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How to reconcile self-acceptance and self-improvement?

15 juni 2017 • Compassion, Psychology


“I am told to accept myself exactly as I am. I must love myself, embrace myself, including the parts I may not like so much, or perhaps even judge. I am already perfect….’

But hang on – is it wrong to want to be a better person? To want to be more patient with my partner, or more understanding of my kids?
How can I become better at my profession if I stop improving myself? If I stop taking any courses and training, will I not just start lagging behind in my trade? And is it wrong to acknowledge that, compared to my teachers, I still have a lot to learn?

Is wanting to love myself more in itself not self-improvement?”

There seems to be a huge paradox in the ‘stop wanting to improve yourself and start accepting yourself’ message. I have this conversation with my clients and students regularly.
If I accept myself, will I become a self-indulgent, egotistic prat?

Here’s the thing.
Self-acceptance and self-improvement are NOT mutually exclusive.
The key is, that self-improvement needs to come from a place of self-acceptance.
Let me clarify that.

Many of us are constantly self-improving because deep down we feel we are not good enough. I recently wrote this blog about that.
If that feeling is our main motivator, we will never be done self-improving because the feeling of not being good enough is a bottomless pit.
Moreover, fear and a sense of inadequacy do not a safe and fertile learning environment. We learn best when we feel safe, accepted, and comfortable enough to make mistakes and ask questions.

Of course there is always more to learn. And there is nothing wrong with a healthy curiosity, a hunger for knowledge and understanding, and eagerness to learn. Of course you want to learn about better ways of communicating, if unhelpful communication keeps getting you into trouble. Sure you want to learn about healthy cooking, or organic gardening, or mindful parenting.
But that doesn’t mean you are not good enough UNTIL you have done so.

If you have a kid in the first grade and one in the sixth grade, is the sixth grader a better kid because she is in a higher class? Of course not! You love them both, unconditionally. They can learn more, become really skilled, knowledgeable and wise, but that doesn’t mean you would love them better.

I don’t have kids, but I have this with Soph, my dog. She is, as you may know from previous blogs, a difficult one. But if she learnt better social skills I couldn’t love her any more than I already do. I accept her fully.

So this is my invitation to you: love yourself like I love Soph. Unconditionally, flaws and room for growth and all. That is the perfect learning place.

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