Self-Improvement and Self-Acceptance: Why We Need Both

At the beginning of the year we are overwhelmed with campaigns and ads trying to change us, promising we can become the next best version of ourselves. We hear “new year, new you”, “be your best self now!,” and a myriad of other slogans anytime we turn on the radio, or see an ad on the internet. These brands know their audience–they have witnessed the desire many of us have to get the next promotion, lose the weight, or conquer the next challenge.

As many people have found however, there is always a “next thing” on the other side of the success.

Self-improvement on it’s own can feel like a never-ending hamster wheel, and can even leave us feeling like there is something missing. The reality is, while there are many benefits to embarking in a self-improvement journey, what tends to make it a valuable investment of our time and effort or not is our motivation.

Do we want to lose weight so we can live a long life, be active with our grandkids, and participate in activities that we enjoy? Or do we believe seeing a certain number on a scale, or size on your jeans is the price of acceptance and love?

Is the thing we are looking to improve done out of a desire for growth and care for yourself or others, or done out of self-deprecation and punishment?

If we cannot learn to accept ourselves, we will never truly be fulfilled with our improvement, no matter how externally impressive it is. So, how do we manage to balance out our desire to grow and move forward, while fostering self-acceptance of who we are now? 

Self-acceptance asks us to….well, accept ourselves.

Can we believe that we are generally okay as we are? Sure, we could always be a better person, spouse, employee, friend. And, as we are, right this minute, are we doing alright? Much of the time, we’ll find out that we aren’t doing as poorly as we think.

When we can believe that we are accepted as we are now, we can begin the process of self-improvement with more confidence, compassion, and grace. When our value as a person isn’t contingent upon an outcome, we often are able to give ourselves permission to dream bigger, go farther, and achieve more.

It is a tension to manage, and we won’t get it right all of the time but it is a balance worthy of pursuit.

Written By: Courtney Hintermeyer