Self-Acceptance vs Self-Improvement: The Ultimate Paradox

On your journey to achieve your goals, fulfill your purpose and so on, there will be many paradoxes that you will be called upon to confront.

One of these paradoxes is the choice between self-acceptance vs self-improvement. Which one is better? Which yields the most results? Can you do both?

In this article, we’re going to look at each of these world views in great detail and show you how to strike the balance between the two so that accomplishing your goals becomes 10x easier.

Without further ado, let’s jump right in!

How This All Starts

Starting off, most guys get into the world of self-improvement for various reasons, but most of them boil down to they don’t like where they ARE, and want to get somewhere ELSE.

Sometimes where they are is a certain financial situation, an emotional state (common for guys after breakups for example), or simply an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with their current lives.

Take the guy who went through a breakup as an example. In the self-improvement world, you see this ALL the time and it’s no surprise as to why.

Oftentimes, if a woman leaves a guy, it can SHATTER his self-esteem, among many other things which leads to very deep-seated feelings of “not being good enough”.

Because this feeling fucking sucks and is incredibly uncomfortable to stay in for long periods of time, many guys turn to self-improvement so that they can “become good enough”.

Unfortunately, this is a mistake as you CANNOT become “good enough” by external means… Be it money, women, fame, fitness, etc.

Speaking from personal experience here, these external things WILL give you a temporary high… You will feel fulfilled, proud of yourself, confident, etc. and it will probably last a few hours at most.

Eventually however, certain feelings start to creep in… Feelings such as “This feel great! But what if I LOSE this feeling?” or the worry that it won’t last and that you’ll have to face those feelings of not being good enough ALL OVER AGAIN.

This (mostly unconscious) fear, then drives the person to seek out MORE of what gave them that temporary relief…

For those who were made fun of for being too fat or skinny, it’s getting more muscles or getting even more lean.

For the guy who was a social outcast and/or was never popular in school, it oftentimes means getting MORE validation (mostly through women).

It’s ultimately a trap, and realizing that you can never “become good enough” is the first step to freeing yourself from said trap.

Hence where self-acceptance comes in…

Why Be Free In The First Place?

Let’s take the example of the guy who was a social outcast and never had a girlfriend.

Because he sees getting a girlfriend as “becoming good enough” he will unconsciously place a TON of his self-esteem in the way that women view him.

This can manifest in many ways, but most often it turns him into a “nice guy”, where he won’t do anything to offend a girl, and tries to be her friend because ANY validation is better than none in his mind.

He’s scared to be himself around her, whether that’s sexually or even just literally being his authentic self.

And let me be clear: Men AND women both find this behavior EXTREMELY repulsive.

When you don’t have the courage to be yourself, and you’re constantly looking to OTHER people to validate you, people will NATURALLY reject you, push you away, ghost you, etc. and rightfully so to be honest.

As a man, it is 100% your responsibility to validate yourself. NOBODY can ultimately approve or disapprove of you, and the only person whose opinion matters is YOURS.

That being said, for 99% of people this is easier said than done.

Now, CONSCIOUSLY most people know in their mind, that the only person whose opinion matters is their own.

Unfortunately for most people, it never FEELS this way.

You can say “I don’t care what other people think about me” but then you’ll have social anxiety when you go out to meet people.

This is a common trap that nearly EVERYONE falls into… Just because you think something, doesn’t mean that you feel the same way as well – even if you really want to feel that way.

You can say “The only person whose opinion matters is my own” but then you may get butthurt if someone (especially someone close) disapproves of you through ignoring, insulting, whatever.

Logically, most people these days have the answers. But very few people address the FEELINGS which is what REALLY screws people over.

And guess what? The more you try to “improve your confidence” the more you tell yourself “I’m not confident to begin with, therefor I need to DO things to MAKE myself more confident”.

The classic Tony Robbins example is “Happy people don’t need to stare at themselves in the mirror and say “I’m happy” to themselves a million times a day…”.

This is why it’s important to address the feelings directly, through self-acceptance.

Focus on the INTERNAL and the EXTERNAL will follow.

Instead of following tips and tricks for social anxiety, what about just NOT having it in the first place? You’d NATURALLY make eye contact, have better posture, body language etc.

