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  • Writer's pictureHargun Sachdev

Book review: I Decided To Live As Me by Kim Soo-Hyun

Updated: Mar 22

The goal of the book as penned by the author:

For an ordinary person to stop being envious of something they are not, to endure the gold gaze of others, and to live as they really are.

The book is divided into six parts or ‘to-do lists’ with each part having short essays and contemplations (items on that to-do list) touching on a variety of themes under that concept. The six parts are:

  1. Live with self-respect to do list

  2. In order to live like myself to do list

  3. Not to be caught by anxiety to do list

  4. In order to live together to do list

  5. For a better life to do list

  6. For a good and meaningful life to do list

Who is this book for?

For anybody in their 20s really. 30s, too, perhaps. If you feel burdened by the responsibilities of life, the expectations of others, the unfairness of the world and the insensitivity of others and feel like no matter how hard you work, you never have enough or you never are enough – this book is for you.

Kim Soo-Hyun has written I Decided To Live As Me as a comfort book to all of us trying to do our best in life. It’s not sugar-coated words of encouragement, it’s not mindless motivation, it’s not positive trite advice. It’s insights from the writer’s life, from psychology, philosophy, economics, and more weaved beautifully in simple and sticking analogies.

Just like not having to abstain from eating after consuming spoiled food, you don’t have to cut off all your relationships because of a single lousy person. What matters is the sense of smell you use to distinguish spoiled food, and having that insight not to stay with insincere people.

I can’t really peg it as a self-help book. It felt like a weekend spent in a seaside town with a stranger who shines brightly without being perfect where we sit for long hours and discuss our thoughts and feelings about everything.

The book has left me with a sense of warmth and feeling less lonely. Kim Soo-Hyun definitely achieved her goal of leaving the readers with comfort.

There’s a book entitled, No Matter How You Live Your Life, I Will Support You. But the one who needs this support the most is myself. Thus, to myself who will stay with me until my final breath, be sure to say this today: No matter how I live my life, I will support myself.

But this book isn’t all feel-good encouragement. Oh, no. It is well-balanced with something I wouldn’t quite call ‘tough-love’ but just an honest and objective call-out on human behaviour and the way we work.

Even if we want to believe that time will heal everything, there are problems that can’t be solved by time, like we can’t rely on fairies for doing our delayed assignments for us while we sleep.

Illustrations and themes

I Decided To Live As Me has really cute, aesthetic illustrations.

But they aren’t just cute. They are also on-point to go with the different themes and concepts that the writer is talking about. What are these themes? Everything that we as humans deal with in life:

  1. Self love, self worth, sense of self

  2. Work life, capitalism, money

  3. Friends and lovers

  4. Family and society

  5. Generational differences

  6. Social media

  7. Art

A view on the Korean society

There were also such great insights about the Korean culture due it’s socio-economic make up that I greatly related to because honestly a lot of is the case with Indian culture too. The basic differences between the east and the west – in what we value, in how our society wrongs us, in what we have to unlearn and how we can find our own answers. Example?

In a collectivist culture, a group’s goal and harmony is prioritized more than individual freedom, and people are controlled in order for the group to survive. These things are already exhausting but the bigger problem is the ‘method’ of how people are controlled. In individualistic societies, society controls people using ‘guilt’ and collectivist societies usually control the individual using ‘humiliation’. If guilt is feeling ashamed about oneself, humiliation is feeling ashamed about oneself based on how others see them. This is why we control each other and are expected to constantly be conscious of others.

Translation to English

I Decided To Live As Me (나는 나로 살기로 했다) is translated from Korean to English by Ma. Kristina Carlo Rico and Bae Kyung-min.

I have a feeling that the original book in Korean would have had a more witty and funny tone that was slightly lost in translation (my assumption) but nonetheless, I could still pick up quite a few of those sassy/sarcastic bits.

BTS recommended book?

I read that this book became super popular when BTS’s Jungkook was seen with it in Bon Voyage Season 3. I don’t really follow BTS but I am kinda really happy that this book, because of Jungkook, got the recognition that it deserves.

Wrapping up

Straightforward, witty, comforting, aesthetic and relatable, I Decided To Live Like Me is a hands down 5-star read for me. I am saving the author’s second book for when I need to savour it as precious ambrosia in a difficult season of my life.

Please check out Kim Soo-Hyun’s Instagram where she posts her gorgeous illustrations and writing. Also, I have made a separate post listing more quotes from the book that I absolutely loved, so you can check that out too.

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