Paul warns about a forthcoming time of godlessness and argues that its chief characteristic will be that men will be “lovers of self” (2 Tim. 3:2). When one’s center of gravity shifts from God and others to self, it serves as fertilizer for the cultivation of a variety of other sins. One might well ask what the alternative is to self-love. Self-hate or self-loathing? Of course not! The sentence in 2 Timothy 3, which warns against being “lovers of self,” contrasts self-love with those who are “lovers of God” (2 Tim 3:4). We are to be lovers of God, knowing, “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Contemporary pop psychology’s mantra about well-being is that you must love yourself first in order to be a healthy person and to be able to love others. It is common for some form of this thinking to be advocated by Christian counselors and individual Christians. After all, the assertion sounds plausible. While there is possibly a way you could nuance and clarify the statement so that it contains a measure of truth, it is vital to note that the Bible never calls us to reason in this way.
Sometimes you will hear that the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” implies the primacy of self-love. Consider an Old Testament reference and Jesus’s admonition:
“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” – Leviticus 19:18
“And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'” – Matthew 22:37-40
I cannot improve on Robert Mounce’s explanation of these verses:
Jesus has expanded the definition of neighbor from “fellow Israelite” (Lev. 19:18) to anyone in need (Luke 10:29–37) and even to one’s enemies (Matt. 5:44). To love one’s neighbor as oneself does not teach self-love, but requires that we extend to others the same kind of personal concern that we have for ourselves.