I have mixed feelings about this article. The truth is I really loved it at first, but you lost me when you started talking about America being built on the “moral of impulse control” and the inherent problems you see with today’s culture of “love yourself for who you are.”
For one, the push to “love yourself” didn’t just arise in a vacuum. There are many valid reasons for its existence and increasing popularity. Regardless of your perspective on old America (although I’d like to note none of us was actually there), there is no reason to think that the push to love yourself runs contrary to the ethic of hard work. In fact it supports it. When people feel good about who they truly are — not who they think they should be, they serve themselves and society better.
If you feel you are good enough as you are (i.e. — love yourself), then it is natural to pursue your highest objectives. These bring you to a state of flow, and this is the state in which people serve society the best. The 40% rule is irrelevant to those in a flow state. If people find the pursuits that suit them, not what suits their family, their partner, the government, or you or me, then they can often avoid or at least minimize the ruts and confused objectives you mention in the first place.
Of course distractions are an issue. Of course it’s a problem to choose *only* fleeting pleasures. But “internal conflict” is *not* the answer. So many people mistake the person they think they should be for who they are that it has lead to massive and debilitating cognitive dissonance, i.e. — internal conflict. This is unnecessary pain, a.k.a. — suffering. And it is so pervasive and consuming that if you ask these people what they want in a given situation, they often literally do not even know the answer. Worse, many have convinced themselves that their preferences don’t matter, or that they have no preferences at all! How can anyone who doesn’t know happiness in themselves make decisions that meaningfully take them toward it? People must know what they authentically want, but the only way to learn that is to first learn to value their authentic selves — feelings, thoughts, judgment, instincts, mistakes and all.
Lastly, though some people may misuse the concept of loving yourself to justify laziness or some other form of not-thriving, it doesn’t mean the idea itself is wrong. It just comes down to integrity. I think it would be very unfortunate if you or your readers used or misused the ideas in your article to justify rejecting the pursuit of self-love, especially when that itself is the key for so many to finding a truly worthwhile objective in the first place.
Thanks for writing Ben.