Politics and Love, Self-compassion, Self-Love and Self-Directed Kindness

A Brief Guide to the Difference Between Self-Love and Selfishness

There is an increasing cultural emphasis on the importance of self-love and self-care.

Sometimes the emphasis on self-love may worry us because self-love sounds a bit like selfishness, and we know selfishness is not a good thing.

Selfishness is definitely a bad and destructive character trait to have, but I think authentic self-love  is healing and life-giving both to ourselves and to others.

To show this, I would like to trace out briefly the difference between self-love and selfishness.

Self-Love: Self-love honors and nurtures the light in us (our Wise Self), and it heals that which is diseased and dark in us (our Wounded Self). You can read more about the Wise and Wounded Self at the links at the end.


Selfishness: Selfishness disregards our light and the light of others. In doing so, it makes our Wounded Self the center of the world. It dwells in the disease of the Wounded Self and encourages it to fester.


Here are some ways that Self-love and Selfishness operate differently: 

Self-Love leads us to honor and to connect consistently with the Wise Self, which increases our love, wisdom, creativity, and compassion.

Selfishness leads us to sink further and further into the Wounded Self and to prioritize the addiction, compulsions, and self-numbing behavior that flows from the Wounded Self.

Self-Love leads us to greater love and caring for others because it helps us to see that just as we possess a Wise Self, so does everyone else.

Selfishness leads us to prioritize our thoughts, needs, and feelings at the expense of everyone else because we neither recognize our Wise Self or other people’s Wise Self.

Self-Love encourages trust, love, and community in which we and everyone else are encouraged together through our Wise Selves.

Selfishness encourages fear, distrust, and extreme individualism. Life is a zero-sum game, and if you get more, that means I have less.

Self-Love encourages healthy boundaries so that other people treat us with respect, and so that we treat others with respect.

Selfishness pushes us to violate other people’s boundaries for our benefit, and it encourages us to violate our own boundaries to feed our addictions and compulsions.

Love makes strong on outside and soft on outside


The difference between selfishness and self-love is important to understand because self-love allows us to be our own best friend as well as a loving friend to others. We don’t need more selfishness, but we definitely need more self-love.


If you found this post helpful, please consider sharing it on a social media.

If you would like to read more about self-love and the Wise and Wounded Self, you might enjoy these posts:

Recognizing Self-Hate: Step One: Seven Steps to Love

Remembering Love: Step Two: Seven Steps to Love

Recovering from Self-Hate By Returning to Love: Step Three: Seven Steps to Love

Dealing With the Dark, Diseased, and Wounded Parts of Us: Step Four: Seven Steps to Love

Seven Steps to Love: Recovering from Self-Hate

If you would like read a more in depth account of the difference between self-love and selfishness, you might like this post:
Why Self-Love is Not Selfishness and Narcissism

13 thoughts on “A Brief Guide to the Difference Between Self-Love and Selfishness”

  1. Excellent points and reminder. Self care is getting ever more important in this crazy world! Someone once put it to me like this: “You have to refill your own well if you want to give water to others.” I thought that was a good way to word it.

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