How Stoicism Might Have Saved Tonya Harding

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“That wasn’t my fault.” -Tonya Harding

That’s the reoccurring line tying together the many head-shaking, heart-breaking missteps of Tonya Harding, as seen in the recent biopic, I, Tonya.

“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

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When we are unable to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” -Viktor Frankl

To be fair, Harding does change the situation in an extraordinary way when she becomes the first American woman to ever land a triple axel in competition, silencing her doubters and making her the top-ranked female skater in the world.

Above all, keep a close watch on this — that you are never so tied to your former acquaintances and friends that you are pulled down to their level. If you don’t, you’ll be ruined. . . . You must choose whether to be loved by these friends and remain the same person, or to become a better person at the cost of those friends . . . if you try to have it both ways you will neither make progress nor keep what you once had.” -Epictetus

Despite the national frenzy around the scandal, or perhaps because of it, Tonya Harding was allowed to skate in the ’94 Winter Olympics. It’s there that we watch her beg the judges to let her repeat the first round because of a broken lace on her skate. She explains, “My lace breaks, which is my fault…But also really isn’t. And I don’t get the marks because I never had a chance with the judges to begin with.”

“Begin to live at once. And count each day as a separate life.” -Seneca

We all face trials in life, forced to reckon with the mistakes of others and our own. But when we fall from grace, will we push the blame outward and refuse responsibility? Or will we use the lessons of yesterday to create a new, separate life?

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Author of ‘Productivity Is For Robots’ | Writing about freelance work, creativity, and human connection |

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