Self-Love versus Arrogance

No one can flourish without self-love. And quite fortunately, a most significant truth is that proper self-love is not at all a form of arrogance or egotism. To have self-love is to value oneself all the while making sure that one does not harm or exploit others. What is more, self-love is not at all about running around drawing attention to oneself successes and accomplishments.

In other words, self-love is not at all tantamount to a form of arrogance. Quite the contrary. An absolutely immutable truth is that having genuine self-love typically entails having a considerable modesty. That is because genuine self-love entails having a considerable degree of perceptivity, insight, and self-awareness, but not at all the desire to call attention one’s social gifts.

The reason why self-awareness is so important to self-love is none other than the reality that a person with genuine self-love has a very, very, very deep desire to do right by others. And a very simple truth is that personal insightfulness is typically quite relevant to a person doing right by others. For doing right by others entails both (1) having considerable self-knowledge and (2) being tremendously perceptive with respect to how one may properly assist another. Precept (1) entails having tremendous knowledge about one’s strengths and weaknesses. Precept (2) entails having tremendous knowledge with respect to what the uptake one’s behavior will be like in the eyes of others.

As is obvious, precept (1) is not a form of arrogance. Likewise, precept (2) is not form of arrogance. There is nothing at all arrogant about having considerable self-knowledge and being perceptive. Or to put the point more precisely: Having considerable self-knowledge and being tremendously perceptive is not at all a psychological configuration that yields arrogance and condescension on a person’s part.
Indeed, surely just the opposite is true, namely that having considerable self-knowledge and being tremendously perceptive is absolutely crucial to flourishing without at all feeling the need to be condescending with respect to others.

Indeed, a most interesting truth that in point of fact few seem to acknowledge is that when a person has a truly secure sense of self, then it is very, very, very unlikely that she or he will be arrogant. By contrast, precisely what is characteristic of the arrogant person is that she or her is so insecure that she or he very much needs to be lifted up in the eyes of others.

Self-love is one of the most significant and desirable psychological configurations that a person can have. Unfortunately, the association of self-love with arrogance or egotism has been a tremendous impediment to countless many individuals giving self-love its proper due. That warped association has very much done far more harm than good.

© 2017 Laurence Thomas

About Laurence Thomas

Laurence Thomas is Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Department of Philosophy at Syracuse University. His most recent book is The Family and the Political Self and his most recent article in French is "Juifs et Noirs: Au-delà du Mal" in Trigano (ed.) Juifs et Noirs: du Mythe à la Réalité. Thomas has published numerous essays on the topic of friendship. The essay "The Character of Friendship" has appeared in volume on friendship, entitled Thinking About Friendship, edited by Damian Caluori and the essay "Friendship in the Shadow of Technology" has appeared in the anthology Moral and Moral Controversies edited by Steven Scalet and John Arthur. His most recent essay--entitled "Being Moral and Handling the Truth"--is about circumstances under which it is morally permissible to lie. Indeed, an example is given in Section IV of a lie being morally virtuous.
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