Today I finished reading “The Courage to Be Disliked” by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga, which I blogged about a few days ago. Here are some other gems from the book that are still very much on my mind:
On “Separating Tasks:”
Philosopher: Say there’s a child who has a hard time studying. He doesn’t pay attention in class, doesn’t do his homework, and even leaves his books at school. Now, what would you do if you were his father?
Youth: Well, of course, I would try everything I could think of to get him to apply himself. I’d hire tutors and make him go to a study center, even if I had to pull him by the ear to get him there[….]
Philosopher: Studying is the child’s task. A parent’s handling of that by commanding the child to study is, in effect, an act of intruding on another person’s task. One is unlikely to avert a collision in this way. We need to think with the prospect of “Whose task is this?” and continually separate one’s own tasks from other people’s tasks.
Youth: How does one go about separating them?
Philosopher: One does not intrude on other people’s tasks. That’s all.pp122-3
To me, this is incredibly eye-opening. As I understand it, separating tasks is about figuring out what is yours to do in life, what is other people’s, and doing what is yours and leaving others to do what is theirs. It’s about not meddling in other people’s affairs, basically. Or intruding, as the authors put it. In following paragraphs, they suggest that it is okay to offer assistance to people, but this is different from intruding. Going back to the example of the child, letting them know that it is their “task” to study while offering to assist them if they wish is far different from forcing them to study, or doing the work for them.
I definitely see application in my life of learning to separate my tasks from others’.
With self-acceptance… if one cannot do something, one is simply accepting “one’s incapable self” as is and moving forward so that one can do whatever one can. It is not a way of lying to oneself. To put it more simply, say you’ve got a score of 60 percent, but you tell yourself, I just happened to get unlucky this time around, and the real me is 100 percent. That is self-affirmation. By contrast, if one accepts oneself as one is, as 60 percent, and thinks to oneself, How should I go about getting closer to 100 percent?–that is self-acceptance.p210
To me this may be the most significant passage in the book. The authors are saying how important it is for us to start by accepting ourselves as we are. Over the last couple years I have gained much valuable insight on this topic. I have embraced that I am what I am, that I’m still worthy, and that soothing is solving, because I have realized that accepting myself provides a valuable starting point from which to live and make choices.
Today I took a lovely run to the American River. As I ran, I pondered this passage from the book. I thought about my running journey, and I wondered to myself, What would it be like to accept myself as I am completely as a runner without judgment or needing to change myself? The answer: I would accept myself whether I thought I was “fast” or “slow,” whether I was training for something “big” (like a marathon) or “merely” running for fun, and I would always feel good about myself, especially around other runners who are “better” than I am.
Ha! It feels kind of silly writing that insecure head stuff, but there ya go. There’s freedom in those words, folks!
On “The Courage to Be Normal”
Why is it necessary to be special? Probably because one cannot accept one’s normal self. And it is precisely for this reason that when being especially good becomes a lost cause, one makes ht huge leap to being especially bad–the opposite extreme. But is being normal, being ordinary, really such a bad thing? Is it something inferior? Or, in truth, isn’t every normal?pp.242-3
I admit it. I grew up thinking it was important to be “special.” Ok, maybe I thought I was special. But I also thought it was important to prove that I was special. Words like “genius,” “brilliant,” “heroic,” or “successful” are all words that I grew up thinking it was important (essential?) for me to aspire to. The sense of responsibility was huge!
The idea that it takes courage to be normal turns all of that on its head! As I wrote the other day, getting over the fear of being disliked is like accepting the ways in which I am normal, especially in the sense of having flaws or not being perfect.
Incidentally, ever since I got married, life has taken on a feeling of, well, normalcy. And I’ve never been happier. The notion of having to be “special” now seems, I guess, a bit immature compared to the satisfying knowledge of where happiness really comes from.