We recently finished reading The Courage to Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life, and Achieve Real Happiness by Kishimi and Koga in The Haven Book Club.
In this episode of The Gentle Rebel Podcast, I share reflections inspired by the five nights of discussions between the philosopher and youth in the book.
It’s been great to look at the book over four months, and I’d be up for doing it again. So if you listen to this episode and think it’s something you would like to explore for yourself, let me know here. If there is enough interest, I’ll get the ball rolling.
- Why We Need The Courage To Be Disliked | 4:28
- Does The Past Determine Our Future, or Can We Change It? | 13:16
- Interpersonal Relationship Problems and The Social Shadow | 21:42
- Holding Boundaries and Letting Go Of Other People’s Tasks | 28:23
- No One Lives At The Centre of The World | 36:14
- To Live in the Here and Now | 45:37
- The Haven | 53:36
Why We Need The Courage To Be Disliked | 4:28
The philosopher uses Alfred Adler’s Individual Psychology to help the young man consider ways to change his life. It revolves around the premise that true freedom comes from having the courage to be disliked.
This courage to be disliked isn’t about wanting to be disliked. It’s about being OK if and when people dislike us, which as long as we are alive and engaging in interpersonal relationships, will happen.
We can’t control what other people think, feel, and believe about us…that’s their task.
The Cost of Seeking Approval: Losing Ourselves in the Quest for Acceptance | 8:54
We can lose ourselves if we fear those we admire disliking us. We might park our core values and inner compass if it means being accepted and recognised by the “right” people.
This reflects a script we write early in life through our drive for safety and belonging. Who must I be? What do I need to do and not do to remain safe and protected?
Self-Worth, Achievement, and The Courage To Be Disliked | 9:57
I recently heard a sportsperson say, “I love winning, but what makes me a dangerous opponent is that I don’t mind losing. I’ve done it often, and it’s not that bad.”
This is a particular type of freedom. He has separated losing from his story of self-worth. Acceptance at the level of being (whether or not I win, I am OK) rather than at the level of doing (I must win to be worthy of acceptance).
The courage to be disliked is the same. If someone doesn’t like me, it’s their task. Although it’s preferable to be appreciated, I can’t compel anyone else to respect me. That’s up to them.
Does The Past Determine Our Future, or Can We Change It? | 13:16
Our life is not a script we have to live by, handed to us by someone or something in the past, but something we write in the here and now. While past events influence the story we live, they don’t determine what happens next.
Read the full reflection on The First Night: Deny Trauma.
Determining Blame and Finding Fault | 16:50
“Who can we blame?” is a question that permeates society today. Unfortunately, it’s often our first response. As such, we might spend time pointing fingers, looking over our shoulders, and covering our tracks, ironically creating a more dangerous world to protect ourselves from.
Unhappiness As a Choice | 18:00
The young man also adopts a victim mentality, evident in his conclusion that if only he were like his friend, he would be happier. But, of course, he knows he cannot be another person. So he permits himself not to accept himself by telling a story about why other people have life easier and better than his.
According to Adler, the primary task of a person’s behaviour is to be self-reliant (responsible for our judgements, choices, and beliefs) and to live in harmony with society (a conscious development and awareness of social connectedness and community feeling).
Self-reliance isn’t about becoming the proverbial island and doing everything independently. Instead, it’s about recognising what we are responsible for so we don’t interfere with other people’s tasks.
Read the full reflection on The Second Night: All Problems are Interpersonal Relationship Problems here.
If we interfere in this for one another, we create disconnection, distrust, and loneliness. Loneliness, in this sense, isn’t being without people; it is having people around but feeling alienated from them.
The prevalence of loneliness in our modern world reveals a paradox of increasing connectivity and isolation. Despite being more interconnected than ever, we also experience greater isolation.
Loneliness arises from a lack of connection with others. The more disconnected we feel from people, the more intense our loneliness becomes. It’s important to remember that communication alone does not constitute a genuine relationship.
Inferiority, Superiority, and Equality | 24:51
One’s inferiority/superiority complex tends to place blame on others for all problems. This mindset fosters envy and resentment and creates enemies, further perpetuating this negative outlook on the world. This pattern is prevalent in both politics and social media today.
Why do so many people struggle to enjoy the success they work hard to reach? Because they build it through a lens of competition, the foundation of which is a complex landscape “overflowing with enemies”.
Adler describes a healthy feeling of inferiority emerging through our relationship within ourselves rather than in comparison to others. We have a playful and intuitive knowledge about what we want to improve. We are drawn to plant, grow, and harvest. This is baked into our sense of purpose and meaning as we survive and thrive.
Likewise, a healthy desire for superiority is not related to our position compared with others but to our “ideal self”. We are improving ourselves and the conditions around us. The ideal self is not a place we can reach but an organising structure around which we make choices that support a meaningful lifestyle.
