Consciousness & happiness

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Catch-22 of self-acceptance

If I accept myself as I am, I will never improve, I'll be stuck with being uptight, judgmental, depressed the rest of my life. I need fixing, not accepting.

The quote is from my pal TC, with whom I've been having a dialog about self-acceptance. I regard the whole idea of self-acceptance as a chimera, on two grounds:

1. Self-acceptance isn't all it's cracked up to be in the conventional wisdom of our New Age. Given that the term means something (it's a bit hard to pin down), we just not wired to be self-accepting. Our internal critical dialog teaches us to learn from our mistakes--that's the burden an evolving conscious being has to put up with.

If we (i.e. the human species) didn't learn, we'd die out pretty fast. The world's a tough, complicated place, where it's impossible to avoid every pitfall and false step. When we screw up, our self-correcting mechanism reminds us of it, so we we'll learn and do better the next time. Sometimes that mechanism comes as a gentle nurturing voice, sometimes as a harsh criticism--either way, we get the opportunity to learn from the experience. The alternative (self-acceptance--"You did just fine, don't worry about it") would have us making the same mistake over and over.

2. If I accept myself as I am... is one of those contradictory phrases that pop up repeatedly in self-improvement literature, like, Just realize you're perfect the way you are!

You see the problem, right? This is the way I am, this screwed-up, not-self-accepting, not-realizing-I'm-perfect being. Any system, religion or teaching that starts off their "how to be ok" speil with, All you have to do is... or Only... or Just... is telling us we're not ok as we are.

Maybe we're not, and you know what? That's never going to change, the architecture of our brains takes care of that.

And maybe that's ok.


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