Have you ever noticed how we humans tend to take on an all-or-nothing perspective when it comes to our own improvement? We’re either striving with perfectionist fervor to improve, at the cost of our own self-worth — or we’re so focused on being content right where we are that we reject opportunities for growth. This is a generalization, of course, and some of you might be better at holding the balance than this, but I do see this problem a lot. The world of fitness is perhaps the simplest way to showcase this problem: we have this idea that if you actually like your own body, then for some reason you never want to make it healthier. Which then produces this unhealthy idea that we can’t like our own bodies, we have to dislike them, or else we’re not trying to improve.
But that isn’t true at all, is it? Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive, and (I would argue) actually work best when they’re working together. You’re going to take better care of your body if you actually like your body. It’s okay to want to become healthier even if you like yourself the way you are. It’s okay to enjoy yourself the way you are even if you want to improve.
The same mentality can easily apply to our relationships — and we see the same pitfalls. So many people are averse to the idea of couples counseling or a relationship seminar, because we have this idea that seeking to improve our relationship betrays some feeling of discontent. Something must be wrong with your relationship to seek help; if you’re content and perfectly in love, you wouldn’t need it!
But that’s not true at all, either. In fact, the healthiest, happiest couples are the ones who live in a posture of learning — who always want to improve their connection, their communication, their conflict resolution strategies. They’re happier because they’re constantly growing. They seek growth because they want to be better, but they are also deeply content where they are. It’s both/and, not either/or.
We are made to be content where we are. And we are made to keep growing and improving. If you can pursue both, that’s where the business of real joy takes place.