Is Self-Preservation a Good Thing or Bad? 8 Benefits and Negative Effects

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Is self-preservation a good thing, or is it bad? That is the question of the day. 

Do you usually give in to your self-preservation instinct? Or do you know someone with this tendency, and you are wondering whether self-preservation is a good or bad thing? You have come to the right place!

In this post, we shall discuss some of the benefits of self-preservation as well as the negative effects of this behavior. From these, you will be able to decide for yourself if your self-preservation instinct is a good thing or bad.

Your choice to either continue practicing self-preservation or stop will depend on how this behavior affects your life and others. So, let’s see, is self-preservation a good thing, or is it selfish? Read on…

Jump to a Section:
* Self-Preservation Meaning
* Examples of Self-Preservation
* Benefits of Self-Preservation
* Negative Effects of Self-Preservation

What Does Self-Preservation Mean?

Before we go on to the benefits of self-preservation and its negative effects, let’s start by defining this term just in case you don’t know what it means.

So, what is self-preservation? And, is self-preservation normal behavior?

Self-preservation is the natural instinct to protect oneself from harm, death, or situations that could cause discomfort. It is a normal, often subconscious action that not only happens in humans, but also among other living organisms as they strive to ensure their survival.

In relationships, self-preservation means setting boundaries and protecting your body, mind, soul, and heart from anything that could result in pain, destruction, or death.

”Self-preservation is the first law of nature.” 
– Samuel Butler.

Examples of Self-Preservation

What is considered self-preservation? It is not that complicated. Here are good examples of ways you can engage in self-preservation.

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8 Reasons Why Self-Preservation Is a Good Thing

  1. It is a form of self-care

Many people often confuse practicing self-care with being selfish. But the two couldn’t be more different. Taking care of yourself is an act of self-preservation!

Self-care involves putting yourself first and treating yourself with tender loving care, just like you would the people you love, such as your child, romantic partner, or parents. It is not something one should feel guilty about doing.

When you practice self-care, you do things that help preserve or improve your health and well-being. For example, eating healthily, sleeping, exercising, journaling, drinking enough water, practicing meditation, getting a support system, taking time off work, etc.

One of the reasons why self-preservation is a good thing is that it is a form of self-care that helps you make better decisions regarding your holistic health and safety.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” 
– Audre Lorde.

  1. Improved ability to help others

This point further reinforces that self-preservation is not selfish. One of the reasons why self-preservation is a good thing is that it enables you to become the best version of yourself, which will not only benefit you but also other people who need you.

There is a reason the flight attendants tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before assisting others when flying on a plane. If you take care of yourself first, you will have more energy and better health, enabling you to help others.

The improved ability to help others after helping yourself is one of the benefits of self-preservation. It will make your life fulfilling and extraordinary. But always remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. So put yourself first!

  1. Self-preservation protects you from toxic people

When you lack the self-preservation instinct, you may be too nice to everyone, even to the toxic people who use or abuse you. It can lead to a low sense of self-worth, disrespect from others, and waste your time, energy, and money.

Preventing yourself from being used and abused by various types of toxic people is one of the best reasons why self-preservation is a good thing in relationships.

You will protect your valuable time, energy, and money and get rid of toxic people who only take from you without reciprocating or adding any value to your life.

READ ALSO: 10 Ways to Protect Your Energy from Negativity and Depletion

  1. It ensures longevity and survival

When you don’t care about your life, you could engage in self-destructive behaviors and take risks that could lead to your premature demise. Your survival and longevity are some of the reasons why self-preservation is a good thing.

A self-preservation instinct is important because it motivates you to avoid harm and death in order to be stronger and healthier so you can live longer and produce offspring. It will also make you want to acquire the skills you need in order to protect yourself, maintain your well-being, and survive or bounce back when facing any threats.

The self-preservation instinct can become even more beneficial when you are chasing your goals or once you reach them after working hard to achieve them. You want to protect yourself from harm so you can continue living and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

  1. It increases happiness

You are responsible for making yourself happy, and your happiness is one of the benefits of self-preservation in life.

When you have your survival and best interests at the top of your mind at all times, you will set boundaries and say no to anything that doesn’t contribute to the achievement of your goals. Instead, you will prioritize what matters most to you and do the things that ensure you stay alive and thrive.

One of the reasons why self-preservation is a good thing is that as you take care of your mental and emotional health through self-care, your level of happiness will increase.

You will do things such as your hobbies, look for a job you love, spend time with loved ones, practice mindfulness, exercise, and develop healthy mechanisms for coping with stress and anxiety. All these acts of self-preservation will lead to a happier life.

READ ALSO: 8 Reasons Why You Should Do What Makes You Happy (and How)

  1. Self-preservation motivates you to obey the law and behave well

Another reason why self-preservation is a good thing is that it is a strong motivator for the formation of good behaviors and adherence to the set rules.

For example, if you want to survive and live longer, you can practice self-preservation while driving by wearing your seatbelt, obeying speed limits, following street signs and signals, not abusing drugs, and avoiding driving while drunk.

Furthermore, self-preservation is important because it can help you make better decisions when it comes to your safety and security, such as not trusting strangers and not putting yourself in unnecessary danger.

