks or they’re struggling with school and the teachers are mean and out to get them. Or they’re afraid to talk to someone they’re find attractive and are upset that they can’t get a date. They talk about how how they tried to be stoic, but they still aren’t getting what they deserve. They complain that other people still treat them poorly even though they are trying to be stoic. There is often a lot of blaming of others for their misfortune and lashing out at the world in general.

So today’s episode is going to be a little bit of a rant, but I hope that you can bear with me.


Don't be overheard complaining…Not even to yourself.

— Marcus Aurelius

One of the hardest things for us to wrap our heads around in this world is this:

We are entitled to nothing in life. We deserve nothing in this world.

Now, I’m sure that might be upsetting to those of us who think that life should be fair. I’ll give you a hint:

Life is not fair and never will be.

How could it be? There is nothing in the universe that would be able to enforce some external rule of fairness. And if we tried to create a society of absolute fairness, who would be given the task of deciding what is fair?



As much as I’d like to think that I could be a good arbiter of fairness, I know that because of my own biases and personal failings, I could make a system that I think would be fair that plenty of others would disagree on. We could never get everyone to agree on what the definition of fairness is. As much as we might wish it, fairness is not something intrinsic in the universe. It is not a natural law like gravity. It is something that we have to create on our own as a society.

Interestingly enough, I think this is proven out because one of the core virtues of Stoicism is that of Justice. What that means to me is that we need to help bring justice to the world because it is not already a natural or intrinsic part of the world.

What’s ironic is that most people I see complain about the fact that world isn’t fair, are those that want the world to bend in a way that benefits them. If this were to happen, wouldn’t that make it so that world was again unfair because it benefits them and not someone else?


Don't demand that things happen as you wish, but wish that they happen as they do happen, and you will go on well.

— Epictetus

Another part of this post that I wanted to talk about is the idea that if you act virtuously then everything will work out for you exactly the way that you want it. That people around you will change who they are simply because you are trying to be a good person. That because you “act” like a good person, then everything will simply come to you because you deserve it. This is never going to be the case.

Let me spell it out clearly for you:

You don’t deserve anything.

Just because you want or think you deserve something doesn’t matter. You can think that all you want. Just because you are nice doesn’t mean that you should get to date someone you find attractive. Just because you act virtuous doesn’t mean that other people will be nice to you or not try to take advantage of you. Or that good things won’t happen to bad people (of course who are you to decide if they are bad people?).

The reason that you act virtuously is not so that others will change for you. It is so that you act in a way that you feel good about. That you are living a life that you are proud of. Life will happen to you regardless of your character. Having a good character does not mean that everything will go your way.

In fact, I would argue that you if you think that you deserve something because you think you have good character, you probably don’t. I think that someone with good character would recognize that they don’t deserve anything by just thinking that they are a good person. You cultivate virtue, and build your character because it’s something you want. You want to be a good person not so that you get something or you earn something. You cultivate virtue because that’s kind of person that you want to be.

Doing The Work

Happiness is not the absence of problems, it's the ability to deal with them.

— Steve Maraboli

Another common thread I notice is that most of their complaints are based on the outcomes they want. They complain about how they are are not getting the things they want. Rather than looking at what they are doing and finding where it doesn’t work and making changes to trying to figure out why things aren’t working, they are blaming others for why they are failing.

When you get something without having to work for it, you miss out on the lessons you need to learn in order to handle the success that you have. If you haven’t learned to be a charming, fun, or interesting person and you happen to land a date with someone you’re attracted to, why should they stick around? You haven’t given them any reason to do so. Have you put in the work to be a good partner? What do you bring to the table that would make them want to date you? What about their preferences and free will? Just as you wouldn’t want to date someone that you’re not interested in, why should they be forced to?

What they are asking for is all the reward without the work. If you get a college diploma, but you didn’t earn it and do the work, what happens when you get hired and after a few weeks your manager realizes that you don’t have the skills to do your job?

Doing the work is how you gain the skills to be good at what you do.

Doing the work is how you are able to maintain what you earn.

