I was asked this question by a friend, then to "discuss" the answer (as seen below). Consequently, I launched into a massive ramble which may or may not remotely resemble an essay. Still, she, who I consider very intelligent, complimented me on it (she was "v. impressed"), and I am proud and funny-feeling.
Q: Is it better to try to improve yourself, or to accept yourself as you are? Discuss.
And my answer was...(brace yourselves)...
This depends on two variables,
A) The moral value and state of the person in question, PLUS this person's perception of his/her moral values and state, and
B) The moral value, state and critique of people who judge or percieve said person in question
Moral adequacy and moral perfection can only be achieved as a perception, not as a fact. This is because what is "morally correct" is defined by an inner theism/s of both the person in question AND those that judge/perceive said person.
Thus, if said person is in a stable frame of mind, he/she can be assumed to have an adequate sense of moral perception, i.e. realizes cannibalism is morally wrong and standing for the elderly on a bus is morally correct. Whether this sense is defined by said person's wish for a reward or conscience is, IN MY OPINION, irrelevant, UNLESS person B who is benefitted by Person A's moral sense (where Person A's motive is a reward) in, whatever way, learns Person's A's motives. At this point, the moral value of Person A's act is diminished. This is NOT an absolute rule.
If said person's moral value and state are SOUND, however, his/her perception of his moral value and state ARE NOT, then his resulting actions may be somewhat warped. Affecting factors include fear, i.e., someone sees a murder committed, but is unable to act for the "greater good" because of fear.
Other factors which influence this perception are said person's doubt of his/her moral state and value (despite person's state and value being sound), or PRESUMED inability to "act for the greater good". Almost all factors tend to result in an unwillingness to act in a beneficial and/or constructive manner, even, by doing so, they would improve their moral state.
Assuming the moral state of the people perceiving/judging said person's (Person A) moral character and/or acts of an either benevolent or evil nature differs from Person A's (their perceptions may differ from each other as well, maybe be still "morally correct" or may be "morally incorrect" (i.e. believe cannibalism is 'good')), then the answer to the question WILL GREATLY DIFFER, as the answer to the question DEPENDS SOLELY ON THE INDIVIDUAL REPLYING TO IT.
For example, Person C, in order to save Person B, must kill Persons E and F. Person E is a child of 2 years old, Person F is said child's grandmother at 90 and will die in 3 years.
Person C refusing to save Person B will result in Person B's death.
Now, the moral value of assumedly MOST people will define that allowing Person B to perish is "morally correct", as there is only one death compared to the two of E and F.
SOME people's theism/s may define, however, that there are immeasurable factors in this decision (i.e. Person E will cause massive amounts of pain TO OTHERS in his/her lifetime, and Person F already has) which warps the outcome greatly.
Assume, now, that Person B is pregnant. If Person C allows Person B to perish, so does the unlived, "innocent" baby inside (who may or may not cause that same amount of pain in his/her lifetime).
Thus, the same amounts of lives are put at risk by EITHER DECISION, however, ONE decision (Decision #1) would painlessly deprive an unborn child of life, which many would define as "morally wrong". The other (Decision #2), however, will result in the death of one who has lived extensively, and one who has lived somewhat, though not fully.
If Person C chooses to save Person B and her child, then the ASSUMEDLY DIFFERENT moral perceptions of those witnessing this act MAY OR MAY NOT align with the moral perceptions which lead Person C to decide so, and the same goes for Decision 2.
So, either by going with Decision 1 OR Decision 2, whether Person B is pregnant or not, there will inevitably be moral perceptions of those witnessing the act that define Person B's decision as "morally incorrect" BY SOCIAL/THEIR OWN STANDARDS, while there will also be those who consider the decision to be "morally correct" BY SOCIAL/THEIR OWN STANDARDS, and vice versa for the opposite decision.
Therefore, the person's moral value is, in some perceptions, decreased, while increased in others.
In this same manner, ANY PERSON choosing to be content with themselves as they are will develop a theism which defines that their moral perceptions are true, and that their moral value and state is (at least) adequate, whereas people perceiving that same person (OR ANY OTHER) to be content with themselves as they are will either agree with the decision (thus, agreeing with the perception, which means their theisms are very similar), or disagree with the decision (this, disagreeing with the person's perception, which means either their theisms are largely different, or they (the perceiving others) are hypocritical).
The first group of perceiving people, Group I, most probably will not agree with that same person they perceive to decide to "morally" improve themselves. However, some exceptions will occur in which member/s of Group I believe that the person they are judging is "morally adequate", however, COULD "morally improve".
The second group of perceiving people, Group II, most probably will not agree with the decision of the person to be content with themselves, and believe that the person in examination should attempt to improve themselves.
Some exceptions may occur in which some people would believe the person in examination (and/or any other) has "morally adequate" perceptions and values, however, at the same time they believe that attempting to improve is useless, and will only result in failure. These people may be nihilists or absurdists.
In conclusion, there are two variations on the answer, what is accepted/supported by the person in question, and what is accepted/supported by those who perceive him/her.