A balanced self is the aim of many who are interested in self-development. All of us have to find a balance between several different types of approach to life. In particular, I want to talk about three ways to approach the self, and what they mean in terms of personality and action.
Self-acceptance is the ability to live in one’s own skin without suffering undue anxiety or repulsion.
If we don’t accept ourselves (perhaps because we have not been accepted by others when we were young), then we will be hard on ourselves in certain ways. For example, a person whose physical appearance was not accepted when young, may find it hard in adulthood to be calm about their own physical appearance.
Self-acceptance is, in a sense, a passive form of wellbeing, because it does not need to act – it is able to be present in the body without negative feelings about that body.
Self-assertion is the ability to act reasonably freely according to preference, without being unduly restricted by others’ actions or opinions.
If we can’t assert ourselves (perhaps because we learned to give in to others when young), then we will tend to stand back and wait for others to exert their preferences. For example, a person with problems with assertiveness will frequently find themselves over-adapting to other people’s ideas, without being able to negotiate a compromise.
Self-assertion is an active form of wellbeing, because it needs to act – it involves pushing against the force of many other people’s preferred actions, and still having an executive voice.
Self-promotion is the ability to stand above the crowd and be responsible for acts of leadership or innovation.
If we can’t self-promote (perhaps because we weren’t encouraged when young), then our dearest dreams may remain unfulfilled. For example, a person who has always wanted to run a particular business, may find themselves unable to gain customers and market presence, raise finance, or gather loyal employees.
Self-promotion is an exceptionally active form of wellbeing, because it needs to go beyond the bounds of ordinary social action in order to get noticed.
PERSONALITY AND THE THREE APPROACHES TO SELF
- If we are shy, then we may focus on self-acceptance, but have difficulty with self-assertion or self-promotion. We will develop spiritually, but we may not have the presence in the world that we need in order to defend our dearest friends and interests fully.
- If we are moderate, then we may achieve self-acceptance and some degree of self-assertion, and be able to take our place in society. But we may fall short of holding any roles which create extraordinary societal change.
- If we are able to self-promote, in addition to self-acceptance and self-assertion, then we may be free to push forward with making a difference in the world in a way that matters to us.
Spend some time thinking about the three approaches to self.
In particular, ask yourself the following three questions:
- What do I find it hard to accept about myself, and how might I find peace and self-acceptance?
- In what ways would I like to assert myself socially, so that my ideas and wishes are taken seriously by others?
- What are my big dreams for making a difference in the world, and in what ways might I dare to put myself forward for roles which make that difference?
I emphasise, a perfectly enlightened and kind life can be led by someone who simply accepts themselves. This, on its own, is enough, and is a major achievement. But if we happen to want to take a social presence, and/or to make an impression on the world, then we may find self-assertion and self-promotion skills helpful.