Let’s say that you want to be a firefighter. Maybe someday you’d like to be a leader of a fire fighting squad. And let’s say that on the your first day on the job, they just give you that position. Would you be very good at it? Would you know what to do to safely put out a fire and help those in danger and keep your team safe?

No you wouldn’t. In fact, if you were simply given that position without the experience or training, then you would be a bigger danger to yourself and those around you. It is only through putting in the work that you learn how to safely and effectively fight a fire and lead a team.

Closing Thoughts

Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.

— Dalai Lama XIV

You are responsible for the results of your life. If you want to be successful in life, study successful people. You’ll find those that are truly successful are those that take responsibility for their actions. They don’t blame others for why they are failing. Recognize the things that are blocking your path and figure out how to work around them. When you put the work in, you gain the skills to overcome any obstacle in your path. In my experience, when you stop complaining and take a good look in the mirror, you see that that the biggest blocker to your success is you.

Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or twitter.

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.


208 – Radical Candor

208- Radical Candor

It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.

– Marcus Aurelius

Are you afraid to tell others what you really think or how you really feel? In this episode I want to talk about the idea of radical candor, and how committing to being honest about what you think and feel is one of the most challenging but rewarding things you can do.

Radical Candor

Let year I watched the TV series Picard, and one of the more interesting things I like about it was that there was order among the Romulans who follow a code of absolute candor. I really liked this idea because they do their best to be as truthful as possible, and they hold themselves to a high standard of being responsible for everything they say.

But radical candor is more than just saying what you think. It’s about being honest about how you feel about things. You’re not only being honest with others, you’re also being honest with yourself. And if you’re being responsible for everything you put out into the world, it gives you the opportunity to examine what you really think and feel about a situation.

Say What You Mean

When you decide to adopt radical candor, you speak clearly and honestly. You say what you really mean, and you mean exactly what you say. You don’t obfuscate or toss out ambiguous statements. When you don’t know something, you simply say you know, and you don’t pretend like you have all the answers.


So why don’t we practice radical candor as a society? Because we’re afraid of what other people will think of us. We’re afraid they might get upset by what we have to say, or they may no longer love us or they’ll possibly disown us. I know that in the culture I grew up in, I was afraid to say what I really thought about a lot of things at church because I was afraid I’d get in trouble. Questioning church doctrine was something that was frowned upon in the mormon church. If something didn’t make sense or was contradicted by evidence, you were told that you just needed to have more faith and trust the leaders. Asking too many questions made people uncomfortable. It was more important to be loyal than to be honest.


Some might think that radical candor would not be a good way to live your life, because we all have to “lie” from time to time to smooth things over. That if we went around telling the truth, we would simply ruffle too many feathers. Let’s consider lying from a stoic perspective. Is it okay to lie? What is the purpose of lying to someone? The purpose of lying is to deceive someone. When you lie to others, you are trying to control them. You are trying to make them feel something, or spare them from feeling something. You are trying to control or influence their actions based upon getting them riled up or upset, or convince them that situation is something other than it is. I would say from a stoic perspective, we should not lie.


Sometimes, one of the most heartbreaking things for me to watch was American Idol. With thousands of contestants wanting to give it a shot, there were often people that would get up in front of the judges who clearly could not sing. Often it was Simon that would be the bearer of bad news and let them know that they didn’t have what it takes to continue on. But what was more heartbreaking than watching Simon put the kibosh on their dreams was the fact that no one close to these people ever took the time to be honest with them. If someone had stepped in earlier and said, “Hey, do you really want to be a singer? Then I would recommend finding a good singing coach.” That would have given them time and opportunity to develop the skills needed to compete.

Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.


In Practice

So what would radical candor look like in practice? Does this mean that you would just be sitting around singing Kumbaya and sharing your feelings? Sure it could mean that. But in a more practical sense, it means taking time to think about what you have to say. When interacting with others, are you saying what you really think or feel or are you just running your mouth to fill the space? Are you expressing yourself clearly or are you leaving things vague and open to interpretation? The main reason behind radical candor is honest and clear communication.

