courage to be disliked

Are you brave enough to be disliked?

A review of the courage to be disliked

The courage to be disliked, jointly authored by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga, has sold over 3 million copies worldwide. I bought the book for two reasons. Firstly, because Amazon recommended it and secondly because the title felt like a mission statement. I can whole-heartedly say that I am someone who wants to be liked. This desire doesn’t dictate my choices, but despite my best efforts, I want everyone to think I’m awesome. Purchasing this book felt like a commitment to changing my motivations.

Not living up to expectations

The narrative style, which is a dialogue between a youth and a philosopher, is pretty marmite*. Unfortunately for me, I fell into the hater category. Nearly 300 pages of fictional exchanges were just too much. Whilst I appreciate the concept, it just wasn’t my cup of tea*. The concepts and ideas exchanged were both interesting and thought-provoking. However, the style made me want to throw my copy at the wall.

If you enjoy this style of narrative, which reminded me of the One Minute Manager series and the E-myth, you will get a lot out of The courage to be disliked. But, if you are a fan of Malcom Gladwell or the Heath brothers, then I suspect that you are better suited to other titles on the same topic.

Who is this book for

Those interested in learning more about happiness. The courage to be disliked focuses on the work of Alfred Adler and how by removing the limitations we so often place on our lives, we can finally learn how to be happy. There is a large amount of comparison between the works of Adler, Jung and Freud. Anyone interested in learning more about the foundations of 20th-century psychology can get a lot from this book.

Key takeaways

1. Satisfy your own expectations, not those of others

When we are motivated by a desire to be recognised and praised by others we are unlikely to be happy. This is because the satisfaction is fleeting and the demand to satisfy expectations is constant. It becomes a means to an end and this is dangerous in the long run. Understanding why we are motivated to ‘succeed’ can be complex but it is essential if one is to move forwards and satisfy their own motivations rather than those of others.

2. What other people think or feel about you is their ‘task’

The courage to be disliked goes into detail about the separation of tasks. This is a useful psychological concept and if we could truly embrace it I believe we’d all be much happier. The philosopher says:

You are worried about being judged by other people. That is why you are constantly craving recognition from others… What other people think when they see your face – that is the task of other people, and is not something you have any control over

Or in other words, haters going to hate.

It’s impossible to be liked and valued by all. But, we can behave in a way we believe is appropriate to our values and expectations. Those that appreciate us for who we are become part of our trusted inner circle. Everyone else’s value judgement holds no importance. It’s important to note that this would be super easy if we were rational and emotion-free!

3. Being disliked is proof that you are living in freedom

Trying to be liked by everyone is limiting, so when we live on our own terms, naturally there will be a few people we are disliked by. We are in control of who we give importance to.

I had an interesting conversation this week with my daughter who is 6. She was allowed to go to school in fancy dress but she didn’t want to for fear that the older children would tease her. We talked about how her clothing is her decision and that she can choose to give the older children power (or not). By letting their reaction decide her behaviour, she is effectively giving them control over her life. This might seem a bit of an extreme chat for her age, but the challenge is going to be with her forever. If we change who we are for others, we will be unhappy and frustrated by the sacrifices made.

4. Praise is bad

There is so much written about praise in recent times; the dangers, the approach and the deficit. The Alderian approaches praise as damaging because when we accept it, we are choosing to live in alignment with the giver’s values, not our own. Therefore, instead of praise, we should be seeking contribution. We review our efforts based on the outcomes we ourselves can measure, rather than the praise of others.

The suggestion is to focus on thanks as this is recognition on an equal setting. This is a way of judging the contribution rather than the person. An expression of gratitude is not a value judgement and therefore empowers the person. Whereas praise makes them reliant on pleasing you and subscribing to your judgement, which is impossible to maintain.

In conclusion

It is much easier to share the lessons than live them. I’m happy to share the insights with my daughter, but I did understand when she stuffed her fancy dress in her school bag. There is often a difference between who we want to be and having the emotional strength to achieve it. Like all strength, it must be worked on consistently. Setting slightly bigger challenges and establishing new behaviours.

In terms of praise, I’m still not sure what I believe. I understand the argument behind praising effort rather than outcome, as Duckworth talks about in Grit. But, in practice as a parent, sometimes you are just so pleased for them! First bike rides, words and badly made breakfasts deserve lashings of praise. I don’t know if this is ‘right’ but I guess I don’t care because we’ve championed the failures and falls that took them to the firsts too.


* Apologies for all the very British references. Marmite is a spread that you either love or hate. It is about as divisive as Brexit.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

About Good Words Online

This blog was designed to be a home for all the content I’ve created over the years. It is a mix of book reviews, personal reflections and business learnings. There is no definitive way to live or work, we all make our own choices. I in no way think I am right about any particular subject. This is simply about sharing what I’ve learnt and creating an online reminder for myself.

The name, good words, has no religious references. We can’t be good all the time. Each of us will make mistakes. All we can do is try to learn from them and try and attempt to be a little better next time.

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