Self vs. Other
Similarities & Differences
• Self-love and others-love are the two most vital instincts in life. We constantly carry the self-preservation and social instincts in our genes.
Although both are powerful, however, we can live without others-love, but we cannot live without self-love. Only self-love can always be useful and pleasurable, while others-love can sometimes be useful and pleasurable—when someone's chemistry and interest complete another's. We cannot love anyone we are not chemically attracted to or beneficially interested in—not only people, but any organism, object or entity outside ourselves, for the same reason.
• Self-love and others-love are the most addictive types of love: to oneself (narcissism) and to others (social addiction).
Although both types of love (of self and other) mutually affect each other, it's easier to cure narcissism than attachment to people. In fact, pathological others-love is best cured by mindful self-love. The latter is more flexible because we have less control over other people's lives than over ours: other people are less available, understanding, sympathetic, trustworthy, predictable ... than us, toward us.
Most vices wrongly associated with self-love and narcissism are rather symptoms of pathological others-love and social addictions, such as vanity, sadism, lying, etc., all of which require the presence of other people. A man who truly loves himself doesn't need others to impress, control, intimidate, or humiliate.
There is no unhealthy self-love; there is only ignorant one. Self-love is never too much or excessive. It should know no boundaries because it's a reflection of the love of life itself, that cannot be lived or enjoyed without having one's "self" as the primary tool and lifelong companion to enjoy life with. If you hate your instrument, you will never play good music; if you hate yourself, you will never enjoy life.
• Both self-love and others-love can be a great teaching experience enlightening us about ourselves and others. Moreover, they motivate us to learn about other things in life. They motivate us to learn by sympathy as well as by pride. However, like all animal instincts, both can be flawed and biased sometimes:—
Ignorant self-love can be caused by static familiarity with oneself, taking oneself for granted without question or enough introspection. It can equally develop ignorance of one's good and bad qualities, underestimating or overestimating either. To avoid such ignorance, it's better to escape to natural and intellectual pleasures than to social ones, to understand oneself better. Being with other people, especially those similar to us, confuses our perception of ourselves. Contrasts make the picture clear. The opposite of a conscious human is not another human; it's an unconscious object: animate vs. inanimate. So, nature and books are a better teacher than conversation.
• Although both self-love and others-love are legitimate, we should only be loyal to our self because nothing in the world guarantees the loyalty of another entity to ours, with the former always changing, moving away from our course. Loyalty is to love permanently, i.e. until death separates you from what you love. You are the only entity that meets the above conditions for loyalty, permanent love, and a lifelong romance.
• Both self-love and others-love are controllable: they can be grown, refined or totally abandoned by our will. We cannot rely on instincts alone to decide our fate with. By practice and reasoning, we can tame our instincts to serve our ultimate goal: happiness. Self-love is difficult, boring and meaningless to people who follow their social instincts only, without using reason and enjoying other instincts too. Others-love is problematic, unpredictable and unjust, only to ignorant incurious individuals thinking they can change the world single-handedly.
• Self-love and others-love coexist in a cyclical reciprocal relationship together. However, self-love should come first, always taking the initiative. Loving one's self unconditionally gives it unconditional freedom to expand, inwards, outwards, and in every direction to maximize one's life and "self" experience. Every virtue should derive from self-love, above all, the virtue of prudence (wisdom):—
First, one seeks knowledge of oneself, other people, and the world. Then, one uses such knowledge to help other people and change the world, without unnecessarily stopping to check how much self-love one has, which already becomes a permanent natural ingredient in all their emotions, thoughts and actions. It's the rightful Master at the command center, because it's the strongest, truest, healthiest love.
Expanding oneself by increasing one's possessions or relationships without self-love is self-inflation, not self-expansion. Expanding oneself by decreasing one's possessions or relationships without self-love can lead to self-abuse, or even self-destruction. Self-love requires us to work with other people and be in contact with the outside world for mutual interest and cooperation.
Loving other people without self-love is the cause of most social diseases. It's not important to love someone as it is to empathize with them. Empathy is about vivid imagination, not fickle instinctive chemistry. The ultimate empathy is to understand why and imagine how someone loves himself/herself so much!