Instead of following “The 5-second rule” to get you to the gym, what about just NATURALLY being motivated and inspired to do so?

If you’ve lived your life through “tips and tricks” and the external, then I realize that what I’m saying may sound too good to be true and believe me, I’ve been there.

Most people won’t even be able to resonate with this kind of information… They’ll think it’s woo-woo hippie nonsense, or they simply can’t believe it’s possible.

Hell, there may even be a part of you that doesn’t fully believe what I’m saying and you might click off of this article, only to find YEARS later what I actually meant by a lot of the things we’re talking about here.

Especially with this kind of information, there will be many times when you THINK you understand what’s being said, only to find that a few months or years later of applying the advice you will have your first epiphany of “oh my god, it all makes sense!”

“That’s great Matthew, but now I’m confused… Should I stop trying to improve myself then? Since as you said, if I try to improve myself then it just reinforces that I’m broken right?”

No. You can still improve yourself, but it cannot be coming from a place of “I need to improve myself to become good enough” because when you have this frame, accomplishing your goals becomes MUCH MORE difficult.

Let’s take two examples of the internal and external view with our favorite dynamic duo: Matthew & Miles.

Miles Example

Let’s say Miles has the goal to get a girlfriend, simple enough except for the fact that Miles has deep-seated beliefs that he’s not good enough.

Let’s say he goes out to the club to meet women…

Already these unconscious beliefs will start to sabotage him through MASSIVE social anxiety…

His heart is POUNDING out of his chest, and he can’t stop thinking about how everyone there is judging him, maybe they’re even making fun of him, and maybe some of the guys think he’s creepy and will even try to FIGHT him!

Miles hasn’t even said hi to anybody yet and he’s already living a nightmare.

But for the sake of this article, let’s say he builds a bit of momentum just by making small talk with people and he starts to feel a bit more comfortable.

Eventually, he builds up the courage to approach a stunning woman and introduce himself, and at first, because Miles built up some momentum, it’s going decent enough.

But after a few minutes, the girl starts noticing Miles being just a tad bit… OFF.

He laughs a little too hard at her jokes… His eyes keep darting around, avoiding eye contact, and he keeps trying to make moves on her that she isn’t responding to.

Miles can’t even tell that she’s COMPLETELY turned off, he’s WAY too in his head wondering if he’s coming across as “cool” or “smooth” enough and doesn’t even have the mental bandwidth to see that the girl is starting to get uncomfortable and Miles JUST WON’T STOP.

Eventually, the girl yells “Get the fuck away from me!”, pushes Miles, and goes to the bouncer, reports Miles for being a creep and he gets thrown out of the club.

Long story short, Miles gets INCREDIBLY hurt by this, and he has NO IDEA what went wrong.

He just assumes he’s “not good enough” and so in an effort to BECOME good enough, he spends the next few years working on himself.

He hits the gym, makes a bit of money, etc. which are all good things, but then he goes BACK out to the club and tries flirting again.

He STILL has MASSIVE social anxiety and after building momentum, he approaches another girl but this time he tries showing off his watch a bit too much, or he pretends to wipe sweat off his head with his shirt, revealing his 6-pack, hoping she notices.

This extremely needy behavior then turns the girl off, and because Miles is AGAIN too worried about appearing “high value” and shit, he doesn’t even NOTICE and keeps trying to escalate, touch her etc.

She yells at him. He gets pushed. And he gets thrown out AGAIN.

Does Miles learn his lesson? No, he doesn’t. He still has feelings of low self-esteem inside of him that he hasn’t dealt with, so he simply assumes he’s STILL not good enough and that he needs even MORE external success.

Keep in mind, this is ALREADY an ideal scenario in which Miles ACTUALLY gets success in other areas DESPITE the massive self-sabotage.

Most times this doesn’t happen, but we’re using it to illustrate a point.

Matthew Example

On the other hand, Matthew also has the intention of getting a girlfriend but he has HEALTHY self-esteem.

Matthew ALSO goes out to the club but not for the sake of finding a girlfriend to validate him, but because he genuinely has a fun time out at clubs.

Because his goal is “fuck it, have fun!” he sees everyone at the venue as friends he simply hasn’t met yet, meaning he has VERY LITTLE social anxiety…

He still has some, but nowhere NEAR how much Miles had.

