The Discourses of Epictetus, tr. by P.E Matheson, , at sacred-texts.com
As bad actors cannot sing alone, but only in a large company, so some men cannot walk alone. Man, if you are worth anything, you must walk alone, and talk to yourself and not hide in the chorus. Learn to bear mockery, look about you, examine yourself, that you may get to know who you are.
When a man drinks water, or puts himself in training in any way, he tells everybody at every opportunity, 'I am a water-drinker.' What? Do you drink water for the sake of drinking it? Man, if it is to your profit to drink it, drink; if not, your conduct is absurd. I say, if you drink water because it does you good, say nothing to those who dislike it. What? Are these the people of all others that you wish to please?
Actions have varying degrees of value: some are based on first principles, others are determined by circumstances, or compromise, or compliance, or manner of life.
There are two qualities that men must get rid of—conceit and diffidence. Conceit is to think that one needs nothing beyond oneself: diffidence is to suppose that one cannot live the untroubled life in the midst of so many difficulties. Now conceit is removed by cross-questioning, and that was what Socrates began with: that the thing is not impossible you must discover by thought and search. This search will do you no harm: and indeed philosophy means very little else but this—to search how it is practicable to exercise the will to get and the will to avoid without hindrance.
'I am better than you, for my father is of consular rank.' Another
says, 'I have been tribune, and you have not.' If we were horses you would say, 'My sire was swifter', or, 'I have plenty of barley and fodder', or, 'I have fine trappings.' If you said that, you may imagine me replying, 'Very well then, let us try our paces.' Come, is there nothing in men, like the pace of a horse, which will enable us to distinguish the better from the worse? Are there not self-respect, honour, justice? Show yourself superior in these qualities, that you may be superior as a man should be. If you say to me, 'I am great at kicking', I shall answer, 'That is the boast of an ass!'