Real name
Dov P Elkins

As author of four books on self-esteem (spin-offs of my doctoral dissertation), I am a fierce advocate of Hillel's comments on be for yourself. (See my book, Glad To Be Me: Building Self-esteem in Yourself and Others). The frequently quoted example of the importance of self-esteem is the speech one hears on an airplane. The flight attendant says: In case of unlikely emergency, make sure to put the oxygen mask on yourself before trying  to help others.. This is good advice in all spheres of life. One must first tend to one's own minimal survival needs in order to be able to assist others. Of course, Hillel goes the next step - first help yourself, and then make sure to help others as well. 

Jewish tradition contains many wise statements about this approach. In giving charity, you and your own family, residents of your own town, etc. take precedence. But do not limit yourself to yourself and your family and community. After that make sure to reach out and help others.  And, of course, don't waste time or procrastinate - "if not now, when?" As Rabbi Tarfon teaches in Avot, "You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it."  Jewish teaching is chock full of such great advice.

Real name
William Berkson

William Berkson replied 2 weeks 3 days ago

Rabbi Elkins, very interesting that you have done so much work on self-esteem. Do you have a rule or guideline for how to draw the line between healthy tending to your own interests, or healthy self-esteem, and narcissism that is ultimately self-destructive? How do you distinguish the two?