Holding Boundaries and Letting Go Of Other People’s Tasks | 28:23
Boundaries are not about shutting people out but understanding how to separate tasks and discard those that don’t belong to us.
We shouldn’t mistake separating tasks with separating ourselves from one another as humans.
Read the full reflection on The Third Night: Discard Other People’s Tasks here.
Encouragement Not Praise | 32:28
In Punished By Rewards, Alfie Kohn looks at the evidence against the common assumption that people change their behaviour through positive reinforcement like incentives and praise. He points out the conspicuous absence of the long-term in the evidence people use to support rewards, leading us to some unhelpful conclusions.
People DO change their behaviour in the short run when presented with positive outcomes for doing so, but this makes us dependent on external motivation. When the rewards are dropped, so too is the behaviour.
It turns out that we are not incentivised by the behaviour but by the incentive. The rather dispiriting conclusion is that we are less likely to act from intrinsic meaning and community feeling when our reality is built around systematic incentives and rewards.
En-courage-ment is about helping give rise to courage in another and supporting them in becoming more of themselves. Not moulding them into who we think they should be (or who we need them to be for our cookie-cutter convenience).
The Freedom of Being Disliked | 34:44
When our sense of self-worth is tied to external rewards, breaking from the fear of what people think (and the desire to be liked) can feel impossible. This underpins people-pleasing patterns.
In this sense, being liked is praise and being disliked is punishment. So we might gravitate towards doing what we hope will get us recognition. And we avoid doing what we’ve learned people reject.
No One Lives At The Centre of The World | 36:14
Narcissism is underpinned by a sense of entitlement to success, power, and control over others. As a result, some people place themselves at the centre of the world and blame their struggles on external factors.
There is a distinction between the centre of the world and the centre of our own life.
Read the full reflection on The Fourth Night: Where The Centre of the World Is
Community Feeling and The Many Centres of The World | 37:42
Individualism becomes toxic when it removes us from the collective story and leaves us fighting for our place in the group (the feeling that it’s OK to be here).
Community feeling isn’t based on conditional belonging within a particular context (e.g. the household, school, workplace, or neighbourhood). Instead, it covers regions, nations, continents, humanity, all living things, non-living entities, and the entire axis of time from the past into the future.
The Storm In a Teacup | 39:59
Looking at it this way serves a purpose, providing an anchor of connection and perspective when facing overwhelming and hopeless situations—for example, a toxic workplace, political turmoil, bullying at school, or an unbearable family environment.
Drawing community feeling from outside the proverbial storm in a teacup (shrinking the whole world to a single place in time) might take the edge off the immediate challenge and give us a foundation to establish a purposeful path forward.
The world doesn’t have a centre. So, no one (not even the most recognised or influential person) is more deserving of belonging than anyone else, not at the level of being.
The ultimate show of respect is to allow space for humans to be humans. Equal at the level of being regardless of age, gender, race, sexuality, intelligence, etc.
To Live in the Here and Now | 45:37
Life is like a piece of music. The goal is not to reach the end. It’s to move in the rhythm and melody of the here and now. And we play our part in the music of this moment, contributing, collaborating, and creating.
For human beings, life is about more than survival. We are creatures of meaning and connection, with the capacity for joy, love, and transcendence.
Read the full reflection on The Fifth Night: To Live in Earnest in the Here and Now.
The Difference Between Affirmation and Acceptance | 49:26
Happiness is found through accepting “one’s incapable self as is” and building life from that place.
Affirmations can be delusional and are linked to what we do, encouraging us to make suggestions such as “You got this, ” “I can do it, ” or ” I am strong, ” even when something is beyond our ability, and we are overwhelmed. They don’t give us courage because they’re more like a demand “I should have this, I ought to be able to do this, I must be strong…” to be accepted.
Self-acceptance says, “It doesn’t matter if I do, don’t, or can’t have this; I’m still fundamentally OK.”
Fear of Being Disliked and How We Judge The World | 51:24
Our judgement of the world is influenced by the story we focus on.
If one person criticises us, two unconditionally accept us, and seven are indifferent to our actions, who do we focus on? Where do we invest our attention and energy? In the one person who dislikes us, the two who love us, or those who don’t care (the crowd)?
The End is Not The Goal | 52:26
A train runs to the top of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) in North Wales, yet hundreds of people climb it daily. We might think the goal of climbing a mountain is to reach the top. But it’s not. The purpose of climbing a mountain is to climb it.
There are often quicker ways to get to the end. But the destination is part of the process rather than the goal. Without the top, we have no direction.
Even though it signals the end, the goal of life isn’t death. But the reality of death is what gives us access to energy. To meaning, love, and life.
The Haven | 53:36
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