Obsessed With Self-Improvement? Try Self-Acceptance

Photo by h.koppdelaney

Photo by h.koppdelaney

“No amount of self-improvement can make up for any lack of self-acceptance.” ~ Robert Holden

Many of us are driven by an excessive need for self-improvement. Surely, being focused on self-improvement has many positives. That’s how we strive to become a better professional, parent or spouse. We deepen our self-awareness and reform our limiting beliefs and behaviours. That’s how we evolve as a society.

The dark side of self-improvement

However, an obsessive need for self-improvement is unhealthy, primarily because it usually originates from a sense of inadequacy within – a feeling of not being good enough. We then try too hard – not only because of an intrinsic motivation to get better, but also to enhance our sense of self-worth and to prove it to others.

We seek perfection in everything – it’s our subconscious attempt at feeling complete in our own eyes and those of others. However, despite any progress, we are always short of our ideal (which we are incidentally constantly upgrading). Needing external validation, we compare ourselves with others and are routinely disappointed as there’s always someone richer, smarter, more successful or better looking than us.

Healthy balance between self-improvement and self-acceptance

Excessive focus on self-improvement without sufficient self-acceptance makes us self-critical and reinforces our sense of inadequacy. On the other hand, high self-acceptance without any consciousness towards self-improvement makes us complacent and arrogant. The sweet spot lies in building a healthy balance between the two.

We then don’t pursue self-improvement from an orientation of lack or inadequacy, but from a place of confidence and completeness. While we are aware of our opportunities for improvement, we fully recognise our strengths. We don’t judge our true thoughts or feelings and deny or suppress them, we acknowledge and accept them. This helps us be more at peace with who we truly are.

Such self-acceptance requires greater self-compassion. With that, the journey of change becomes less stressful and effortless. We experience a healthy dose of contentment and progress. Besides, as we learn to unconditionally love ourselves for who we are, we also become open to accepting others as they are. We start to connect with the goodness in everyone and that helps us nurture deeper relationships.

Ideas towards building higher self-acceptance

Stop judging yourself

We frequently judge ourselves – our body, health, intellect, skills, relationships, lovability, success and so forth. We need to start by acknowledging our thoughts and feelings about what we don’t like about ourselves. Bringing them out in the open allows us to face them. Then, we can start to accept those parts of ourselves that we are uncomfortable with – not from a sense of resignation but a genuine acceptance of the different facets of our being.

Reasons you are lovable

As Louise Hay suggested, “You have been criticising yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” I recommend writing 30 reasons you believe you are a lovable person. Talk to your spouse, children or close friends to build this list. You maybe pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Remind yourself of the key items from this list regularly.

Reasons you are grateful

We often take our life gifts, uniqueness, positive experiences, and lucky breaks for granted in life. Reminding ourselves of these makes us feel more comforted, less anxious and more self-assured. Write 30 reasons you should feel grateful in life. Recall the key pieces from this list regularly.

Letting go of the need to be perfect

You are wonderful and perfect the way you are. Being wholesome and balanced in your approach is far healthier than constantly seeking perfection in everything.

Avoid comparison with others

Comparing ourselves with others is demeaning to our emotional self. Unfortunately, we routinely do it to ourselves and to our loved ones. Each of us is unique and special in our own way. Celebrate your uniqueness and that of the others, without considering anyone to be superior or inferior.

Be less self-critical

Try not to be too hard on yourself. We all have limitations, make mistakes and experience setbacks. Consider it as a part of the human experience and don’t take it personally. Be more compassionate and forgiving to yourself.

Practice positive affirmations

Regularly writing or recalling positive statements about ourselves is a great way to remind our psyche that we are adequate, complete and lovable the way we are. Here are some sample statements:

  • I am complete, whole and perfect the way I am
  • I love myself deeply and so does the universe and others around me
  • I have a wonderful life and am so grateful for it
  • I am thankful for all my experiences in life as they help me learn and grow in my eternal journey
  • I see myself being healthy, happy, successful and enjoying loving relationships

Focus on intrinsic goals

Consider creating personal goals that are aligned to your true self. Whether it’s your choice of profession or life partner, your views on success or happiness, choose to honour your core values – not what’s merely popular around you. Search within for your deeper purpose in life and commit to living it – this would support you in connecting with your higher self.

Engage in things that you enjoy

Trying to be perfect and driven by obsession with self-improvement, you maybe always pursuing activities that you should be rather than those that you want to or enjoy? From time to time, letting yourself indulge in what you enjoy is a way to acknowledge your desires. Valuing yourself this way strengthens your self-acceptance.

Spend time in nature

Being in nature helps us connect with the rhythms of the universe, nourishes our soul, and takes us away from our limiting and self-centred mindset.

Invest in nurturing relationships

Low self-acceptance usually comes in the way of developing deep, open and nurturing relationships. Invest time and energy towards developing healthy relationships, particularly with like-minded people with whom you can be yourself and share your true thoughts and feelings.

Help others

Seek opportunities to help others. Be kind to people around you in everyday life. Consider volunteering for a social cause that you care about. Helping others honours our inner goodness, weakens the hold of our judgmental mind, and makes us feel grateful and lighter.

To learn more about Rajiv's book, 'Discovering Your Sweet Spot', or to place an order online, please click here.

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