Self Acceptance Or Self Improvement?

by Lisa

Question:

Hi Adam, I really enjoy your website. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

My question has to do with acceptance. I have started slowly to accept myself and life unconditionally. As before I was fighting with myself constantly on trying to improve everything and myself. 

However now that i accept myself and life I do feel a sense of relief and peace. however if i just accept everything just as it is instead of fighting it, does that mean things will stay the same or will things improve? And what is your opinion on reading too much self help books in order to better yourself? Thank you.


Response:

Hello Lisa,

Thanks for your message, I’m glad the site had been useful for you.

I wrote something to post on the facebook page a few days ago, and your question has reminded me to post it:

“As you are, you are not quite enough” seems to be a general message in society. “You can be enough and you will be enough, but not quite yet. There is still something left undone, not finished in your life, and so you are not quite whole. You can’t accept yourself fully until something else happens. To accept yourself as you are is lazy, unambitious, weak or just doesn’t make sense, since progression is natural in life.”

If you accepted yourself as you are completely, whatever you take yourself to be, then you are out of the game, but still able to be used by life in whichever way suits your expression.


So allowing yourself and your life to be as they are, does not imply that things then suddenly remain the same forever. We learn that our personal minds are the main drivers of the universe, that nothing gets done unless we have strong desires to make them happen. You may well have some desire to do this or that, but if there is great resistance in the mind, complaining, seeing the wrong or the lacking, always feeling as if “now is not enough”, then there is no room for anything powerful or creative to emerge through you. The resistance can also act as a kind of block for allowing life to flow more freely, and change or shift if it wishes.

When you resist something, the attention goes towards it. It makes whatever is being resisted seem bigger, more real, more solid and significant and apparently permanent. Then it becomes a larger part of your reality or experience. Nonresistance means you aren’t focused on what you don’t want, the attention is more relaxed back into its formless source, which tends to evoke feelings of more lightness and freedom. If you have ever looked into any “law of attraction” teachings, they often speak about not focusing on and resisting the “bad” since this lowers your vibration so that you attract more of it. Nonresistance means that space opens up, lightness, abundance and timelessness within is felt, and natural gratitude can arise. This can then begin to influence the “outer” things.

But if there is acceptance as a tactic to improve the life that I don't like and don't want, then the foundation is still resistance. Be aware of that, the resistance-base of human thinking is very engrained, but unnecessary.

You have probably noticed that any actions or intentions coming from resistance have lost their power and are just painful. Letting go means that you do not feel in personal control anymore. It means realeasing expectations of what the world “should” look like and what you “should” be and act like. Again it is possible that some dream or goal arises in you, but it will not be a tactic to escape some kind of unworthiness or lack that you feel. It will just be a creative expression that feels good.

Or maybe not. If there is a real surrender, then it doesn’t matter so much what happens in terms of life changes. It is not the be-all and end-all of things. But you will find in your own way that life has a tremendous intelligence and wisdom of its own.

Self-help books can be useful of course, but they can support the constant idea that “you are not enough, and the way your life is is not good enough.” If people did not have this attitude engrained into them from an early age, then perhaps the self-help industry would begin to crumble. Even marketing for self-help material can involve a subtle sense that you need this book or product to make you feel complete.

With that said, I have used them before, some are very good and life-changing. But as you may be feeling, no matter what you read, if your self that you are trying to improve is personal, then it will always need improving. It will always have flaws, seek more, be wanting to be better than it is. You can improve in things, that is fine, but the real “self” is beneath it, embracing it, the selfless self, the emptiness which is perfect so needs no improvement.

Any character traits or flaws that are undesirable tend to dissolve much more easily when there is no fight against them. If there is no fight, they burn up, are naturally disidentified with, or are naturally seen as futile.

Remember that everything in life changes. Nothing ever stays the same. To assume things will not change in life is never correct, because at some point they always do.

Since birth we are taught that now is not enough. We are always taught to wait for the next good or bad thing that will happen. The idea of lack permeates many societies and education systems. Surrendering can feel like dying, something may scream inside “No, no!” but let that happen as well. 

I don’t know what your situation is. If something is intolerable, allowing the intolerance can make a way out seem clearer. If a way out or a way to change something is not clear, then in your experience you will probably notice that fighting does not evoke much intelligent action. If you feel as if a change is required but do not know what to do, then accept that you do not know. Be open about it, without trying to pretend you have all the answers in life. When there is space, there is wisdom.

Most people, even if there are fed, clothed, housed, still have an underlying sense that "my life is not good enough. I should have a better career, more money, a bigger house, more space" and things like that. There is nothing wrong with these things moving into your life, but people often think that the way to get what they want is to condemn what they don't want. A mental picture, a story of "my life" is compared to "the life I want", and then often "my life" is condemned as "not good enough." That seems to be a major part of the human condition, at least in the west. What we never get taught is that this condemnation of the now creates a false sense of misery, and solidifies our sense of identity as being separate from the whole. How can we expect more good stuff if we are thinking about the bad stuff? We get taught we must focus on the bad so we can fix it. But focusing on something "bad" and calling it "bad", just fills your consciousness with "bad".

But, there are no rules to this. People make changes through resistance. People make more money because they feel lacking. There is no absolute, concrete formula that I can see as to "how to improve your life", because there are always exceptions. See though, that everything about your life is a thought. Just thought, which is believed and supported by other people. In fact everything that you may think is bad or good, largely comes from the ideas of others.

I don't know your situation, but we tend to overlook the smallest things. Simple appreciation and gratitude is a great foundation for a good life. Notice you have food. Notice you have shelter. Notice you have clothes. Notice you have air. See the abundance of things, even 'bad' things - see the abundance of life. The abundance of thoughts, the abundance of resistance, the abundance of letters, the abundance of space, the abundance of annoyance, the abundance of leaves on a tree, the abundance of love, of joy, of pain, of pleasure, of hatred, of admiration, of jealousy. If you notice how abundant everything is, you become more in tune with the abundance of life, and it transforms what was considered "bad".

And finally, after saying all of this, there can then be an energy inside, a small, personal energy that may say “Ok, so unless I surrender, my life will not improve. I must become friendly with my life and accept it as it is, or else nothing will change.” - This kind of thing is just another “ego-trick” claiming that there is a separate entity responsible for the whole of life. Give the responsibility for yourself back to universe. Sometimes I think of all of us like ants. Can you imagine if every ant was thinking “right, ok, I better surrender and feel good so that my life can go well.” - It would just seem crazy - they are all part of a larger whole. I’m sure many of us can remember things happening that were wonderful and unexpected, or things that happened that actually caused us to feel relieved or abundant. The apparent “law” that you may have heard that you have to feel abundant before you can receive a gift from the universe, is not completely “a law”. The only universal laws I have heard about have come from humans, who are the only law-makers in the world. So what I mean is, we don’t really know anything. These words just come spontaneously onto the page, hopefully they may be helpful, but if something does not resonate with you, then just ignore it.

Thanks for getting in touch, I wish you all the best,

Adam