Client story: "I'm doing a lot of work on myself," said Sandra. "Do you ever tire of working so hard on yourself?" I asked. "Maybe all this hard work is holding you back. Why not give up working so hard at self-improvement and see what a little self-acceptance does for you. Give yourself a break."

Lesson: It is essential you understand the difference between self-acceptance and self-improvement if you are to discover your real value. Self-acceptance starts with the awareness that you are whole, innately good; lovable just as you are; and endowed with god-given talents and qualities to share with the world. Victor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning, said, "My definition of success is total self-acceptance."

Self-improvement usually starts with the belief that something is lacking in you. Thus, your ego sets about working on itself, proving itself and making itself into "a somebody" that wins admiration and applause. The problem with self-improvement is that you are trying to improve upon a self that you haven't really gotten to know yet. Self-improvement causes you to overlook your true nature. No amount of self-improvement can make up for any lack of self-acceptance.

Exercise: So often, self-improvement is full of musts, oughts and shoulds. For example, you must buy these jeans or your butt isn't going to look very good. You ought to get eight hours of sleep every night. You should really be more like your overworked, aggressive boss if you are ever going to get ahead at the office. The essence of who you are is already inspiration-packed, wisdom-infused and blessed with talents and gifts. You don't need to build a successful image of yourself. You are already good enough. What would happen if you stopped should-ing on yourself? Can you see that the real you is far better than the one you're trying to sell to world?

Identify one positive action you can take to move away from the image of yourself you think you need to be to simply being the amazing person you already are.

Next: Why it's important to be true to yourself


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