Today’s book is a must-read for you if you feel troubled in life or constantly are chasing happiness.
The book provides a fresh perspective on how to enjoy life by teaching us to live free from the shackles of past experiences, doubts, and the expectations of others.
It’s one of the bestsellers in the self-help book category, written by Japanese philosophers and Adlerian psychologists.
Today’s book recommendation is The Courage to be Disliked.
I first picked up the book because of the name.
The courage to be disliked is really something I need so much.
Being a perfectionist and someone who is highly sensitive, I have very high expectations of myself.
I avoid making any mistakes, fear of letting people down, and I am highly concerned about others’ opinions of me.
In short, I fear of being disliked by others.
As a result, my happiness always builds on others’ feedback on me.
I really wanted to break free from all the pressures I have put on myself and not equal my self-worth to others’ comments.
So the book title instantly clicked with me.
The book follows a conversation between a philosopher and an unhappy young man. Through each dialogue, the philosopher guides the young man to re-examine various topics, including self-forgiveness, self-care, and how to live freely.
Many concepts can be very new and challenging for us when we first read them, especially the viewpoints can be drastically different than what we have always believed in.
Today, I will share 10 of my biggest takeaway from the book. Hope I can bring some insights to you.
1. If you see the world through dark glasses, naturally everything seems dark.
It seems to be an obvious truth, but it’s actually a really wise metaphor.
It tells us that all the events that have happened (in the world) are all objective events, which means they do not come with an interpretation, or feelings attached.
We, the individuals, give the events meaning or assign a good or bad tag with each event.
If you feel dark, pessimistic, or negative about life, it is simply a sign that tells you that you need to change a pair of glasses.
Re-examine your thinking pattern. Sometimes it’s only a matter of change in perspective, and you will realize the world could look so much different.
2. We will not be controlled by our past. We have our free will to determine which direction we are heading.
Adlerian theory is one main backbone of the book.
This set of theories is from the famous Austrian physician and psychiatrist – Alfred Adler, who is best known for forming the school of individual psychology.
The author has explained that in Adler’s theory, every experience in our life doesn’t actually have any effect on us or leave us with a trauma. Any impact on us is determined by ourselves.
I know when you are reading this, you might be frowning slightly and thinking to yourself:
Many events that happened in my life are not caused by me. These unfortunate events do cast a shadow on me.
Isn’t every action have a consequence?
How can you say that past experiences will not affect me?
I didn’t choose the suffering!
This is what the young man asked the philosopher as well.
The philosopher further explains.
If we always blindly assume that the traumas of the past lead to today’s misfortunes, we will always believe the fault of today’s situation lies not in ourselves, but in the past.
The most direct result of this mindset is that we will never be able to move forward.
People need to realize that they have the full ability to change the course of their lives. People are not driven by past courses, but they are moving towards goals that they themselves set.
This reminds me of another book I have read – Man’s Search for Meaning. The book was written by Austrian neurologist and psychologist, Viktor Frankl.
Dr. Viktor Frankl was a survivor of the concentration camp. Despite all the inhuman torture and suffering, and losing all his loved ones during the three years in four concentration camps, he fought on.
Not just that he achieved excellence in his career and founded logotherapy, but he further embark on the journey to help others to find the meaning of life.
It’s a point that is really worth us thinking of it thoroughly.
We are so used to blaming our misfortunes for some reason.
We blame our own character flaws on childhood experiences.
We blame our loss of temper on others’ mean behaviors toward us.
But we need to understand that the choice is always in our hands.
The pain of the past can be a stepping stone or a stumbling block on our way forward, it all depends on our attitude and mindset. And most importantly, the courage to take responsibility for our own lives.
We can’t change whatever happened in the past, but we can change how we view it.
If we want to be happy, we need to stop digging into the past and find a reason for our flaws or misfortunes. The only path to lasting happiness is to change our current views towards life.
3. Emotions are just tools. We can control our emotions and react in rational means.
Just like how we will not be impacted by our past, we will not be controlled by our emotions.
A very good example the philosopher has used to illustrate is that: 2 raging young guys fighting each other are able to calm down immediately when the police arrived.
So anger is not uncontrollable.
In fact, the philosopher has further explained that anger is just a tool for you to get what you want.
When you are unhappy with others, you want to suppress the other party by throwing a temper and using violent behavior.
But we don’t really have to rely on anger to get what we want. We could resolve the conflict by using other rational means such as communication.
