For whatever reason people who place substantial intrinsic value on themselves seem to be more successful and have a larger social impact in the long term. It appears to be better for mental health, risk-taking, and confidence among other things.
You’re also almost always better placed than anyone else to provide the things you need — e.g. sleep, recreation, fun, friends, healthy behaviours — so it’s each person’s comparative advantage to put extra effort into looking out for themselves. I don’t know why, but doing that is more motivating if it feels like it has intrinsic and not just instrumental value.
Even the most self-effacing among us have a part of their mind that is selfish and cares about their welfare more than the welfare of strangers.
Folks who currently neglect their wellbeing and intrinsic value to a dangerous extent can start by fostering ways of thinking that build up that endorse and build up that selfishness.
I think this is still an instrumental reason for someone to place “substantial intrinsic value on themselves.” Though I have no problem with that, I thought what C Tilli complained about was precisely that, for EAs, all self-concern is for the sake of the greater good, even when it is rephrased as a psychological need for a small amount self-indulgence.Second, I’d say that people who are “more successful and have a larger social impact in the long term” are “people who place substantial intrinsic value on themselves,” but that’s just selection dynamics: if you have a large impact, then you (likely) place substantial intrinsic value on yourself. Even if it does imply that you’re more likely to succeed if you place substantial intrinsic value on yourself (if only people who do that can succeed), it does not say anything about failure – confident people fail all the time, and the worst way of failing seems to be reserved for those who place substantial value on themselves and end up being successful with the wrong values.
But I wonder if our sample of “successful people” is not too biased towards those who get the spotlights. Petrov didn’t seem to put a lot of value on himself, and Arkhipov is often described as exceptionally humble; no one strives to be an unsung hero.
Actually my concerns are more practical, along the lines of Roberts comment, that this kind of thinking could be bad for mental health and, indeed, long-term productivity and impact. If the perception of self-worth didn’t seem important for mental health, I would not care much about it. But it would be a sad scenario if we look back in 50 years and see that the EA movement has led to a lot of capable, ambitious people burning out because we (inadvertently) encouraged (or failed to counteract) destructive thought patterns.
I don’t think there is a simple solution, but I think Will Bradshaw is on to something in his comment about the need to “generate community structures and wisdom literature to help manage this tension, care for each other, and create the emotional (as well as intellectual) conditions we need to survive and flourish.”