The Courage to be Disliked (2013) Book Summary and Insights

8 minutes read

Book Title: The Courage to be Disliked

Subtitle: The Japanese phenomenon that shows you how to free yourself, change your life and achieve real happiness.

Publication Date: 2013

Author Names: Ichiro Kishimi & Fumitake Koga

Book Summary

This book takes the form of a narrative dialogue between a philosopher and a young man. It gives a straightforward analysis of the philosophical and psychological theories of Alfred Adler on how one can be happy. It provides a useful approach to living a happy and fulfilled life. During the each conversation, the philosopher shows the young man a guide on how to have the courage to live a happy life. To find out more, please read the following insights.     

Who Is This Book For?

This book is for psychologists, mental health practitioners. It is for anyone who has a low self-esteem and those worried about their future. It is for those who feel their past continues to haunt them.

About The Authors 

Ichiro Kishimi was born in Kyoto, where he still lives, in 1956. He has aspired to become a philosopher since his days in high school. Since 1989, while specializing in Classical Western philosophy, with a special focus on Platonic philosophy, he has researched Adlerian psychology; he writes and lectures on the subject, and provides counseling for youths in psychiatric clinics as a certified counselor and consultant for the Japanese Society of Adlerian Psychology. He is the translator, into Japanese, of selected writings by Alfred Adler: Kojin Shinrigaku Kogi (The Science of Living) and Hito wa Naze Shinkeisho ni Naru no ka (Problems of Neurosis), and he is the author of Adora Shinrigaku Nyumon (Introduction to Adlerian Psychology), in addition to numerous other books.

Fumitake Koga, an award-winning professional writer and author, was born in 1973. He has released numerous bestselling works of business-related and general non-fiction. He encountered Adlerian psychology in his late twenties, and was deeply affected by its conventional wisdom-defying ideas. Thereafter, Koga made numerous visits to Ichiro Kishimi in Kyoto, gleaned from him the essence of Adlerian psychology, and took down the notes for the classical dialogue format method of Greek philosophy that is used in this book.

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Book Insights

The Belief That the Past Determines the Future

 The assumption that the occurrences in the past determine who a person is now is a type of deterministic thinking. This type of thinking simply puts that our present and our future is being decided by experiences and therefore we cannot alter it. This idea is unfounded according to this book. Take the illustration of someone who grew up being abused and bullied and then ends up being a recluse. That would mean that everyone who has grown up abused would have to become a recluse if we go because the effects of the past determine the future, which is the idea of cause and effect. Our past does not define us and we are free to do whatever we want. According to Alderian Psychology, trauma does not exist. There is no experience in itself that can cause our success or failure. We define these traumas.

Fixation on Specific Outlooks on Life

In describing personality and disposition, we use the term lifestyle as used in Adlerian psychology. Lifestyle is the tendencies of thought and action in life. The way one sees the world and how one sees oneself. It encompasses a person’s outlook on life. This lifestyle and world view happens around the age of ten according to Adlerian psychology. Despite whatever lifestyle you have chosen, you can decide to change at any time regardless of the environment. The only reason people are unable to change is because they decide not to. We feel it is easier and more secure to fixate on the lifestyle we have now. In trying to change lifestyles, you have to put in courage. Take the case of a person who is unhappy and wants to change. That lifestyle of being unhappy is not dependent on the person’s experience or environment, but it is his or her lack of courage to change and become happy that determines that. The person simply lacks the courage to be happy.

Shutting Out Others by Self-hatred

We all feel we have shortcomings, whether it be lack of self-confidence, pessimism, self-consciousness. The constant worry about what people think and make of you. The youth in this book described his shortcomings and how it made him to never act naturally around other people. The youth admitted that talking about his shortcomings put him in an unpleasant mood and he was sure no one would want to associate with a person with such shortcomings. People focus only on their shortcomings and decide not to like themselves out of fear of being disliked by other people and eventually getting hurt in their interpersonal relationships. So instead of being in that situation of being disliked by others, they would in the first place rather not have relations with anyone. 