Eventually, after singing, dancing, and joking around with a group of people that Matthew has made friends with, THEY become the life of the party, and OTHER people are trying to join them, including girls.

Again though, Matthew isn’t trying to get to a particular outcome to validate his needy, insecure self, because he’s ALREADY validated and secure from within.

The girls at the club can sense this, and because most men DON’T have this level of self-esteem and confidence, the girls seemingly become ADDICTED to Matthew damn near instantaneously.

THEY are groping HIM and trying to flirt with HIM, meanwhile, Matthew’s #1 concern is just having fun and some of these girls would definitely help him accomplish that goal, so he takes a girl and her friend home that night and they all make memories that’ll last them a lifetime.

Self-Sabotage

Keep in mind, these examples are JUST for social and dating lives but they can be applied to every aspect of life.

Matthew has the courage to ask his boss for a promotion. Miles thinks he needs to work harder and hopes his boss will notice.

Matthew wants his body and mind to be in the BEST shape possible, so he NATURALLY wants to eat good and go to the gym.

Miles on the other hand, HATES going to the gym and eating healthy, but he hates the feeling of not being good enough even more, so it takes a MASSIVE amount of discipline and effort to accomplish these things.

Do you see the point?

Bringing this all back to which should you focus on self-acceptance or self-improvement, the answer is both but it needs to come from a different place.

This is another trap that people will fall into, they’ll read an article like this and will unconsciously think “Oooo… I should try this self-acceptance stuff to FINALLY become good enough”.

This is the wrong approach.

You CANNOT “become good enough”. You can only realize that you were and are good enough already.

And it’s true, you and I ARE good enough already.

Unfortunately, through societal and mainstream conditioning, we think that we need to be certain ways, feel certain things, and take certain actions to become good enough when we already were from the start.

You are good enough. You’ve just been conditioned to believe that you aren’t.

How To Get There

I realize that if you’re new to this, this was likely a LOT to take in. To help, I’m going to give you some things to help get the ball rolling.

In the future, I plan on having a whole article on this subject because it’s that important and it’s even more important to get it right.

The journey of self-actualization can take a LONG time, but the results are most certainly worth the initial effort.

So to get you started, here’s a few things you can do to start cultivating a healthy self-esteem for yourself:

  • Meditate
  • Spend Time Alone
  • Gratitude Exercises
  • Let Go

I realize that if you’re coming from the whole “hustler” mentality this can all seem EXTREMELY cheesy and trust me, I used to be the exact same way.

The truth is, self-acceptance is INFINITELY more powerful than ANYTHING you could do in the external world.

REAL transformation is BARELY noticeable.

This is one of those things that you may not know what I’m talking about until a few years down the line, but keep it in mind nonetheless, and let’s look at these methods to cultivate self-acceptance.

Meditation

Meditation is by far the single most powerful method & tool you could use to transform your life.

There are many different kinds of meditation, all with their own unique benefits, and for the sake of this article, we’re going to focus on mindfulness-based meditation.

All it takes is 5 simple steps:

  1. Find somewhere you won’t be distracted
  2. Sit upright & set a timer
  3. Close your eyes
  4. Focus on your breath
  5. Allow thoughts, sensations, and feelings to pass by

I recommend, if you’re starting out, to do this a minimum of 5 minutes at a time, but preferably up to 20 minutes.

Do this twice a day, right after you wake up and right before you go to bed, for maximum effect.

Everything is pretty self-explanatory but let’s talk about what it means to allow thoughts, sensations, and feelings to pass by.

As you sit by yourself, various thoughts, and feelings will emerge. Our natural response is to resist these thoughts and feelings, but you will find that IF you ALLOW them to, thoughts and feelings will pass by like clouds across the sky.

Sometimes intense emotions will surface and the temptation to resist and stuff it down will be IMMENSE, but this is PRECISELY when you must allow it to pass through you without any judgment or resistance, and ultimately let it go.

These intense emotions are feelings that you’ve repressed throughout the years and have unconsciously “banished” to your subconscious as they were labeled as “unacceptable” by your mind.

For a lot of people these are feelings of hurt, and when suppressed, lead to feelings of not being good enough.

