I read something on a yoga blog this evening addressing the issue of self-help vs. self-acceptance. The blogger, contemplating the preponderance of self-help books and materials on the market, posed the question: "Where's the line between self-acceptance and wanting to be a better person?" She went on to suggest that we balance "acceptance with striving".
While the entry focused primarily on applying this concept to yoga, I think it has obvious implications for other areas of life. Let's start with another fitness area: running. Most runners have that drive to run faster, or longer, or to conquer some steep hill or crazy trail. But perhaps that has to be balanced out with acceptance of one's limits on any given day, be they physical, mental, etc. Same goes for strength training, cycling, or pretty much anything along those lines. Easier said than done in our super-competitive society, I know.
There are spiritual applications here as well. If you're a Christian, or come from a Christian background, you want to be the best person you can be. You want to be Christlike, even if sometimes you get rubbed the wrong way by Christianity as an institution. You want to have some sort of relationship with the Creator of the Universe. (This is, of course, true about many people who wouldn't necessarily categorize themselves as "religious".) At the same time, and counterbalancing this drive, is the need to accept yourself as you have been created, especially the things about yourself and your circumstances that you can't really change. (A bit "serenity prayer", I know, but it still makes sense.)
Doubtless there are applications to other faiths as well. Buddhism comes to mind, with its goal of enlightenment balanced with self-compassion. (If you're Buddhist, and I've botched that, please correct me.) I also can't help but think of science -- the constant striving to understand the universe in quantifiable terms, tempered with the realization that there's vast amounts of knowledge we have yet to acquire, and may never acquire. I mention science in this same paragraph deliberately: I don't believe that science and faith are mutually exclusive. But that's a whole other post, and I've twofer'ed tonight as it is.