Destruction In Competitive Mindset

The pursuit of superiority involves taking a step forward on one’s feet. It does not involve the mind-set of competition that will cause aiming to be greater than other people. Life in itself is not a competition. It is better to keep moving forward with no form of competition with anyone because there is no need at all to compare oneself with others. Although everyone is different but no matter the difference we are all equal. In constant comparison, one thinks and sees every person in the world as his/her enemy. In trying to be oneself, competition will eventually get in the way. So put a distance between oneself and places that winning and losing are prevalent. At the end of competition, there are winners and losers and the destructive thing about competition is that even as someone who keeps on winning, so long as you have placed yourself in competition you will not have a moments’ peace. So as not to become a loser, you always have to keep winning. This is the reason even people who have built their success in society but are in competition can also really not feel happy. This is because to them they feel that enemies are overflowing in the world. Free yourself from the competitive mind-set and do not think anybody is holding you back. For instance, the constant worry that people are always watching you and judging you is rather unlikely. People do not notice and do not care about how you look at all. The moment you realize that no one cares about your appearance and what you do, and can truly see the world as a safe and pleasant place, your need for competition will decrease drastically.

Living Without Other People’s Approval

 Human beings live in a constant need of recognition from other people. Adlerian psychology as stated in this book denies such need to seek recognition from others. There is no need to seek any recognition from anyone. It is understandable that recognition by others is something to be happy about. It is however not absolutely necessary. The major reason people seek recognition is because of the influence of reward-and-punishment education. If one does something well, one receives praise but if one does something wrong, one receives punishment. The Adlerian psychology was critical of this approach to education. Take, for instance, in the workplace where a person has been picking up litter, and no one has shown appreciation or seemed to notice. And the person eventually stops because of the lack of appreciation. This is a danger of the desire for recognition. The person already had the mindset of wanting to receive praise when he/she started picking the litter. Hence, the reason the person felt the need to stop when he or she did not receive such praise. It is unnecessary to live to satisfy other people’s expectations.

Interact Without Meddling

In making choices in life, people should make choices by themselves without interference. This also applies as well to children and parents. Even though the child is a parent’s own, he or she is still not living to satisfy the parent’s expectations. Meddling in other people’s lives is the wrong way to interact, and it gets one nowhere. This is solely because each person is responsible for their actions in life. Instead of meddling and pushing your own interests on to other people, instead learn to interact and show your willingness to assist if anyone should require your help. Recognizing one’s interference or meddling in other people’s lives and the need to change that might prove difficult no doubt. It is however important to learn how to interact with no possibility of meddling.

Ego In A Global Community

With Adlerian psychology, community goes beyond the household, workplace and the local society. It covers all of humanity and time from past to future and includes plants and inanimate objects. The Adlerian psychology is of the idea that we are all part of a larger community inclusive of literally everything. The feeling that one has a place within a community, a sense of belonging will make one to change and then pay closer attention to one’s surroundings and evidently show care. This change will occur when the realization that no one is the center of the universe occurs. It is not a problem when you think of yourself as the protagonist of your own life. The problem arises when you think of yourself as bigger than that. When one views himself or herself as the center of the world, it brings about the belief that others simply exist only to serve him or her. This belief causes one to always think of what other people will give. To show commitment to the community rather than thinking of what you can get from other people think rather of what you can give to others.

Over-Fixation On Oneself

When one overly fixates on oneself, it leads to his or her thinking he or she is a victim. The obsession over oneself leads to loss of perspective. This causes one to see only a part of things but then judge the whole. Take people who stammer for an instance. In the view of Adlerian psychology, those who stammer do so merely out of concern for their own way of speaking only. They have an inferiority complex and view their lives as being unbearably hard. This leads to self-consciousness and then results in a continuous tripping over their words. They always feel they are under some form of criticism and this constant worry only contributes to their stammering. This fixation on oneself always emerges in one’s work life. This book makes another instance of a workaholic who solely fixates on one specific aspect of his or her life. This specific aspect being work.

Key Quotes

Here are some key quotes from the book:

“Do Not Live to Satisfy the Expectations of Others” – Ichiro Kishimi, The Courage to Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life, and Achieve Real Happiness.

“The courage to be happy also includes the courage to be disliked. When you have gained that courage, your interpersonal relationships will all at once change into things of lightness.” – Ichiro Kishimi, The Courage to Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life, and Achieve Real Happiness.

“You are probably rejecting normality because you equate being normal with being incapable. Being normal is not being incapable. One does not need to flaunt one’s superiority.”
― Ichiro Kishimi, The Courage to Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life, and Achieve Real Happiness.


Our experiences do not define us, rather the meanings we give such experiences define us. Each trauma or flaws that we face, we intentionally created them. Retrain your mind to accept yourself as you are and also be accepting of others as they are. If you determine to be happy, then you will be happy. Do away with competition and worry less about living up to others expectations or getting other people’s recognition.

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Editorial Staff

Editorial Member at LarnEdu is a team of content writers led by Giovanni Olakunori.

2 Responses

  1. david says:

    that is very good

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