When I talk and teach about the courage to be disliked in a small group setting, I often hear complaints that no one could possible live this way. No one would be willing to make others dislike them, even if it means giving up freedom. And they don’t see how this would make them feel happier.
So I have found that giving people examples from my own daily life illustrating how I DO use this practice is helpful to them.
The two main principles I want to illustrate are separation of tasks (also known as minding your own business) and the courage to be disliked (also known as refraining from people-pleasing).
The use of these principles can range from simple, everyday issues to serious, far-reaching issues.
Example One: My husband sits by the front window every day and watches what’s going on outside. Every day he says “Well, they moved that orange car parked in front of the neighbors house” or “Why do you think they have that flag in their front yard?” And my response to him every time he says these things is “I don’t really care.” It’s not relevant to me, it’s not my business, and frankly, I have more important things to think about.
This is a pretty benign example. But many people feel it’s their job to comment on everything, have an opinion on everything, and have their nose in everyone else’s business. And I just don’t. Unless someone is breaking the law and endangering my safety, what they are doing is irrelevant to me.
That means how you are living your life is not my business. Separation of tasks. It’s not my task to figure out why there’s a car parked in front of your house or why you have a flag in your yard. It’s your task. It’s also not my task to care what your sexual orientation is, who’s sleeping in your bedroom, how you spend your money, whether you believe in God, or whether or not you’ve had an abortion. Nothing about your life is my business, and I don’t even have an opinion on what you do, except to say you have the right to live the life you choose.
Example Two: My mother, grandmother, and aunt lived together for years in a house they bought together. When they began to get up in years and their health was failing, they told me that I would inherit their house when they all passed away. I went to the lawyer’s office with them and watched them sign the paperwork. Their intention was that after one of them passed away, the other two would inherit the house, then when the next one passed away the last one would inherit it, and then it would finally pass to me. But after my mother and grandmother died, my aunt was the only one left. I happened to run across some legal documents suggesting that my aunt had changed the will and left the house to my cousins instead. I won’t go into all the reasons she thought this was appropriate. But after a conversation with her I told her, if you leave things the way they are, I will go to court and contest the will, because this was not my mother and grandmothers wish. I told her, I don’t care if you hate me for it. But this is all I have left of my family and you are giving it away to someone else. And I won’t let that happen.
I was well aware that she made an emotional decision regarding the house and most likely the discussion about this would be an emotional one. And I knew it might permanently damage our relationship. But I had to speak my truth. And frankly, making the decision to give the house to someone else wasn’t her task. That decision had been made long ago. My task wasn’t to worry about how she was going to feel about the conversation or whether she was going to dislike me for it. My task was to right this wrong. I didn’t really care what she thought of me. And no matter how the situation turns out, my job is not to please her. It’s to please myself.
Example Three: Neither my son nor my daugher-in-law have driver’s licenses due to both of them having health issues that prevent them from driving. So I often take them to doctor’s appointments or to the grocery store. When I learned that my daughter-in-law’s son from a previous marriage was moving to our city, and was going to be living with them while he found a job, place to live, etc., I told them in no uncertain terms that I would not be providing transportation for her son, even though he will also not have a car when he gets here. I also have health issues, and coordinating our schedules to accommodate both their appointments and mine is very stressful. I hoped she would understand this and would not be offended. But if she was, well, that’s her issue. It’s not my task to find a way for him to get to his job and not my task to care about what they think of me. If they don’t like it, frankly, I’m not losing any sleep over it. My task is to take care of myself, not other able-bodied people. He is perfectly able to ride the bus or walk. Or they can pay for an Uber ride for him if they want. That's their task to figure out, not mine.
Example Four: Religion, politics, subjects like this can make for a very volatile discussion with friends and family. Frankly, I don’t care what your ideology is. It’s irrelevant to me. I don’t believe that embracing a certainty ideology is going to send me to hell, or that there is only one right way to think and believe. I only care about how you treat people. Treat people respectfully even if you don’t agree with them.
However, having said that, it’s each person’s responsibility to live their own best life. It’s not my responsibility to fight your battles for you. It’s not my task to make sure everyone believes everything that is right. It’s not even my task to decide what IS right. That is for each individual to decide. I do what pleases me and you should do what pleases you. It’s each person’s task to stay in their own business, not other people’s business. If everyone did that, there wold be a lot less conflict.
But instead, we feel it’s our job to legislate for everyone who is “right.” Never mind that what is “right” can’t be determined. Who’s deciding what is right? My opinion is s valid as yours. So there really is no objective way to decide that.
If it wasn’t for television, I wouldn’t even know what’s happening anywhere else, and I’d be happy. It’s because we pay too much attention to other people’s tasks that we are unhappy. Then we try to take on their responsibilities. And this makes us more unhappy.
Wouldn’t you rather be sitting on a beach somewhere, sipping a drink and reading a book? Then go do that, and let the rest of the world take care of itself.
If someone else’s life isn’t the way they want it to be, it’s their responsibility to change that. It’s not my responsibility, or anyone else’s. Separation of tasks.
That doesn’t mean I can’t participate in the lives of others. It just means I don’t HAVE to. I can choose not to, and that’s okay.
And if someone doesn’t like the way I live my life, it’s their task to disapprove and my task not to care what they think.
What bad thing do you think is going to happen if someone doesn’t like you? Maybe they won’t want to talk to you or be around you? Why is that such a bad thing? There are plenty of other people you can be with. I just don’t understand the need to be liked, so much that you’d rather give away your right to live your own life in return for being liked.
If one person doesn’t like you, there are a million others out there who will. You don’t need to depend on anyone else to make you feel good about yourself. That’s your task.