Self-acceptance is a Toxic Mindset
There's a much healthier way to see yourself.
I used to describe my life with one word: content.
I was fine where I was. I wasn’t struggling or going through any hardship, I was financially stable and had many good relationships. I was content.
Looking back now, I see it’s actually an unhelpful mindset to be stuck in. There’s nothing wrong with being satisfied with where you are. What matters is your outlook on the future. And that's where being content can become a problem.
Let’s look at the definition of content. There are many variations of this definition, but this one resonates with my point.
The main issue I have is the latter part of the definition, where it states contentment is a state of mind which excludes further desire.
Desire is drive. And complacency is the enemy.
Having a desire to achieve something is what moves us forward. You may be in a good place now, it's still possible to make it better.
Setting goals, striving for growth, and pushing through challenges are essential. Without them, meaning can be stripped from your life. Complacency will keep you in your current situation, never accomplishing more. It’s the inability or unwillingness to grow and improve.
The second, and a little more frightening, is the last definition it gives: “Acquiescence; submission.” These words terrify me. I do not wish to submit to anyone, not even myself.
I'm concerned the self-acceptance movement may be detrimental to our growth and development. It involves accepting our current state of being which denies the potential for growth and a rejection of a better future.
If not self-acceptance, then what?
If one doesn’t have self-acceptance, then it must be self-hatred, right? No, I reject the pessimistic dichotomy - self-hatred is not advisable, nor is self-acceptance. Instead, you can embrace an optimistic outlook and focus on self-improvement.
If you’re happy with where you are and satisfied with all the things around you, then what could possibly motivate you to change things for the better? You’re content with where you are. Changing things may upset your ordinary life. But shaking the box may be precisely what is needed to become a better version of yourself, if not for others, then for your own benefit.
Self-acceptance is the antithesis of self-improvement.
“You can always be thinner, look better
I like to dissect girls. Did you know I’m utterly insane?”
(Okay, ignore the last part).
Although Patrick Bateman may not be a character we should aspire to be, he has a point here - you CAN always be better. You have the choice to submit and stay where you are, or you can aim to be a better version of yourself.
A Dangerous Idea
This self-acceptance idea that is proliferating through society has, at its heart, a kindness to it. Telling people they’re okay and reassuring them feels like the right thing to do. But is it?
“It’s okay, your life is fine.”
Imagine being told this when you’re at the lowest point in your life. You’re telling them their life is sufficient as it is, despite everything around them that sucks. Although it’s important to find happiness in everyday life, it’s critical to let people know that it’s possible to improve.
Telling them to accept their life as it leaves no room for improvement. Instead, we should be telling them the truth - that things aren’t going great for them. They’re out of shape, their addictions are out of control and they surround themselves with toxic people. These may be true, but it’s also true that it doesn’t have to be this way. Accept that change for the better is a viable and worthwhile option to pursue.
Instead of aiming to accept who you are. Aim to be a better version of yourself even if it’s just by 1%. 1% is better than 0%. Once you get 1% better, you’ve got the ball rolling. You’ve got momentum on your side. You realise getting 1% better isn’t that difficult. So you try for another 1%. And each iteration of this you become a better person, culminating in a superior version of yourself. From what first seemed impossible, now is not only plausible but it’s happening - you’re living it.
There may have been a few reasons that I was living in a state of contentment. I was scared of change. I was happy enough where I was, why the need to risk it? The other is that I was ignorant of the path of self-improvement or how easy and rewarding it is.
If you’re also stuck in a constant mood of content know that you can be content while on a journey of getting better. Take small steps and you can take your mindset from self-acceptance to self-improvement.