This is why it’s key to accept and ALLOW the sensations to pass through you without any judgment or resistance, so you can finally let go of them and not be RUN by them anymore.

Spend Time Alone

This can be a particularly powerful exercise as most people can’t STAND spending more than 5 minutes without feeling an intense urge to scroll on their phone, watch porn, etc. ANYTHING to avoid being alone with themselves.

These days, people (especially younger people) spend so much time away from themselves that they have a really fucked perception of who they ACTUALLY are.

Spending time 100% alone without cheap distractions FORCES you to embrace who you are and this again, can be very powerful.

Many people have a fear of being alone, and for these people, after they spend time alone with themselves, they realize that it’s not even that bad.

All of a sudden your social anxiety goes WAY down, as you care less about what you say might turn people off, ESPECIALLY if you can learn how to ENJOY spending time with yourself.

I recommend just to try setting aside an hour one of these days and without your phone, maybe just go on a walk or something.

Just spend time with yourself without ANY distractions.

Eventually, you can take this to the next level and do things like sensory deprivation tanks, or go camping by yourself, but for now, simply taking an hour to spend with yourself is a great first step towards healthy self-esteem.

Gratitude Exercises

I’ll briefly put this one here, as it’s a tip that requires so little effort but has pretty significant results.

The idea of bringing gratitude into your life is it helps train your reticular activation system (RAS) aka your mind, to focus on what you HAVE rather than what you LACK.

If you’re always focused on what you lack, of course you’re going to feel insignificant and needy than if you took the time to cultivate gratitude and focus on the good parts of you and your life.

Personally, I use this little gratitude journal that has me write down a few things that I’m grateful for every morning.

It’s so stupidly simple, but when you start your day with gratitude, your whole day improves as a result. I can always tell the difference when I start the day with gratitude rather than from a place of scarcity.

For something that’s cheap and that takes like 30 seconds MAX, cultivating gratitude is one of the best bang for your buck activities out there.

Let Go

Just let go.

Letting go is potentially the most powerful method of self-acceptance AND self-improvement.

Again, I plan to have an entire article on this in the future as it’s one of if not the most important things you could do for yourself, your goals, and your life.

I touched a bit upon how to let go in the meditation section so go back and read that for a more detailed description, but letting go ultimately has only 3 steps:

  1. Be aware of the emotion/sensation you want to let go of
  2. Experience it fully
  3. Allow the sensations to pass through you and let them out

So stupidly simple, but not so stupidly easy.

Letting go is the ultimate form of self-acceptance, as letting go, is really letting go of the resistance to yourself.

There are parts of you that your mind has labeled “unacceptable”, maybe when you were a kid you were too loud and your parents shamed you for it, so you banished the part of yourself that was loud.

This tends to cause people later in life to say things like “Yeah, I guess I’m just naturally pretty shy and reserved”, which CAN be the case but more often than not, the people who say that dream of being able to just let loose and have fun interactions with people.

This “banishing” is quite literally the OPPOSITE of self-acceptance, and the more you have pushed away into your subconscious, the lower self-esteem you will have.

So let go. Let go of the resistance to these parts of yourself that you’ve been pushing away for so long.

Sometimes this can be scary. Sometimes re-owning certain aspects of yourself can literally feel as though you are about to die, but face fears bluff.

You will not die. On the contrary, after you have let go, and re-owned that part of you, it will likely be the first time you’ve REALLY started living since you were a child.

And that’s when the fun really starts.

Conclusion

Ultimately, I hope this post shed some light on the differences between self-acceptance vs self-improvement and how the internal world colors the external.

Understand that if you get the internal world down, it will literally feel like you are molding reality to fit your needs. This is where the idea of manifesting comes from, as well as the law of attraction.

I will post a LOT more on this subject going forward but understand that getting the internal world down is the most important thing you could do in your life, and literally everything else, is just slightly more than a complete waste of time.

I hope there was enough information to at least be digested by you the reader, and can start taking action on this using the tips I provided.

I predict however, that if you read everything and made it all the way to the end, you’ll re-visit this page several more times as you start to understand more and more of what was said.

So, with ALL that said. I thoroughly hope you enjoyed this article and if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to leave a comment, email me at matthew@matthewmentoring.com, or shoot me a message on Instagram @realmatthewcarter

Until next time!

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