I received a message with a really good question regarding the yogic principle of Santosha (the practice of contentment): "How do we balance self-improvement and self-acceptance?"
I felt that using an example from my past could help answer this question.
CRAZY LEGS Many years ago I had trained with a really cool dude during my competitive kickboxing days. His name was Manny, but we all called him Crazy Legs. Manny as a young child was run over by a car and the doctors had to amputate one of his arms. He had the desire to start practicing and competing in the fighting arts. Over time, he became a solid fighter and developed some of the craziest kicking skills imaginable (Crazy Legs).
Manny dedicated himself to the process of learning kickboxing, while accepting the fact that he only had one arm to defend and strike. Manny never expressed concern or frustration with this limitation. In fact, he said it was because of his disability that he developed that extraordinary kicking ability. It wouldn't have done Manny any good to sulk in the frustration of something he had no control over. Instead he decided to accept how things were and used it as motivation in his practice of self-improvement.
It is necessary to grow in our practice by dedicating our time and efforts consistently and over a long period of time. It is equally necessary to let go of how things are in the moment and surrender to the things that we can't change. We do have control over our lives to a certain degree, and we should take full advantage of it by committing ourselves to a process/practice. At the same time, there are certain things that are simply outside of our control and we should practice acceptance and surrender in those moments.
In conclusion, I believe that we should practice improving ourselves in all areas of our lives. This not only creates personal fulfillment, but it gives us the opportunity to improve our environment around us. When we don't participate in our personal growth, then humans naturally become more self-destructive. We also can become equally if not more self-destructive when we try to control the things that we can't change. This is where acceptance becomes so vital. Balancing self-improvement and self-acceptance is a practice.
Keep on gettin on! Keep practicing! :)