Radical candor is about respecting yourself. It is about recognizing that you have the right to your own thoughts and opinions. It means that you when someone asks for your opinion about something, you do your best to be honest every time, even if it makes you or the other person uncomfortable. It means that you stand by the things you say, and just as important, that you take ownership of the things you say. You don’t change your opinion just please someone else, or try to spin things so they don’t upset some other person.

Not a Weapon

An important thing to remember is that radical candor is not a weapon. It is not an excuse to be an ass because you’re “just being honest”. It is not forcing your opinion on someone else or to shut down discussion by digging in your heels because you “have the truth”. Radical candor is about open and honest communication. It is about giving our honest opinion about something. It is about trying to express the world as closely as you see it. It’s telling your truth with clarity and compassion.

When you share your opinion about something, just remember it is just your opinion. It does not mean you have to tell the other person they are wrong. You can hold a different opinion than someone else. They don’t have to agree with you, and it is always possible that your opinion is incorrect.


If you plan on adopting radical candor, then you need to be open to the being on the receiving end. In fact, you should welcome others to speak openly and honestly. Think of how your relationships would improve if you encouraged others to honest about what they really felt? There would be less having to guess what someone “really” means. There would be less miscommunication with other people because you are focused on trying to communicate clearly. It would engender a greater sense of trust because others would know that you really wanted to know what they think or feel.


Radical candor is also how you set boundaries with other people. It means that you’re honest about what you are willing to do or not do, and what is acceptable for how others should treat you.


Nothing says you have to tell everyone everything that you think or know. You can always choose not to share your opinion. If someone presses you to talk about something that you don’t want to, you can let them know that this is a topic that you are not interested in talking about. This is being honest about what you think.


Probably the hardest part about absolute candor is the fact that it takes confidence to say what you really think and feel and stick with it. If you’re not used to having your opinion heard or you’re insecure, then stepping up and voicing your opinion can be downright scary. But the more you step up and state what you think and feel, the more confident you’ll become. It becomes a virtuous self reenforcing cycle.

And the thing is, you’re probably going to ruffle some feathers, especially if there are people in your life that you have previously hidden your true thoughts and feelings from. There are people who may not like what you have to say. But if they don’t like the real you, why would you want to spend time with people that you have to pretend to be something other than who you really are?


Adopting a practice of radical candor is difficult. We’re trained from an early age not to upset others and to do our best to fit in. But when it comes down to it, when you hide what you really think and feel, you’re being deceptive, and you’re not letting others get to know the real you. It signals to other people that you don’t trust them with your thoughts and feelings. And this is something that I’ve really had to work on. I’ve had to let go of trying to find the right thing to say or the right opinion to have. But in doing so, my most important relationships have gotten much stronger because I’ve committed to trusting them with the real me.

Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If this podcast speaks to you, join us over in the Stoic Coffee House. The Stoic Coffee House is a community built around the ideas of stoicism and the Stoic Coffee Break podcast.

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204 – Blame and Responsibility

If change is forced upon you, you must resist the temptation to overreact or feel sorry for yourself. 

— Robert Greene

How often do you feel that life is unfair? That something happened that you think should not have happened to you? Maybe someone hurt you and you want them to fix it? Today I want to talk about blame and responsibility.

One thing we learn in stoicism is that there are a lot of things outside of our control. In fact, most things are outside of our control, and we have a tough time with this idea. We want life to make sense, to be predictable, and usually, to work out in our favor.

A Just World

One problem this brings up is that we assume that the world is fair. There is actually a bias called the Just World Hypothesis. Basically, because we think the world should be just and fair, we act like it is. This causes issues because then we feel like the world should automatically fix things when they aren’t fair, that there is some magical universal power that will right all the wrongs. But the things is, the universe is not just or fair, at least what we might consider fair, and to pretend otherwise is to ignore reality.

The idea of a just world pops up in a lot of areas of our life. Some are pretty clear, where as others are more subtle. For example, when someone dies, we’ll often hear it said that they died too young, or that it wasn’t fair how they were taken. Why was it too young? Why wasn’t it fair? Is there some prescribed age or way that we are supposed to die? When we think something is unfair, we are really saying that we had some expectations and what actually happened was different that what was expected or wanted.


