Self Interest - Ensure That This Is Healthy But No More

Self interest can be healthy or unhealthy - our choice. If we keep our interest in ourselves on the side of our welfare, concern for our well-being, the wish to share our knowledge, wisdom and experience with others then we will be able to exhibit a healthy self-interest. However, should we veer too far down the road to self obsession or self pre-occupation then a slippery slope may be there ready to meet us, and before we realize it.

A healthy self interest

It is, of course, fine to to have and maintain a healthy self interest, to be interested in ourselves. Our life. Our welfare. Concern that we live a good and wholesome life is central to any satisfying, enjoyable and productive life. Wishing to use our curiosity, our enthusiasm, our energy, our zeal for life in order to maximize the life we lead. The life we experience, the life we enjoy, the life we wish for ourselves and our loved ones is essential in the pursuit of realizing our potential in life. Self interest can be healthy.

Moderation in all things is a cry we often hear, and around self interest, too. If we use our self interest appropriately and we will have the foundations of a fine life. Take our self-interest too far and we could end up with more than we bargained for. After all, to take advantage of much of life we have to love ourselves. And we should. There is no harm in that. No harm in a positive self interest. No harm in maintaining a positive self interest. If we don't love or like ourselves how will others ever really like us, too? We would be giving off all the wrong signals on the one hand, and acting and behaving in a non-attractive, self serving way on the other.

Self Interest - keeping it real

We all know about compound interest. This is where (and forgive my simple non-accountant explanation) our investment earns us interest, and then interest on the savings and the interest, earning us yet more interest. And our savings grow, and far more than if we spend the interest each and every time it is paid to us. We could view self interest in the same way.

We have all the other things - our image, our esteem, our worth, our knowledge, our attitudes, our list of things that, put together, makeup us as people. Our value in life, to ourselves, to others and life as a whole is dependent upon our value and contribution to life and the greater good.

If we are giving, generous of our time, helpful, receptive of others - you get the picture -we will be popular with our peers, we will be liked, we will be admired, we will be respected. Our value will increase in proportion to our endeavors. And this can roll forward and 'compound' upon itself, as in our compound interest example given above. Our value will increase; our being appreciated will be extended, and so on.

Self interest - the other side of the coin . . .

The analogy can start out the same.

If we take our life and compare this same theory to it. We all have talents and strengths that are useful. We have our personality and behavior, our persona, that reveals itself in the life we lead. This is our individuality.

However, the opposite can also become true from these same beginnings. If the same basis is taken but 'abused' then a very different scenario could unfold. For example

  • We are proud of our achievements, but we are over proud. We become engrossed in our accomplishments. We push others away. We take all the glory ourselves, whether it is warranted or not. We become increasingly isolated in our pursuit of power, money or fortune. We leave our friends and colleagues behind, and often trampled under foot in our selfish journey for stardom and riches - and lose ourselves and our credibility along the way. Where has our healthy self interest gone?
  • We are overly protective and obsessed by our image. We are continually preening ourselves to look our best. We are enthralled by our own good looks, or so we think. We treat others who may or may not be as 'good looking' as ourselves, or who cannot afford, nor want to, to keep up with our obsessive pursuit of the high life. Of the life of glitz over substance, of fantasy over reality. We increasingly become isolated from our roots, from our friends and family, in trying to either 'stay young' or mix with a totally different strata of society, of the partying high life, very far removed from our previous happy and comfortable, but far less glitzy and humble neighbourhood. The very neighbourhood we had lived in all our lives and been happy with. The same neighbourhood where all our family, friends and work colleagues live and hang out. But we have 'improved' ourselves and 'moved' on in our lives and left that behind - and left behind ourselves in this false and imaginary world we have created and now live in (or at least try to do so)
  • Or we can obsess about our intellectual prowess, our abilities that are far greater and better than our peers. We feel that we have never been understood and now we feel we have our chance. We push our friends and family aside; after all they have always been beneath us. Beneath our undoubted (in our eyes) ability. We, day by day, get sucked into this (again) imaginary world which we frequent with other similarly talented high-fliers (just that many of them are, but we are an uninvited interloper), living in a world far removed from our much more humble (but real) beginnings. With time, we leave our previous reality behind and try to keep up with our peers. Alas our talents, fine where we were and then appreciated for what they (and we) were and could contribute, alas our talents fail to keep us up with the circle we now live in. Their talents and abilities are continuing to grow and build, whereas ours, already stretched far beyond their limits, are showing signs of stress and strain. And then the rubber band effect hits us. We have stretched ourselves far beyond our capabilities, in the pursuit of this illusory goal, and now come back to Earth. Come back to Earth in a rush to a huge and undignified landing. And we are lost. We have lost what we thought was our rightful place with the intellectual stars. But also we have lost our place, where we have always lived, with our friends and family, who over time we left behind, no worse, often dumped for being not up to it, not up to us. And so now we find ourselves lost. Lost from the world we hoped to live within, but never had the capability of doing so. And lost in the previous world, where we were accepted and appreciated and valued - but now no more since our obsessive, egotistical attitude has forced all our previous circle to leave in a hurry to avoid being around such an uncompromising, un-thoughtful, unfriendly, self obsessed, smug, arrogant and pompous individual.

And where would any of these three scenarios, and all the others we could envisage and describe, where would they leave us? Where could they leave us? Leave us in our world, the real world. But where?

So, what should we do?

How can we avoid these (and other) unpleasant, isolating and self obsessive outcomes? How can we avoid this in our own lives? And maintain a healthy self interest?

It is not so difficult, is it?

  • We should think about ourselves, but also think about others, too
  • We should think how we can improve ourselves, but also how we can help others, too
  • We should think how we take from life (for our own sustenance and living), but also be prepared to share and give of ourselves, too
  • . . .

You get the picture, I know.

The remedy . . .

So, to conclude, having a health self-interest is an essential if we are to get the most out of ourselves, out of our life. However, we should be very careful lest we become obsessive about ourselves, our looks, our talents, our whatever. Avoid the obsessive streak that may lay hidden in our lives. Avoid the vain. Avoid the egotistical streak that we could (so easily) pursue.

Just look after yourself. Be interested in yourself and your life, but also be interested in others and their lives, and the greater world about you.

Be grateful for your life. Be grateful for your abilities. Be grateful for being you. Be proud of being you, but in a nice, healthy and wholesome way. And then you can and will have, and be able to live, an extraordinary life. Go live it!