Self-love versus self-obsession

Acharya Prashant
6 min readFeb 13, 2021

The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

Questioner (Q): Acharya Ji, Pranam! We have been taught not to be selfish. If we start to love ourselves, where to draw a line before we get self-obsessed? Or is self-love the same as self-obsession?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Self-love is a wonderful thing. But one has to really know what love means. Isn’t there a difference between pleasing someone and helping someone? Is there, or is there not?

You have a child in your home. And he keeps asking for sweets. He doesn’t merely have a sweet tooth, his entire jaw is sweet. All he wants is sweets. What would please him? Lots of sweets. What would help him?- “No more sweets! You are already so fat.”

Now tell me what is love? — To give sweets to the child, gratify him, please him, make him happy, make him feel at least momentarily satisfied, make him your great admirer; you offer him, sweets, you know, Or keep him away from the sweets even if it peeves him a little, even if it puts the relationship in a bit of strain, even if it makes him drift a little away from you. Where is love?

The child that I am talking of is the self. Now is self-love, self-gratification, or self-help? In love, must you gratify the other or must you elevate the other? And there is a tremendous difference between these two. You know, don’t you? Which of these two is easier and more attractive? Self-gratification, right? If you are with someone, just gratify the person. And most people, when they are gratified, they reciprocate. If you make them happy, they will do something to make you happy. But is that love, to give the fat child even more sweets?

And then there is self-elevation, which is never an easy thing. When you make someone happy, he feels obliged to return the happiness. Whereas when you want to elevate someone, it causes some pain, some stretch, some distress. Chances are that the fellow will not only be not grateful to you, he might even become actively or passively hostile to you. Now that’s such a bad bargain.

First of all, you are investing effort in elevating a person and what is it that you are getting in return?- Hostility! This is the attitude we hold towards others. Obviously, this is also the…

Acharya Prashant