Summary: The Courage to Be Disliked

Wing Puah
5 min readMar 4, 2023
Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

More often than not, when I’m reading, I tend to gloss over the content of the book and forget about what I learn after a while. While I keep track of the titles I read on goodreads, I never write a book review. Instead of racing after book titles, I want to slow down and pen down my thoughts, in hope to capture my learnings, emotions an thoughts on the book. Also, to fully absorb the teachings or applications from the book, if there is any.

The book of discussion for today will be: The Courage to Be Disliked by
Ichiro Kishimi.

Reading journey on libbyapp

The book is written in a dialogue style between a philosopher and a dissatisfied young man who is seeking for answers to happiness. The philosopher teaches that the world is simple and that happiness is within the reach of every month. This dialogue takes place over five nights, with each night focusing on aspect of the the worldly view of the philosopher.

Adlerian psychology

Rather, as Adler’s teleology tells us, ‘No matter what has occurred in your life up to this point, it should have no bearing at all on how you live from now on.’ That you, living in the here and now, are the one who determines your own life.

The philosopher introduces the core of his philosophy, which is adapted from the school of psychology established by Alfred Adler, generally referred to as Adlerian psychology. In Adlerian psychology, the events that happen in our lives are explained via present ‘goals’. This is in contrast to a Freudian style of explanation, which centered around cause and effect, and deterministic viewpoint of events.

Let’s say a teenager is suffering from anxiety of going out. In a Freudian manner, we will look at the past events or possible trauma that could have cause the anxiety. However in Adlerian psychology, challenges us to reconsider the situation that the teenager has a goal of not wanting to go out, hence the anxiety is manufactured to attain this goal. This process is referred to as ‘teleology’ in the book.

This is not to say that negative or positive events not have no influence on the personality. Instead it is the meaning that we give to the experiences themselves. Another significant example is the emotion of anger. Often times, people can seemingly switch on and off anger when they are disrupted by a third party. For example, while scolding her kid, an angry mother receives a call from the school teacher and switches tone immediately. Therefore the argument is, the mother manufactured anger so that she could assert her point across on her kid.

Because of this ability of choice, we choose our lifestyle and reaction to events. Hence, the ability to make changes to one lifestyle.

Feeling of inferiority and pursuit of superiority

Adler is saying that the pursuit of superiority and the feeling of inferiority are not diseases, but stimulants to normal, healthy striving and growth. If it is not used in the wrong way, the feeling of inferiority, too, can promote striving and growth.

At the very root of Adlerian psychology, all problems are interpersonal relationship problems. Regardless of the problem that a person faces, we can always find the shadows of other people.

Feelings of excess competitiveness, low self-esteem, self-hatred and feeling of inferiority are the problems that arise from interpersonal problems. The aforementioned negative feelings arise in an individual because of the value judgement of onself. Value is something that’s based on social context, just like the value of money and diamond.

The feeling of inferiority and pursuit of superiority is a kind of launch pad for the growth of an individual. However, the issue come in when we lose courage to take a single step forward due to mismanagement of those feelings and perception of the reality.

A healthy feeling of inferiority is not something that comes from comparison with others. Instead it comes from the comparison with one’s ideal self.

Life tasks

First, there are two objectives for behaviour: to be self-reliant and to live in harmony with society. Then, the objectives for the psychology that supports these behaviours are the consciousness that I have the ability and the consciousness that people are my comrades.

To achieve the above objectives, we could look into what Adler calls “life tasks”. The “life tasks” could be further broken down into “tasks of work”, “tasks of friendship” and “tasks of love”.

In pursuing these life tasks, one should not seek recognition and the desire to satisfy the expectations of others. The rationale is, one should not depend on other as a source for confidence or happiness through recognition. While seeking approval from other people judgement, there could also be a tendency to suppress the “I-ness”.

There also needs to be a clear segregation of life tasks. A parent-child relationship could be one of the easiest way to spot offenders of this crossing of boundaries of life tasks.

Let’s say there your hypothetical kid who does not take studying seriously. Studying is the life task of your kid and not you. You as a parent could take actions to communicate that studying is the life task of the kid and that you as a parent is ready to assist him when he needs. However, you should not intrude on the child’s life task.

Feeling of community

PHILOSOPHER: No matter what moments you are living, or if there are people who dislike you, as long as you do not lose sight of the guiding star of ‘I contribute to others’, you will not lose your way, and you can do whatever you like. Whether you’re disliked or not, you pay it no mind and live free.

The goal of the interpersonal relationship is to cultivate a community feeling. In this context, community is inclusive of everything, the entire universe, from the past to the future.

Base on the premise that interpersonal relations are the source of unhappiness, the opposite, interpersonal relations are the source of happiness holds true too.



Wing Puah

Frontend dev. I like my coffee with milk. Obsessed with the construct and potential of human. The Geek at