The Torah tells us to ' Love your fellow as yourself '- Leviticus 19:18 .ואהבת לרעך כמוך -ויקרא יט:יח
From this verse it seems that loving oneself is a condition for being able to love other people. Now self-love is generally regarded as having a sense of entitlement, being self- indulgent and hedonistic, and only really being concerned only about oneself and certainly not about others. So how does self-love make one into a more caring person? True self-love is about people who regard themselves as self-directed and autonomous, competent, caring and responsible people. For them, self-love is nurturing the spiritual and emotional side of them, the part that defines them. As The sage Hillel – the elder said about him going to the bath-house or having a meal that he was doing a chesed – a kindness to his soul – -גומל חסד לנפשו which was resident in his body . Loving yourself is taught in another place in the context of helping others - וחי אחיך עמך ויקרא כה: לו –'and let your brother live with you '-Leviticus 25:36. Rabbi Akiva says – your life comes first, before the life of your friend (but your friend comes a close second.)
These people experience themselves on a fundamental level as worthy of esteem and love. Loving and caring for others is not in competition of oneself, but just an extension of loving oneself if done in a healthy way.
Children who see themselves as worthy of esteem and love and see themselves as fundamentally good people will be able to be caring and act in altruistic ways. On the other hand children, who view their pro-social conduct as compliance with external authority, will act pro-socially only when they believe external pressures are present. Helping children to come to believe that their pro-social behavior reflects values or dispositions in themselves is best achieved by verbally attributing such values or dispositions to the child. In one experiment, in which children gave away some of their game winnings after watching a model do so, those who were told that they had made the donation "because you're the kind of person who likes to help other people" were subsequently more generous than those who were told that they had donated because they were expected to do so. In another study, the likelihood of children's donating increased both when they were praised and when they were led to think of themselves as helpful people. But in a follow-up experiment, it was the latter group who turned out to be more generous than those who had received verbal reinforcement. In other words, praise increased generosity in a given setting but ceased to be effective outside of that setting, whereas children with an intrinsic impulse to be generous continued to act on that motivation in other circumstances. These findings by Joan Grusec of the University of Toronto provides a concrete alternative to the use of rewards or praise (the problem with praise is that it is controlling and judgmental) to elicit generosity and is important because it implies that being led to think of oneself as generous does not affect behavior merely because it is a kind of reinforcement or a mood-enhancer; this label apparently encourages pro-social action because it helps to build a view of the self as altruistic.- Alfie Kohn – Caring Kids, the Role of schools
Another very important predictor of whether children will accept themselves as fundamentally valuable and capable is to the extent to which they been accepted unconditionally by others. As Carl Rogers (1959) argued half a century ago, those on the receiving end of conditional love – that is, affection based not on who they are but on what they do -- come to disown the parts of themselves that aren’t valued. Eventually they regard themselves as worthy only when they act (or think or feel) in specific ways and often end up not 'liking' themselves. They then create a' false' self that their parents will like. The research can be summarized as follows - The more conditional the support [one experiences], the lower one’s perceptions of overall worth as a person. When children receive affection with strings attached, they do indeed tend to accept themselves only with strings attached. Their self-esteem becomes contingent – I only like myself when … instead of non-contingent and inherently stable self-esteem. – Alfie Kohn – Unconditional Parenting/Teaching
Children will act in accordance with the Torah's teaching of Love your fellow as yourself if they feel unconditionally accepted, worthy of esteem and love, feel valuable and capable and see their pro-social behavior as intrinsic to who they are as people.