“Self-preservation is a powerful motivator, more reliably so than money or empathy or love.”
― Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

  1. It promotes independence and self-sufficiency

Self-preservation and self-reliance go hand in hand. When you have a survival instinct, you will want to be independent, self-reliant, and self-sufficient.

You will strive to increase the resources available to you, for example, money, food, water, energy, land, or clean air, and to make better use of them in order to ensure their supply never diminishes.

Self-preservation is important because it motivates you to rely on yourself. You are the only person you are stuck with for life, and thus, you must ensure you can always count on yourself. As such, one of the benefits of self-preservation is that it will promote independence, self-reliance, and self-sufficiency, things you need to survive and thrive against all odds.

  1. Self-preservation makes you vigilant

Does it feel like things just happen to you, and you have no control over if or when they occur? Self-preservation is a good thing as it can help you take control over your life, so you can plan it out and take the necessary actions when facing challenges.

While practicing self-preservation, you will have to identify the things that pose a threat to you and find ways to protect yourself from them. Additionally, if you already went through a situation that threatened your survival in the past, you will devise ways to prevent repeat occurrences to ensure you never have such a bad experience again.

Becoming more vigilant is among the main benefits of self-preservation. Instead of waiting for bad things to happen to you, you will start to anticipate problems, notice them when they occur, and deal with them before they can negatively affect your life.

6 Negative Effects of Self-Preservation

  1. Lack of vulnerability

Yes, self-preservation is a good thing. But it can also be bad for you sometimes. One of the negative effects of self-preservation in relationships is that it can make you be closed off, even to the people you should let in, such as your loved ones.

You may be interested in only protecting yourself from harm, but in so doing put up very high walls that make communication and intimacy difficult in your relationships.

While practicing self-preservation, you may never want to be vulnerable to others because you could consider it an exposure of your weaknesses that people who wish to harm you could exploit.

READ ALSO: 6 Reasons Why You Should Keep Your Personal Life Private (and How to Do It)

  1. Erosion of moral values

Self-preservation is about protecting oneself from harm, death, or discomfort. And though there is nothing wrong with looking out for yourself and wanting to ensure your survival, a problem may develop when you strive for self-preservation no matter what it takes.

You are ready to do anything to ensure you stay alive and thrive, which may affect your morality as you may have to sacrifice your values and compromise your integrity to achieve this goal. For example, you could steal from others, hoard resources, cheat, mistreat people, or even kill others if that is what it takes for you to survive.

Moral degradation of values is one of the main negative effects of self-preservation. You shouldn’t have to change who you are or commit crimes to survive and thrive.

  1. Isolation

This point is related to the first one. Not many people will stick around someone who refuses to let them in. People like to feel loved, needed, and valued. Hence, they appreciate it when someone trusts them enough to open up to them.

Since you want to protect yourself from harm and be self-reliant, you may push the people you love and those who love you away if you practice self-preservation in relationships. Your partner will feel rejected because your fear of intimacy and actions show that you don’t need or trust them.

As such, one of the negative effects of self-preservation is that you may become isolated. The isolation and loneliness could make you feel like you don’t belong anywhere, a dangerous feeling that may result in depression, social anxiety, and self-destructive behaviors such as suicide and self-harm.

  1. Self-preservation may keep you stuck in life

Fears of change and taking risks are common among people who practice self-preservation. Such individuals are often afraid of things being unpredictable and forcing them to face challenges they are unprepared for. They can’t feel assured of their safety and survival in such circumstances.

While trying to protect themselves from unforeseen threats, such people may choose to remain in their comfort zone resulting in them becoming stuck in life

Sure, nothing bad may happen to them, but they will also not progress further or get new experiences due to fear, which explains why self-preservation may not be a good thing.

READ ALSO: 10 Signs You Are Stuck in The Past, Why It Happens, and How to Let Go

  1. Self-preservation can be selfish and narcissistic

Though self-preservation is not supposed to be selfish, sometimes it can be. For example, only looking out for yourself while in a group with a shared goal or with your loved ones is selfish and narcissistic behavior.

Disregarding everyone else and doing what suits you best, even though others may get harmed in the process, shows a lack of compassion for others, one of the negative effects of self-preservation.

If you make self-serving decisions while there are alternative options that could benefit more people, that is no longer just self-preservation but selfishness and narcissism as well.

  1. Living in defense mode

Self-preservation is a good thing when you want to protect yourself from getting hurt. But it could also be a bad thing if you are doing it as a defense mechanism after going through a traumatic experience.

Depending on what bad events you went through, self-preservation may be your trauma response to avoid getting hurt again. While this can be good in helping you protect yourself to some extent, it could make you behave in defensive ways that could end up hurting you or those close to you.

For example, using self-preservation as a defense mechanism after trauma could make you avoid getting close to anyone, never share your thoughts, deny problems, dissociate, always stay home, lash out, make excuses, blame others when they are not at fault, and never take risks.

READ ALSO: Toxic Positivity: What It Is, Why It Is Harmful, and 5 Ways to Avoid It

Final Thoughts

Is self-preservation a good thing or bad? As you can see above, it is a double-edged sword. There are benefits of self-preservation and disadvantages. And since you now know both sides of the coin, it is up to you to make the decision whether to practice self-preservation or not.

The power of self-preservation is evident. However, when done wrong or if someone goes to extremes to protect themselves and ensure their survival, self-preservation may not be a good thing. It may have some negative effects on the individual or the people around them.

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