Episode #011

Does Self-Acceptance Kill Your Ambition?

If we accept ourselves, fully and completely, as we are, will we lose the motivation to succeed?

This is a question that comes up a lot in the world of personal-development and so far at ikario, we have yet to find a truly compelling answer.

If you searched online, you might find answers such as:

"It's a balancing act between self-acceptance and changing yourself"


"If you accepted yourself fully, you'd just sit under a tree and do nothing"

Dissatisfied with the common responses to this conundrum, we decided to throw our two cents into the hat and attempt to answer once and for all, does self-acceptance ruin success?

In this episode...

Some of the points covered in today's conversation:

  • Why is the self-acceptance problem such a puzzling issue for people?
  • If you were caring for a baby, would you need shame to motivate you?
  • Why self-acceptance does NOT cripple your chances of success - but increases them.
  • Why self-hatred is a terrible motivator.
  • A simple yet powerful "brute force" approach to self-acceptance.
  • The best type of meditation for developing self-acceptance.
  • Why you are just not that special - and why that is a GOOD thing.
  • Introspective writing as a pathway to self-acceptance.
  • Are affirmations actually useful?

Links & Resources

Over to You

We hope you found this episode useful! What brought you the most value? Do you have questions or feedback? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

You can follow the ikario Podcast on YouTube and also subscribe to our clips channel.

Oliver Cowlishaw

About the author

Ollie is an avid pizza connoisseur, accomplished drinker of coffee and lover of soul music. Heavily influenced by Zen & eastern mysticism, his curiosity regarding the human experience is insatiable. Despite having a strong vocabulary, he swears a lot and uses slang phrases ("ollie-isms") that almost nobody understands, not even himself.

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  • Ernst-Janke Jansson says:

    Thanks for your way of elaborating on this topic. Every minute is worth watching (twice!). Here is what is coming to my mind
    1) Many “toxic beliefs” of individuals are induced by a snobbish society which is judging people with a non-negotiable verdict. (based on Alain de Botton). So how to escape those judgements (dismissive glances) and become autonomous?
    2) Maybe it could be helpful to contrast “self-acceptance” not only to “self-hatred” but also to smugness / complacency / self-righteousness at the other end of the scale in order to sharpen what is self-acceptance about
    3) I strongly feel that self-acceptance should never be seen as a mean but a quality in itself. Precious though not only when one is striving for goals but also when dealing with crisis or any kind of blows.
    4) Self-acceptance is becoming sometimes terrifying when one is confronted with all kind of traits you’d rather like to ignore. But the further you go the more real & vivid you feel.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Great points! Let me “think out loud” in response to these.

      1) I think it’s an important step of maturation to, at some point, make that decision not to live one’s life for other people. Whether those other people are family, peers, whatever. This is difficult, but I think necessary. And to me, it seems that the way this plays out is that you develop a set of values and principles for yourself that are stronger and more meaningful than the shallow nonsense by which public judgement tends to happen.

      2) This is a great point and something I wish I had thought of when we recorded this. In short, I would say that self acceptance is neutral. Self acceptance is: “I am the way I am, with all my flaws and all the good things about me and I accept that.” And even self love has this neutral quality, because you are not denying flaws or mistakes or your shadow. This is in contrast to self hatred (over-emphasizing the negative) or self aggrandization (over-emphasizing the positive). Both of those are delusional.

      3) I agree. I really like the Buddhist concept of non-resistance. Self acceptance is like that, too: you accept the current reality, as it is, without resisting it. That is whether it’s good or bad or anything in between.

      4) Indeed it can be difficult. The things we are most afraid of and most want to deny also offer the greatest potential for growth.

      • Ernst-Janke Jansson says:

        Thanks Shane for your thoughts which really resonate with me.
        But … nevertheless I kind of failed to start a controversy
        So here is what triggers my following points:
        You and Oli ridiculed the “need of balancing” (precisely those who are already perfectly balanced)
        [min 7.22 – 7.42]

        Before I elaborate on a “model” which explains why balancing is central, here is the problem
        1. Any advice like “BE XY ” | “BECOME XY” | “XY yourself” is incomplete
        2. And is lacking a model which reflects individual Situations
        As a habit I refine those Impulses by constructing a so called “Value and development square” (according to Friedemann Schulze von Thun, 1989)

        OK. We agree that Self-acceptance is a powerful valuable indispensable Virtue which is worth every effort to achieve it. We also agree 100% that self-hatred is a problem as a point of departure. Now I explain what I mean by balancing:

        Here are the assumptions of such Development-square
        a) Every Virtue has a Sister-Virtue
        b) This sister Virtue is equivalent to the Virtue in Question
        c) Both virtues cannot be achieved and sustained effortless
        d) Each Virtue when neglected (e.g. over-emphasizing) degenerates to a VICE
        e) Every Vice has Elements of Virtues from which it has degenerated from

        Now we can start to construct the Development square
        • Self-acceptance on the top left is the virtue
        • Self-awareness (or Self-scepticism) on the top right is the SISTER-Virtue
        • Now we have to find the VICES of the respective VIRTUES:
        o e.g. Self-acceptance can degenerate to -as you put it- AGGRANDIZATION (bottom left)
        o Self-awareness to SELF-HATRED (bottom right)

        Here what it might look like:
        | |

        There are a couple of important Conclusions:
        i. Balancing Virtues does not mean to split the difference. Instead, it is rather a dynamic Balance
        ii. You can start the construction from every point of the square. E.g. if self-hatred is the problem you are supposed asking yourself what is the Virtue it has de-generated from in the first place.
        iii. In terms of the pathway for personal development it is recommended to aim at the sister virtue (not the one you felt back from initially) That is if Self-hatred is becoming dominant you are supposed to aim at self-acceptance. Not at self-awareness (and no way to aggrandization)
        iv. The pathway of positive development runs always diagonal

        This square is to me very useful for clarification and orientation and teached me that a lot on balancing and stability

        • Shane Melaugh says:

          This is a really interesting model! I’ve never thought of it like that, but it’s an interesting way to visualize this. And I really like the idea of vices being the degenerate versions of virtues. I will have to think on that a bit more…

          So, I understand the argument that you’re making regarding the need for balance. However, I’m not sure how it applies to what we talked about in the episode. Maybe I misunderstand, but here’s how I see it: what we were talking about was the idea of balancing self acceptance and negative self judgement. Coming from the idea that totally accepting oneself would lead to complacency. It’s this idea that you have to hate yourself a little bit, you have to be dissatisfied with yourself, in order to take action to improve yourself. Or in other words: self acceptance is good, but just don’t accepting yourself too much!

          It’s the fear of self acceptance. Clinging to self-loathing fuelled growth, because that’s the only kind of growth we know. This is the idea that we’re ridiculing – we’re saying that you can safely go all in on self acceptance and it won’t hurt your pursuit of self improvement.

  • Really enjoyed your take on this topic and wanted to comment, even though its been a while since this episode came out. I want to add another idea that basically says that some level of self acceptance and self adequacy is needed in order to grow. Through my own experience and I have seen this in some of my peers (young adults) as well. These situations where self hate leads to an extremely low self worth and therefore the idea that you dont deserve a better life. And so someone who believes that doesnt try to make progress, but instead makes their own life miserable. Basically, if they think they are inadequate to a rather high level, they might develop this idea that they dont deserve a healthy body or wealth, or happy, fulfilling relationships. their inadequacy makes them instead long to disappear and stop taking up space and other resources in this world.

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