The media is full of it. Everywhere you see that people are told to love themselves; put themselves first; look out for “number one.” Such a notion is at the very least misleading, if not complete nonsense, and it is definitely dangerous.
A concern for oneself is built into our genes. Self-preservation has developed through biological evolution into a very strong instinct. Therefore, we don’t need to be told to love ourself. It comes naturally. But biological evolution is driven by the survival of the fittest. That makes for a very unfriendly world to live in.
The cultures of humanity oppose these strong instincts to allow the weak to survive as well, allowing the world to become a more friendly place to live in. Cultures accomplish it by instilling a concern for others.
The ancient biblical principles states “love your neighbour as much as you love yourself.” It represents a balance between the natural love all people have for themselves and the concern that should be extended to all other people they come in contact with.
This balance is important. It makes room for things like self-respect and self-confidence without which the balance would not be maintained. But it shows that such forms of self-concern should not exceed the level of concern for others.
A balanced level of competition with others is good and healthy, but when competition is driven too far it becomes destructive. In fact, it does not only harm others, but can start to be harmful to oneself.
So, don’t listen to all these calls for “learning to love yourself,” unless such messages are associated with self-development in balance with a healthy concern for others. A world full of selfish people is a very unfriendly world to live in, akin to the world in which the principles of the survival of the fittest rule, as they did during our biological evolution. In contrast, the foundation of a civilized world is the concern for others in balance with the concern for oneself.