I think our desire for a just world is part of why we enjoy revenge stories so much. So many of the stories and plays from as early as the Greeks and Romans are all about the villain getting their just desserts. How many Shakespearian tragedies revolve around the desire for revenge? I admit I love a good revenge fantasy movie like John Wick because it feels good to see the hero take out the bad guys who “deserve” it. These all satiate our desire to see those punished who we think deserve it.

You can change it, you can accept it, or you can leave it. What is not a good option is to sit around wishing you would change it but not changing it, wishing you would leave it but not leaving it, and not accepting it. 

— Naval Ravikant

Not Our Fault

In our personal lives, there will be a lot of things that will happen to us that are not our fault. We may get sick. We may lose our job. Someone can break our heart when they end a relationship. Maybe we end up in an accident that leaves us crippled for the rest of our lives. These are all things that are not our fault. The blame for them may well lie outside of ourselves, because we did not have control of all the factors that led to any of these outcomes. We are not at fault or to blame, but it is our responsibility to do something about it.  When we don’t step up take responsibility for the things that we control, then we are victims.


Now when I talk about taking responsibility for things that happen to you, I don’t mean that others should not be held accountable for the things that they do. If someone is to blame, to your best to hold them accountable. We all need to do our best to hold each other accountable for our actions. If someone was driving while intoxicated and they crash into your car and injure you, we should hold them accountable for their actions. If your business partner embezzles funds from your company, we should prosecute them. If there are systemic issues such as racism or misogyny that keep you from advancing in your career, those issues need to be addressed. Taking responsibility for fixing what is wrong does not mean that those who are to blame should not be held accountable.

But with that said, you should not sit around wallowing in your misery, being angry or depressed and waiting for someone else to come and fix things. Don’t expect other people to make your life whole again. Don’t leave it on them to fix what is broken. When you do that, you are giving away your power and allowing yourself to become a victim. Do your best to hold them accountable while doing your best to improve your life and make the best of what you have.


Another example of how we may not be to blame, but need to take responsibility for something, is in areas of our society. This last week, I was chatting with a friend of mine about his efforts to bring awareness of the racist past of his city to help bring diversity and equity so that the minority population would feel more welcome. In doing so, he has stirred up resistance from people who rather that these issues just remain in the past. They don’t want to talk about the explicit racism that was part of his communities’ past. Many feel it is not something that needs to be discussed because they personally are not racist, so bringing up the past is about things that they didn’t do, so they are not at fault.

And yes, it is true it is not their fault. They personally did not do these things that happened in the past. But I believe that being part of a community is to be responsible for doing my best to help right the wrongs of the past of the community that I belong to. Because if I am not responsible, then who will be? Someone else? There are so many things in this world that are not our fault, but if things are going to change, they are our responsibility. Just as when we talked about personal responsibility, we need to understand that there is also communal responsibility. If we are not willing to step up and hold our community responsible for bad actions, then it allows bad things to happen and to be excused simply because there wasn’t a person that could be held individually responsible.

Here is a rule to remember in future, when anything tempts you to feel bitter: not ‘This is misfortune’, but ‘To bear this worthily is good fortune.’ 

— Marcus Aurelius

Bear This Worthily

So what can we do to be sure that we don’t fall into this trap? I think foremost is to separate blame from responsibility. I think the hardest part is that we can get stuck on the idea that because someone is to blame for what happened, we also think that they should fix it. And maybe they should fix it. But if we don’t step up and do what we can do, then we can stay stuck where we are waiting for someone else to solve our problems. We become a victim.

The second part is doing our best to be honest about our situation, and the choices we have. We may not have a lot of choices, but we always have some choices. We can always take some action to move ourselves forward. Our heart may be broken but it’s up to us to grieve and to work on healing. Our lives may be radically altered from a car accident, but we have the choice of how we’re going to face our future. We’re going to have to face it anyway, so why not take ownership of our attitude and our mindset so that we can make the most of what choices we have.


Things are going to happen to us in our lives that are unpleasant, uncomfortable, and often just down right awful. That’s just part of living. Sometimes, it’s just going to suck through no fault of our own. But we always have a choice and take responsibility for our own lives, even when someone else is to blame.

Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.