The Courage to Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change your Life and Achieve Real Happiness

The Courage to Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change your Life and Achieve Real Happiness

by Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga

The Courage to Be Disliked: The Japanese Phenomenon That Shows You How to Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness is about a transformative journey of a young man who converses with a philosopher about Adlerian psychology. The dialogue reveals the source of unhappiness, the power of choice, the role of interpersonal relationships in people’s lives, and it invites the readers to find “the community feeling” through self-acceptance, confidence in others, and contribution to communities.  

Summary Notes

The First Night: Deny Trauma

“Your unhappiness cannot be blamed on your past or your environment.”

According to Adlerian psychology, people can change if they focus on their goals and prevent their pasts from determining their future. Now, most of our present unhappiness, anxiety, and mental decline are due to past trauma. However,  a past experience should not be the deciding factor in our future success or future failure - this trauma must be denied. 

Negative experiences certainly play a role in the shaping of our personalities, but we are the ones who decide how we are going to live our lives. Emotions are the veins in the fabric of human existence, yet we must control them and not allow our emotions to control us. 

People can definitely change regardless of the circumstances, however, more often than not they choose not to. They cannot change the past, but they can change their present and their future. 

Most unhappiness is a choice. If you feel unhappy about yourself, comparing your life to somebody else's would not bring you closer to self-fulfillment. Although you might feel the constraints of your past, it's what you do with the present that will decide the quality of your life and your personal happiness. 

You need the courage to step out of your comfort zone and make a decision to change your unhappy life into a happy one.

Actions to take

The Second Night: All Problems Are Interpersonal Relationship Problems

“We cannot do without interpersonal relationships.”

When you've decided not to like yourself, you only focus on your negative traits. Your perceived shortcomings largely affect the way you view and present yourself, your self-confidence, and your attractiveness. 

Your dislike of yourself likely stems from the fear of being disliked or rejected by others. Being alone and being lonely are two different things. People can still feel lonely when they are surrounded by people if they feel excluded.

You may have built a wall around yourself, hoping that you will be protected from the pain that can arise from a relationship. However, such expectations are simply unrealistic. No one is alone in the universe and because of that, forming relationships is inevitable and necessary because apart from pain, you will also experience love and affection. 

To avoid being hurt, remember that subjective feelings of inferiority are not objective facts. As such, they can be changed once you decide to change the interpretation of your perceived shortcomings and flaws that hurt your relationships.

According to Adlerian psychology, feelings of inferiority are rooted in our infant state during which we were helpless beings. The need to assert or pursue superiority often arises from one’s initial state of helplessness and vulnerability when they were a baby. 

Basically, feelings of inferiority and superiority are a normal part of human life. In fact, feelings of inferiority can even stimulate personal growth by pushing people to improve in areas in which they don't experience initial success.

When we lose ourselves in the pursuit of superiority, we get lost in a perpetual rat race. Compete with yourself - not with others. No matter how far ahead you get, if you compare yourself to how others are doing, you will never achieve peace of mind. 

Relationships can be classified according to the type of tasks you need to perform to sustain them. These are “tasks of work,” “tasks of friendship,” and “tasks of love.” One person cannot do every type of work; for example, we need other people for a professional collaboration, which means we need to enter into relationships. 

This same logic applies to romantic relationships, parent-child relationships, and to friendships. All of us play a specific part in such relationships, so problems that stem from them are not uncommon. However, when these relationships are not oppressive, but open and loving, you will experience joy and happiness.

Actions to take

The Third Night: Discard Other People’s Tasks

“You are living only your own life. When it comes to who you are living it for, of course, it’s you.”

Seeking recognition is an important aspect of many people's lives, however, according to Adler, a person should not seek recognition as it is neither important nor necessary. The need for approval is rooted in the “reward-and-punishment education,” which stresses the importance of praise and appreciation for taking actions that fit the social norms. 

You must bear in mind that the purpose of your life is not to satisfy somebody else's expectations. If you are guided by other people's recognition, you stop living your own life. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to quench the desire for society's approval. 

In life, every person has their own tasks to perform, upon which you should not intrude. When in doubt, ask yourself, "Whose task is this?" Do it if it's yours. If it isn't, take a step back, and allow for the other person to complete it. For example, studying English in the third grade is the child’s task, and not their parents’. 

When you refrain from intruding on other people’s tasks, you show that you believe in them. 

At work, complete the tasks that you've been assigned without intruding on other colleagues. You can interfere only if your colleagues ask you to, and if you feel that it won’t cause you pain, suffering, or any hardship. 

In principle, intruding on other people's tasks is what hurts relationships.

Actions to take

The Fourth Night: Where the Center of the World Is

“A sense of belonging is something that one can attain only by making an active commitment to the community of one’s own accord, and not simply by being here.”

In Adlerian psychology, both happiness and unhappiness are rooted in interpersonal relationships. Happiness is linked to feeling like part of a community, as it shifts your focus from you and your own self-interest to other people, i.e., social interest. 

When someone’s main concern in life is “I,” it means that they are self-centered and obsessed with how society perceives them. Thus, they stop living their own lives and start living the lives of other people. 

The feeling of belonging to a community makes us feel safe and accepted. Therefore, we should always remember that we are members of a community in which the whole is more important than the individual “I.” Instead of being self-centered and thinking about what others can do for us, try considering what you can do for others. 

Make an active and conscious commitment to your communities. All of us belong to multiple communities, such as households, schools, clubs, companies, cities, societies, etc.

Communities should embrace horizontal relationships in which people are equal and in which there is neither praise nor rebuke. Judgment, positive or negative, is a trait of vertical - hierarchical - relationships, in which one holds the position of power. On the other hand, expressing gratitude is a trait of horizontal relationships and should be practiced alongside speaking words of encouragement.

Actions to take

The Fifth Night: To Live in Earnest in the Here and Now

“For a human being, the greatest unhappiness is not being able to like oneself.”

To feel like part of a community, you first need to accept yourself, have confidence in others, and believe in contributing to something bigger than yourself. 

Accepting yourself means seeing your capabilities objectively and without deception. Embrace both your strengths and weaknesses, knowing that nobody is perfect. Self-acceptance is truly the first step to building or being part of a community. 

The next step is to develop unconditional confidence in others, especially when they need to do their work. Trusting others unconditionally fosters horizontal relationships in communities as you see other people as peers and not as enemies. 

The final step is a contribution to others, which is best represented through work. By being of use to others, you will be able to acknowledge your own self-worth. 

The desire to contribute should not be fueled by the desire to be recognized. If you have a deep and genuine feeling for contribution, you will be able to be truly happy in the present. Your self-worth will not depend on other people’s approval and opinions. This will help you live a meaningful life.

Actions to take

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