Any action which benefits myself is selfish, and thus not very virtuous, while any action I do for the benefit of someone else is unselfish, and thus good. Nothing could be more perverse, in that living for oneself is as natural to a man or woman as eating or breathing. Yet because it’s generally accepted that self-interest is bad, people go through all sorts of contortions to represent their selfish actions as being motivated by concern for others.
The great mistake that is commonly made is to define one’s interest exclusively, or even primarily, in material terms. Self-interest can take many forms. It may be in my short-term interest to see a child laugh, as I derive pleasure from the sight. It may be in my long-term interest to build a great business, for reasons that have little to do with material reward. It may be in my selfish interest to give away money if I think I’m creating value with the gift.
Not only is living selfishly natural, it is also rational. In order to make choices, one must make value judgments, and you can only make value judgments based on your own values. In other words, it is impossible to create value without defining value (perhaps only intuitively), but that definition must be based on your own view of reality. Even a person who is completely devoted to someone else has a very difficult time determining what is really in the other person’s best interests, which is one reason why raising children is so difficult.
On seeking your own interests based on a broad, long-term perspective.