This is a post without structure or unified purpose-- I'm writing it to collect my thoughts on things I've learned.
One of the most brilliant things I've heard someone say recently is that when you're confused about something about yourself, you should regard yourself as if you were someone else entirely, a stranger. Someone who has no reason to hate or love you. I think it was Jordan Peterson I heard this from.
You realize a lot of different things when you think that way. You realize there's a lot of fucked up shit with regard to the way people regard themselves.
First off, what we call "self-pity" isn't. Not AT ALL. Pity isn't always a positive emotion when felt for others, sometimes it's full on schadenfreude, but if we saw someone "pitying" someone else the way we pity ourselves, we'd feel an urge to kick their ass.
"Self pity" is something more like "self-browbeating". We tend to understand our sadistic natures well enough to prevent ourselves from hurting others, or at least our subconscious sees what could come of it quickly enough to prevent us from taking some action, but when it comes to attacking ourselves, we have no compunction. I honestly believe some people who hate themselves are actually doing it sadistically without being masochistic. There is some element in their psyche that likes causing pain, but the element that responds to pain isn't strong enough to ruin that pleasure. A sense of grim satisfaction, standing in your own ruins.
These people, obviously, have a much easier time later on turning those drives outward, or not responding with outrage when something cruelly bad happens (unless it's some kind of a freudian repression thing, and even then it's usually in the most unhealthy way possible). They may even identify with feelings of victimhood, "I'm so depressed, my life is so hard," when they're 100% complicit.
This is why I think it should be instilled as a moral virtue to be kind to yourself. I really think that we need to stop thinking of ourselves as single people in our bodies, that we are actually a collection of personalities, or spirits, that may want different things at different times. Self-destructive acts, amortizing the future, instant pleasure and hedonism in exchange for future pain for yourself should be seen as just as wrong as pushing those consequences on someone else. We are individuals, but in a lot of ways, we aren't. We need absolute responsibility-- just saying "well, it's your funeral" isn't morally acceptable. You should, to some degree, regard self-destructive people as if they're hurting someone else with their actions. Because in a lot of ways, they are. This doesn't mean controlling other people, or forcing them to do the "right" thing, but that "well I'm only hurting myself," even if it's 100% true, isn't sufficient to deflect moral critique. You will regret it-- it is just a problem for future you, but future you may well be a different person of a completely different mindset. Literally.
Also, self love and narcissism ARE NOT the same thing. Not even close.
Narcissism is an identification with a certain aspect of the self. Narcissists might seem to love themselves, but their psychology is really fucked up-- they are slavishly serving an image of themselves just as much as they expect others to, and with the same bad results. They are convinced that this one aspect of themselves is all that is good, and anything that challenges or sullies that image, whether it comes from inside their own psyches or outside, is a threat to be destroyed mercilessly. They are probably less aware of their ego than normal people-- they don't even perceive the boundaries between themselves and others. As far as they can see, all existence serves the image, the fiction that has possessed them. Other people aren't conceived to have independent existences from it because THEY don't have an independent existence from it-- even though they should.
Self love is the ability to love yourself no matter what, and ALL aspects of yourself. It's really hard to really get there, but I find the exercise I mentioned above REALLY helpful.
If you can regard yourself as if you were a disinterested third party, take account of every aspect of yourself with total honesty, and still regard yourself as worthy-- "You know, it wouldn't be a bad thing if this person had a good life," -- you're at least halfway to experiencing genuine self-love.
People think that we all love ourselves by default, and that's not true. We like seeking pleasures for ourselves, yes, we like getting praised, having our egos stroked, but that's not anywhere near the same thing. Those things are more an imperative, a drive we are compelled to obey. They are things our subconscious tells us we must get, because the alternative is not surviving. We need to think in terms of things we freely give ourselves because life is good and these things are intrinsically worth having. That's the kind of thinking that makes you happy to be alive.