4. All problems are interpersonal relationship problems.
Where does our trouble come from?
The philosopher explains: All problems can be classified under interpersonal relationship problems.
We worried the disapproval and criticism from others when we are in the workforce or in school. We fear people find us incapable. We fear rejection or being disliked by others.
When we are hanging out with friends or our partners, we worry about isolation, being disliked, or being neglected.
So all problems can be identified as interpersonal relationship problems.
How we can solve that?
5. Do not live to satisfy the expectations of others
One main topic the author discusses in the book is how to live free from the expectation of others. The important concept discussed is how to separate tasks.
What does it mean to separate tasks?
Simply put, it is to distinguish what is your own task and what is other people’s tasks.
After you have identified whose task it is, the next thing to do is just do your task without interfering with others’ tasks.
For instance, if you are being assigned a job, your task is to do the work. Whatever people judge or evaluate is not your task anymore, it’s others’ tasks.
Another example is parenting. Many times parents blame themselves for kids not behaving well. This is an example of mixing others’ tasks with yours.
Not interfering does not mean do not care about the kids at all, but instead, doing your own task as a parent to guide and help on top of what is needed by the kid. Whether the kid can do well in school or in the future is the children’s task.
Learning to separate tasks can help us to handle interpersonal relationships with ease.
6. Healthy pursuit should be comparing with your ideal self but not others.
How often do we feel troubled and negative from comparing ourselves to others?
Even though we know it’s not right or meaningless to compare, we still struggle sometimes.
Everyone is different and the path for every individual has vast differences too.
The more we pay attention to competing with others, and winning or losing, the more we will feel inferior and inadequate.
We need to change this mindset.
Looking down on others or feeling unhappy because others are doing better than us, are actually equalizing others’ triumphs as our own failures.
The logic is not right!
The ones we are comparing with are not our enemies.
Do not think about everyone as a competitor relationship.
Instead, think of everyone as a part of the community, each having their own pace on their own path.
The only one I should be comparing is myself.
Ask yourself, are you moving forward daily? Am I moving towards my ideal self?
7. We need to understand we are all part of one community.
We need to understand we are not living in this world by ourselves.
In fact, we belong to a community (with other living species, inanimate objects, and on a bigger scale – the universe).
In order to live better and free from all the interpersonal relationship troubles, we need to find our position and value in this community by diverting our attention from self (self-interest) to concern for others (social interest).
You might be a little confused here.
Wasn’t we talking about separation of tasks, and now, it says we should concern for others instead?
The 2 points are actually not contradicting. Separating tasks is the first step to solving interpersonal relationship problems.
The next step to understanding the goal of interpersonal relationships, which is to develop community feelings.
In order to understand what is the community feeling, we need to understand these 3 aspects:
- Confidence in others
- Contribution to others
Self-acceptance means accepting who you are.
Accept what you are capable of and what you are not.
We do not have to feel shame for what we can’t achieve, but move forward and do the best in what we can.
Self-acceptance also means accepting your mistakes. If we make a mistake, accept it and correct it next time. Do not find excuses for yourself is also a way of self-acceptance.
9. Confidence in others
The difference between ‘trust’ and ‘confidence’ is that ‘trust’ has a condition attached.
While ‘confidence’ is to fully believe in others unconditionally.
Think of everyone as my acquaintance.
People who think of others as enemies have not attained self-acceptance and do not have enough confidence in others.
10. Contribution to others
Because we believe in others unconditionally, we regard everyone as a peer so that we can contribute to others.
Contribution to others is the root of happiness. Knowing that you are part of a community and contribute to the greater good will in return, increase our self-worth, which goes back to self-acceptance.
In fact, these 3 aspects work hand in hand.
Only when we accept ourselves completely can we unconditionally trust others, treat others as our partners, and make unreserved contributions.
We do not lack ability. We just lack courage. It all comes down to courage.
To summarize the few points above.
We will not be controlled by our emotions or past.
We have the ability to change our lives in the direction we want.
We can handle interpersonal relationships with ease and free from trouble.
It’s not that people can’t change, it’s that they lack the courage to change.
Adler once said that life is not a linear movement, but a formation of dots. Each dot is the present moment. As long as focus on each dot, life can be enjoyable and meaningful.
The world is simple, and life is too.
I wish you could find light in this book, and may we all be able to live in the present moment, live our life fully and find meaning in life.
More recommended reads here.
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