Self Acceptance vs Personal Growth

Does Self Acceptance Diminish or Lessen the Desire for Personal Growth?
Do we stop evolving if we really become accepting of our self? 

Dear Gary,

I just wanted to ask you how one can balance gaining more self-awareness and gain confidence without losing drive to improve one’s self? How can we balance self-improvement (which I think we can all agree each of us could definitely use) with being okay with who we are and liking ourselves where we are all as well?

Thank you for your time,  KC


Hi KC,
The short answer is”  How can we not?
Yet this may seem flippant, and not resolve the dilemma of the question. However, if you look at the question closely it has assumptions in which the dilemma is created.  Your question assumes that if we come to a state of self acceptance (read no longer judge our selves with rejecting criticism) then will some how stop changing, evolving and improving.  The hidden assumption here is that change, improvements, and growth only arise from rejecting criticism.     We might as well say, “the only way one can grow is through rejecting criticism,”  yet when we say it this way, it sounds ugly and untrue.  But the question seems to hide that assumption.  It may be that I am wrong about this as email doesn’t allow for any tone, attitude, emotion, etc.  So my assumption is that this is the belief in the implied subtext, or else there would not be a dilemma or a question.
Pivot the question to this:  What can inspire us to grow, change, and better ourselves?
I’ll fill in some of my answers: Beauty, Love, Compassion, Respect, Gratitude, Generosity.
When we see these attributes modeled in another, they inspire us to do the same.  It can be as simple as hearing an artist play a beautiful piece of music, and invokes the desire to play it that well our selves.  Or we witness an act of kindness and see the impact on others.  We witness the power it has to change a person and we decide to do the same. In these ways of Beauty, Love, Compassion Respect, etc we are inspired and grow far more than we ever could only by judgment.
Hope that helps.      Gary
I would like to ask, however, do you feel as though there is a place for judgement at times? I would agree that we can grow and improve much greater in the presence of inspiration than criticism and judgment, however such inspiration doesn’t always have an effect on us and isn’t even always there for us to experience (or at least very difficult to find or easily overlooked)… sometimes we need more of a “slap upside the head” if you will, to really make us realize how ugly our behavior is or has become. Our self image can be so misguided that we can think that we’re not so bad until we’re really harsh with ourselves. And I feel that sometimes the only time we really can get motivated to make needed changes in ourselves (no matter how much inspiration is around us) is to get mad at ourselves for not doing xyz

Hi Again KC,

We need clear feed back and we need to make assessments about things in terms of what we like, what we don’t like, what works, and what isn’t working. We also need awareness. If I am harsh with my words or angry and it hurts others at times I will continue as long as I am oblivious.  If I am aware, I will see how others respond and feel when I act that way.  That clarity will inform me and I have a chance to change.  However, many people who are wrapped up in their drama are not aware and so don’t notice the detriment of their behavior on others.  Because of this, it seems to take a “slap in the face” before they notice, or we notice what we are doing.  However, as a person becomes aware, they can change without the harshness.
To further complicate the matter, even if someone knows they are doing some thing angry and hurtful to someone else, they may not have the tools to change that behavior.  Often this is the case.  That person thinks about their behavior later, and berates themselves for days.   However, this berating, beating themselves up, self-judgment etc actually causes more emotional pain, and that can lead to more anger.  In this case the very self judgment that we expect to help with change actually creates more anger than reduces it.  It is helpful to be aware that self judgment and the “slap in the face” thing doesn’t necessarily lead to change either.  For effective personal change to happen we will need a good set  of tools, and to develop our awareness.  Judgment and criticism alone is not enough.  It is for this reason that I put together the Self Mastery Course. 
Things that I call “judgments” I specifically  mean are expressions of rejection.  That’s an expression of an unpleasant emotion.   I can so “No thank you.” with gratitude and appreciation, without expressing rejection.  So with this specific meaning in mind, no, I don’t believe we need to be judgmental.  I’ve gotten along fine without it the last 10 years.
And overall, I’ve changed a lot more through a self acceptance approach then through any criticism.
Hope that helps.