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It is the ultimate challenge to the person interested in self-improvement: To know oneself and to accept oneself while also leaving room for positive change.
Some of the wisest figures in human history have struggled with this, from Carl Jung to Winston Churchill. Self-acceptance is not a matter of simply thinking that you’re “good enough the way you are.” Rather, it is about accepting yourself as being what you are. Knowing your dark side and accepting that it is a part of you, not something alien and foreign.
This is the very first step on the path toward self-improvement. To master the self one must first understand the self and to understand the self requires radical acceptance — warts and all. Only by having a radical acceptance of who we are, without judgement, without condemnation and without admonishment, can we begin to transform in self-actualizing ways.
Knowing oneself is as challenging as it is necessary. Many people simply lack the ability to look at themselves for what they are rather than for what they wish they were.
Knowing and accepting yourself acts as the north star of self-actualization. It is only by doing this properly that one can change while still remaining true to the core of who they are. Here are some quotes to help you chart your path.
Quotes on Accepting Yourself:
“We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate – it oppresses. And I am the oppressor of the person I condemn, not his friend and fellow sufferer. I do not in the least mean to say that we must never pass judgement when we desire to help and improve. But if the doctor wishes to help a human being, he must be able to accept him as he is. And he can do this in reality only when he has already seen and accepted himself as he is.”
“Perhaps this sounds very simple. But simple things are always the most difficult. In actual life it requires the greatest art to be simple. And so acceptance of oneself is the essence of the moral problem. And the acid test of one’s whole outlook on life. That I feed the beggar. That I forgive insult. That I love my enemy in the name of Christ. All these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all beggars, the imputed of all offenders, yea the very fiend himself…that these are within me? That I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness? That I myself am the enemy that must be loved – what then? Then as a rule the whole truth of Christianity is reversed. There is then no more talk of love and long suffering. We say to the brother within us “rotten” (?). And condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide him from the world. We deny ever having met this least amongst the lowly in ourselves. And had it been God himself who drew near to us in this despicable form, we should have denied him a thousand times before a single cock had crowed.”Carl Jung
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”Carl Jung
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.”Carl Jung
“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. They will practice yoga and all its exercises, observe a strict regimen of diet, learn theosophy by heart, or mechanically repeat mystic texts from the literature of the whole world – all because they cannot get on with themselves and have not the slightest faith that anything useful could ever come out of their own souls.”Carl Jung
“What’s hiding in your shadows? What beast snarls in the darkness? It’s okay human. Your species didn’t make it this far on rainbows and butterfly kisses. Inside your DNA is a legacy of violence in the name of survival and procreation. You doubt that? One out of every 200 men is a descendant of Genghis Khan, and he was just one conqueror. Earth is a beautiful and savage planet. You have savagery inside you.”
“The more you deny it’s existence, the more it will control you. Acknowledge it. Send it love. Reconcile your demons with the image of yourself. We all want to be good. But being a good person does not mean having only good thoughts. You show me a person with only good thoughts and I will show you a liar. It is the choices you make that count. Do you choose to act on those impulses, or do you quell those impulses with acknowledgement and forgiveness? Do you choose love over power? Do you choose faith over fear? That is what determines who you are. Being entirely good is a myth. Choosing to be good is all that counts.”Aubrey Marcus
“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”Gautama Buddha
“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”Lao Tzu
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit alone in his room.”Blaise Pascal
“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”Coco Chanel
“At 30 a man should know himself like the palm of his hand, know the exact number of his defects and qualities, know how far he can go, foretell his failures – be what he is. And, above all, accept these things.”Albert Camus
“It is not worth the while to let our imperfections disturb us always.”Henry David Thoreau
“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.”Mark Twain
“Whether in business or relationships, sports or studies, we all start out as a beginner. Doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, an intermediate, an expert…all are perfect. Just be what you are. Our sadness comes from us resisting what we are, wishing we were more. Happiness comes now, when we love what is.”Rob Scott
“History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.”Unknown, often misattributed to Winston Churchill
“If my aim is to prove that I’m ‘enough,’ the project goes on to infinity – because the battle was already lost on the day I conceded the issue was debatable.”Nathaniel Branden, The Six Pillars of Self-esteem
“How can man know himself? It is a dark, mysterious business: if a hare has seven skins, a man may skin himself seventy times seven times without being able to say, ‘Now that is truly you; that is no longer your outside.’ It is also an agonizing, hazardous undertaking thus to dig into oneself, to climb down toughly and directly into the tunnels of one’s being. How easy it is thereby to give oneself such injuries as no doctor can heal. Moreover, why should it even be necessary given that everything bears witness to our being – our friendships and animosities, our glances and handshakes, our memories and all that we forget, our books as well as our pens.”
“For the most important inquiry, however, there is a method. Let the young soul survey its own life with a view of the following question: What have you truly loved thus far? What has ever uplifted your soul, what has dominated and delighted it at the same time? Assemble these revered objects in a row before you and perhaps they will reveal a law by their nature and their order: the fundamental law of your very self.”
“Compare these objects, see how they complement, enlarge, outdo, transfigure one another; how they form a ladder on whose steps you have been climbing up to yourself so far; for your true self does not lie buried deep within you, but rather rises immeasurably high above you, or at least above what you commonly take to be your I.”Friedrich Nietzsche
“To say ‘I love you’ one must know first how to say the ‘I’.”Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and – in spite of True Romance magazines – we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely – at least, not all the time – but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967
Quotes on Staying True to Yourself:
“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”John F. Kennedy
“Follow your honest convictions, and stay strong.”William Thackeray
“Open your arms to change but don’t let go of your values.”Dalai Lama
“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”Winston Churchill
“For my part, I consider that it will be found much better by all Parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history of myself.”Winston Churchill
“When you’re 20 you care what everyone thinks, when you’re 40 you stop caring what everyone thinks, when you’re 60 you realize no one was ever thinking about you in the first place. You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”Winston Churchill
“In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet.”Winston Churchill
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”Carl Jung
“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”Carl Jung
“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are.”Kurt Cobain
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit”E. E. Cummings
“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it…but love it.”Friedrich Nietzsche, speaking about “amor fati,” a Latin phrase that translates to “love of fate” or “love of one’s fate.”
“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”Martin Luther King Jr.
“Being different is a revolving door in your life where secure people enter and insecure exit.”Shannon L. Alder
“In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.”Mark Twain
“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”Franz Kafka
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”Unknown, often misattributed to Oscar Wilde