How do we accept what we need to change about ourselves without hating ourselves, and how can we love ourselves without becoming egocentric and cocky?
To live a happy and fulfilling life, we need both self-appreciation and self-improvement. However, there are elements of both that we must be wary of—they are not homogenous ideas or practices. The goal is to recognize how you can love yourself and be critical of yourself in positive ways that promote natural growth, while simultaneously avoiding negative thought patterns that inhibit your growth and self-expression.
Let’s start with self-appreciation. I cannot stress enough the importance of loving yourself. We tell other people we love them, but how often do we say it to ourselves? Don’t be afraid to be proud of yourself, because having faith and confidence in yourself is what frees you to take chances and take on new challenges, and only then can we rise up and exceed our own expectations. Self-appreciation gives us the confidence to break free and develop our own individual selves and lives.
However, we need to reject the part of self-appreciation where we become attached to aspects of ourselves, and then become stuck and unable to grow and change into the new selves that we’re becoming. You have a self, a beautiful and special individuality, but that self is not static. It’s always changing and growing into a new being. Even the most positive of qualities can become smothering and strangling if they become stagnant or so habitual that you lose control over your behavior and it begins to control you. Attachment to aspects of yourself is at the heart of egocentrism—it becomes a means of judgment of and comparison to others. A very wise quote reads, “We hate others because they remind us of something that we hate about ourselves.” When we try to see ourselves as free of any imperfections, we reject the part of ourselves that is inherently imperfect, and we become extremely sensitive to and critical of the imperfections of others. We become detached from that very real part of humanity that is imperfect. Without these imperfections, we can never truly accept and love others or ourselves.
Now, self-improvement. Change is one of the most universal and beautiful parts of our lives: We grow from children to adults, we move from place to place, and we learn more and have new experiences that constantly alter our perspectives. Embrace the fact that you are not the same person you were five years ago, six months ago, or even yesterday, and you will not be the same person tomorrow, six months from now, or five years from now. You are an individual full of infinite potential, but it requires hard and directed work toward your goals to become the person you want to become.
However, we need to reject the part of self-improvement where we turn self-denigrating and become ashamed or afraid of a certain part of ourselves, which halts our growth just as much as self-attachment. This will keep us from facing the truth, which will keep us from accepting and loving ourselves, which will keep us from being ourselves. We’re constantly inundated with self-depreciating input from commercials and advertisements telling us what we need to look like, act like, and talk like. We need to expunge from our minds the idea that we can’t define for ourselves what is right for us. Being like or unlike other people is not a basis upon which to judge our own worth. You are not perfect, but neither is anyone else, and we are all changing all the time.
In a healthy mental and emotional state, the concepts of self-improvement and self-appreciation are not separate; they become integrated into a simultaneous practice of constantly learning and growing, being open to change and new experiences, and letting self-love and self-respect provide the stability and motivation to keep pushing ourselves further. All parts of you are important and meaningful. The negative parts show you what you can work toward, and the positive ones show you what you can be proud of and how far you have come.