The desire to change and improve is inherent and self-acceptance is a process. Self-acceptance and the desire to improve are not contradictory. Self-acceptance means knowing or realizing our nature as it is at present and fine-tuning that nature.
We have our traits, our unique personality and way of expressing ourselves. If we feel a need to improve, it is because we feel there is something lacking or missing inside, something that needs tuning. If I feel that I need to improve myself, I am creating a target, a goal, to express myself more creatively, positively and efficiently. So the desire to change or to improve is natural in every human being. Such desires become incompatible with the idea of self-acceptance only when we turn a blind eye to our own nature and to the reality in which we live.
What is the meaning of self-acceptance? Self-acceptance is not saying to oneself, “Okay, I am what I am and I enjoy being as I am.” Self-acceptance is recognition of the different traits of our personality as they manifest. It provides a direction for achieving and maintaining harmony. The purpose of self-acceptance is to become harmonious in life.
Self-acceptance is a process by which we can look at ourselves, not get uptight about the situations we face, not get frustrated by events or people, but have the ability to maintain our inner peace and tranquillity. One who can maintain harmony, optimism and happiness in all of life’s adverse, conflicting and disturbing situations can be said to be a sadhaka, a practitioner who has learned to accept himself/ herself. When we are not able to accept ourselves, then there is conflict, confusion, problems and difficulties.
So self-acceptance is recognition of the human nature and maintaining harmony during the natural spontaneous expressions of our personality. The desire to change, to grow, to evolve, is inherent and provides us with motivation, inspiration, willpower, stamina and energy. This has to be the aim of yoga.
If at all there is any achievement in yoga, it is not samadhi, not moksha, not freedom, but the development of one quality – understanding. This quality of understanding leads to self-acceptance and to the expression or experience of harmony in life.
9 September 1999, Ganga Darshan