In personal development, there are two opposing viewpoints:
Self acceptance versus self improvement.
The self acceptance group promotes loving yourself unconditionally, no matter what. Even if everything in your life as turned to crap, it’s perfectly fine because you’re still you. On the other hand you have people who tell you that you should always be improving yourself and get better.
It can be confusing…
And so what I wanna do in this post is to break down the viewpoints of both philosophies of personal development and guide you towards (what I think) the right balance of the two is. After reading this (or watching the video below), my goal for you is to have a different perspective about what it means to love yourself while you’re on this wonderful journey called life.
Not a huge fan of reading? Watch the 5-minute video instead:
What Does Self Acceptance Mean?
Let’s first go to the edges of the spectrum and understand the extremes. In turn, you can see how moderate amounts of both self acceptance and self improvement can be a tremendously powerful force for your own life.
While I am a huge fan of self acceptance, there is an extreme side to it that gets advocated.
Society in general if overcoddling people.
There is a high degree of “Oh don’t worry about it. It’s not your fault. You’re just a victim of the system, and because none of this is on you, you should love yourself.” When someone is at their lowest of lows you’ll get people show sympathy by saying to them that they shouldn’t worry about it, because it’s not their fault.
The advice (usually) some from a good place.
Well intended, but still quite misguided.
Pros of the Self Acceptance Way of Thinking
And let’s be clear, there are benefits of thinking in terms of self acceptance vs a “Get better!” kind of approach.
For many people, it’s soothing to some degree. It allows them to feel better about themselves and their reality, and by god, it’s a lot better than tearing one’s self up! Beating yourself up is not going to produce any kind of positive result in life.
You NEED a healthy level of self love and self acceptance to live a happy life.
When you love yourself unconditionally, it allows you to be less desperate and needy. It allows someone to be more stoic and more in control of their day to day life. It allows people a bigger capacity to go out and get results. After all, someone who hates life and themself wouldn’t put in the same effort to reach a worthwhile goal, because they don’t believe they deserve it.
And so, self love is crucial.
The Cons of Self Acceptance
There’s an issue however:
When you love yourself too much, you’re at the risk of getting complacent.
There are definitely people out there who are nowhere near their potential because they feel no need or pressure to improve themselves. Now, I’ve got nothing against that, if you’re happy with the life you’re living, fantastic!
However, for many people that kind of self acceptance is a huge fear.
People are often afraid that if they love themselves unconditionally, without having reached their ambitions, they will stay stuck.
Kinda like this kid right here.
And yes, there are definitely a lot of people that have lost their drive this way. People who are comfortable where they’re at, but not fully enjoying it, because they know they’re not living up to their potential.
Which brings us to self improvement.
What Does Self Improvement Mean?
It might seem obvious, but let’s cover it to make sure that we’re on the same page.
Self improvement, a.k.a. always striving to get better, personal development, personal growth, neverending improvement, personal responsibility and so on. Basically, all of these terms (and more) come down to the same thing. It’s about a person’s drive to become the absolute best version of themself that they can be.
It could be in 1 area of life, or (preferably) in more or all of them.
Now, I’m a huge proponent of personal development.
In fact, if you know my story, I literally owe my life to it!
It is my strong belief that we are most happy in life when we are making progress! The times in my life when I was depressed were times when I wasn’t just in a tough spot, but where I also stayed stuck. On the other hand, my most proud, fulfilling and happiest moments are when I’m rocking and (steam)rolling towards greater things.
Self improvement is a personal journey of mine that won’t stop (until the day I die of course).
The Pros of Self Improvement
Again, pretty obvious but let’s go:
The main benefit is that we’re getting closer and closer to the people we know we were meant to become! I’m sure that you have had this feeling that you can do so much more with your life. If you hadn’t you wouldn’t be here, would you?
I’m not sure what your goals are however.
- Maybe you want to get in great physical shape
- Perhaps meet (and attract) your dream partner
- Gain more status and prestige
- Improve your career and make more moolah
- Support a cause you care deeply about
- All of the above?
- Something entirely different?
However, what I DO know is that all of those goals are on the other side of self improvement. Your potential is way bigger than the goals you hold for yourself, I can assure you that! It’s on the other side of developing your skills and discipline.
And so, I’d recommend watching this video when you have the time:
Sidenote: Let me know what goals you’re working towards and how I can help and guide you in achieving that.
The Cons of Self Improvement
Here’s the main issue quite a few people have:
“If I’m reaching for this bigger potential, the person I desire to be, then doesn’t that mean that I suck right now?”
And so, self improvement (if misguided) can become a bad thing.
There are many people who fall into the bad habit of beating themselves up. Of hating themselves with a passion. Of believing they are not good enough. Of thinking that they suck.
It’s quite devastating to know how many people are like that….
Visualizing Self Acceptance Versus Self Improvement in a Healthy Way
As I hinted at before, there is a healthy compromise.
Think about this:
Is a 10-year old kid any less of a child when it cannot do the same things that a 20-year old can?
Of course not!
The difference in abilities does not make the 10-year old any less of a person in the same way that it doesn’t make the 20-year old superior. Both are on their own respective paths and growing over time. And that’s perfectly fine.
Let me tell you:
When I think back to myself even 5 years ago, I cringe…
Compared to the person I am today, that version of myself pales in comparison. And guess what, I’m fully convinced that in another 5 years I will look back at my present day self and have the same kind of reaction.
I call this the cringe test.
If you can look back at your old self and cringe, it shows that you’ve grown a lot!
But here’s what I want you to realize:
Just like the 10-year old is going to grow up and become smarter, stronger, bigger, older and grow up in every way imaginable, you are on a path to growth as well! And just like there is nothing wrong with the child because it can’t do the same things an adult can, there is nothing wrong with your current self!
You are PERFECT for your current life!
However, at the same time, realize that your FUTURE life can be so much grander!
And so the key to a happy and fulfilling life is to love you unconditionally for who you are, while you’re always striving to go to that next level in life! One does not exclude the other! And so move forward with confidence, love yourself and never give up until you build the life that you truly desire!