Duel: Self-improvement vs self-acceptance

February 13, 2012

in Answer me this

Now that 2012 New Years resolutions are either newly adopted habits or roadkill in the rearview, I’ve been thinking about the lengths we go — or should go — to better ourselves.

Like many, I am also often faced with small (or large) changes I’d like to make in myself.

  • The small: Shall I color my hair? Whiten my teeth?  Firm up my belly?
  • There’s the more intensive/expensive/invasive –shall I have spider veins on my legs removed?  Some of my girlfriends are talking about having “work done” — shall I  consider that?
  • Shifting from physical traits, should I aim to be a more attentive mom? A better homemaker?

Or, in each case, would be be better to accept What Is? Do I simply sabotage myself when I see parts of me that are half-empty when they could very well be half-full, good enough? Is it a duel or a dual?

When dealing with something you don’t like about yourself, what percentage of your efforts should go into changing it and what percentage should go into accepting it?

Are there different scenarios that have different rules? For example, a personality trait vs a physical trait? Easy to fix vs difficult to fix?

What is a healthy way to approach this dilemma?

How do you know whether you should change What Is or learn to like What Is?

Note: This is part of my Answer me this series and, as such, I am not actually looking for advice  (I’m way too skeered for plastic surgery). Rather, I’m wondering about the decision-making process you use in your own self-improvement/acceptance duality.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenn February 13, 2012 at 7:23 am

For me, I change things that I have control over that make me feel good about myself. I like the way that I feel after a haircut so I’ll put effort into that. I like the way I look if I use Crest Whitestrips, so I’ll spend some money on a pack of those twice a year. Bigger things that aren’t a quick fix I’ll spend more time accepting. God made me this way and I just need to love those things about me. But God didn’t give me a certain hairstyle so those things I’ll take into my own hands :-)

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Han February 13, 2012 at 7:43 am

I go first by instinct. Do I *know* internally that I need to make a change? If I’m uncertain I ask how permanent is the benefit of it? How many people will benefit from it? A haircut may not last long or benefit anyone but me, but if it makes my race training more convenient or boosts my self-confidence I see it as having more benefits that just vanity. Shifting my attitude toward gratitude was something that I thought I’d try because I knew it would be good for my outlook and I couldn’t think of any disadvantages – what I didn’t count on was the ways it would inspire others, so now I’m doubly glad I did it even on a whim.

I’m forever trying to see the unintended consequences ahead of time but it’s a fool’s errand that sometimes paralyzes me. The best way to make good decisions (about self-improvement or anything else) is to learn to trust your own judgement, educate yourself, and to gather around you those who will always tell it to you straight.

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Esperanza February 13, 2012 at 9:21 am

This is a subject very close to my heart. In fact, it’s so close to my heart that I think I want to write a post about it. Which I will do today! In the meantime I will say this, I believe that the drive for self-improvement is an important one, as long as it’s not destructive. That is where self-acceptance comes in. We must strive to be better but we must also accept when there is nothing more we can do. It’s a fine line, but an important one and I think we can only get better at recognizing and respecting it with mindfulness. More on this later today!

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Tara R. February 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm

As I get older, I’m more accepting of changes in my body, and not so worried about trying to improve or alter those changes.

(visiting via Blogger Comment Club)

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Corrin February 13, 2012 at 2:28 pm

For me, I know something needs to change when it’s affecting other areas of my life negatively. I need to lose weight because I’m short of breath, I need to tighten my budget I’m struggling at the end of the month, I need to change my appearance in some way because it’s causing me to have low self esteem. All are more than superficial changes that have a great impact.

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Esperanza February 13, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Well, I wrote my post! I hope you enjoy it.

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a February 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm

My husband is thin as a rail and blessed with a raging metabolism that craves only protein. I…am not. He’s also a tactless pain in the rear, and tells me how I’m putting on weight or how my butt is spreading. I like to tell him that this is the best I’m ever going to look again, because it’s all downhill from here. I’m 42, my metabolism is slowing, and I can either stop eating or quit my job to exercise full time.

That said, I know I need to eat better. I just don’t want to (said in my best whining voice). I’m getting closer – most of my favorite junk foods don’t taste too good to me anymore. I do have a regular exercise program, but I could and should do more.

I can’t be bothered much with my hair. I get it cut infrequently. I am unwilling to make the lifelong monetary commitment that starting to dye it would entail. I don’t want my daughter to grow up not knowing what color my hair actually is…although that still may be at the rate I’m graying.

In summary, I am very accepting of myself and self-improvement is an always present low-level drive.

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Von February 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Personally I view changes to make us better parents far more important than the veins in our legs but I’m just funny that way.

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jenny - Sugar Loco February 14, 2012 at 6:42 am

Interesting thought! I think you decide if it is harmful to others and yourself first? Would you be an overall better person if you changed – whether it be a personality trait or physical. You’ve really got me thinking on this one!

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Trina February 15, 2012 at 9:00 am

As I approach 40 I have come to terms with many things that I know that now it’s not worth changing. Like the flabby belly and arms. I can exercise more but do I really want to? I’ve come to accept who I am on the outside. I do feel that there is always room for improvement and growth on the inside. As we get older and our life changes we also come across many different situations and we need to have an open mind and heart.

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Mel February 16, 2012 at 10:35 am

I think when the discomfort comes from ME, I do something about it. When the discomfort is a reaction to someone else’s ideas, I think it’s better to leave those things alone. Included in that are the messages we receive from outsiders (especially the media) on how we should want to look.

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