What is self-improvement? What is self-acceptance?
Ah, yes. Self Improvement. It’s a fairly new phenomenon if you ask the baby boomers. Basically, self-improvement is working to change or better yourself through your own means. We read books, go to therapy, study our personalities, and make all sorts of goals for ourselves. It’s a good thing! Well, for the most part. Because when is enough enough?
Next up we have self-acceptance. This is exactly what it sounds like: accepting ourselves as is and being ok with it. Self-acceptance is when you stop going on roller coasters because you don’t like them and you are darn sure you never will. You are not a roller coaster person and you aren’t going to do anything to change it. Congratulations! You have accepted yourself! But when is self-acceptance harmful?
Also, let’s be clear about something. Self-acceptance does NOT equal self-love. To accept something you do not have to LIKE it. Keep that in mind when we talk about being fluffy, mmk?
Self Improvement vs. Self Acceptance: the line
A lot of people won’t like this, but the line between when you should ‘improve yourself’ or ‘accept yourself’ is based on WHO you are doing it for. If you do any self-improvement for someone else it ain’t gonna stick. And if you are accepting something about yourself that you desperately want to change because you’re putting someone else first… that relationship will not end well. Yes, this includes your beloved children if you have them.
So what am I saying here? I’m saying that the line between self-improvement and self-acceptance is based on YOUR desires. If you are trying to lose weight to make someone jealous or to look good in the eyes of other people, chances are you will fail. Or worse, succeed and then rebound HARD.
On the flip side, if you are holding back on going back to school because you need to spend that time on your home and family guess what happens? You begin to resent your home and family. I know it sounds corny, but whether you accept or improve something about yourself ONLY depends on YOU and what YOU want. No one else. Not your kids, your mom, your dog, or the president. If it is not for YOU then you will most likely fail.
Woah, Woah, Woah Rebekah! That sounds harsh!
It is. And it should be. Think about it for a second. If we ALL worked to only every improve ourselves we are all working to become the same person more or less. And that is BORING! We need to be different, have different wants and needs, as well as varying perspectives to keep our society going. OK, let’s get out of the philosophy deep end.
I’m not saying we should all just run around doing whatever we want all the time. Of course, we need to put our families, friends, jobs, etc first sometimes. That’s life! However, when it comes down personal self-improvement vs. self-acceptance? That has to be all you.
It might be better if I explain a little more in specific scenarios. So here goes.
Self Improvement examples
This is a HUGE one on the self-improvement front! We are BOMBARDED with commercials, social media posts, well-meaning friends and family about our weight and what they think should be. I speak from the heart when I tell you that losing weight for anyone but yourself is futile. I have tried to use my kids as a motivator for years. And guess what? I’m still fluffy. The big message that seems to come across in success stories is that folks who reach their goal weight tend to do it for THEMSELVES over and above anyone else. So if you have weight to lose, but don’t want to do it for your own self? You might want to jump down to self-acceptance example #1.
If there is something, ANYTHING, that you want to learn you should definitely go learn it. If you have someone breathing down your neck to get a degree or certification that you could give two shits about… don’t do it. Learning new things is a great method of self-improvement! But only if you’re going to use your new knowledge in a meaningful way.
I’ll admit it, I think this is one form of self-improvement that should be mandatory. Therapy is for EVERYONE. Improving your coping skills, learning more about what truly drives you, and how to communicate better is a glorious improvement for everyone. Unless your therapist is some sort of cult leader, I say go to therapy. But if someone is MAKING you go? Chances are it won’t be as profound. I think you’re starting to catch my drift.
I remember when I was running regularly before my wedding. I couldn’t break the 3-mile mark. I just couldn’t. I was running to look good in my dress and while I was pounding the pavement all I thought about was the look on my husband’s face when I emerged and walked down the aisle. Sure, that sounds like a good motivator, and yet I never even managed the 5k distance. Fast forward 9 years and I finished a half marathon. What was the difference? Instead of imagining the look on someone else’s face when they saw how good I looked, I spent my time running thinking about how *I* would feel crossing the finish line. Hmm, I wonder why I got so much further in the second scenario? (Hint: because I did it for ME!)
Self Acceptance Examples
How you look or what you weigh
I have mentioned it a few times now, but weight loss will not happen (or stick around) unless you do it for YOU. This is why I am still fluffy. I have lost weight for my kids, for an event, to make other people envy me, but never for ME. So currently, I accept my physique. Do I like it? Nope, not really. But I’m not in the right mindset to do it for ME. So for now, I accept it. Does this mean I don’t try to be healthy? Absolutely not! It just means that weight loss is not the be-all-end-all goal for me right now.
Your personal likes and dislikes
If you know that you don’t like something, some person, or someplace… just let it be! If you love something, enjoy it! We see this particular battle of self-improvement vs. self-acceptance a lot in teenagers. Listening to music they don’t like or participating in things they don’t enjoy. FOR SOMEONE ELSE! You guys, it’s ok to accept something you KNOW you like or don’t like. No, this is not an excuse to never eat vegetables, you should still TRY things!
Your innate personality
I have fallen prey to this particular pitfall more than I care to admit. I am me, gloriously awkward me. I have tried to be the professional, the perfect mother, the carefree go-lucky person everyone else wants me to be. But the thing is… I never wanted to be any of those things. Other people wanted me to be those things. If there is a part of you that YOU want to change, then, by all means, change it! I wanted more patience with my kids. So I worked hard to develop it. And guess what? I have more patience now. Had their dad told me to have more patience, I may have tried, but it wouldn’t have stuck.
I am a Type 1 Diabetic. There are things I cannot do. There are limits that no matter how hard you work they will not change. I am also very short. I’m not going to be able to dunk a basketball. Should you never challenge your limits? Heck, no! Go back and read the part about how I ran a half marathon this year! But, in general, most of us will have limits. and that’s ok! Accept them and move on.
The one thing that matters is YOU
So there you have it, folks! The line in terms of self-improvement vs. self-acceptance is YOU! You are what makes the delineation between what you accept and what you improve. No one else. Only you!