How do other people see you? This is a question that philosophers pose from time to time in an effort to get us looking outside of ourselves; to reflect on our lives. British philosopher Adam Smith believed that much of our striving for wealth, property, and distinctions arises from this need to look good in the eyes of others. We crave attention, and we are willing to sacrifice much – our time, energy, our tranquillity of mind and body – so as to be elevated in the eyes of others.
Interestingly, Smith, often dubbed the “Father of Capitalism” didn’t seem to think that chasing wealth and greatness to impress others would bring us all that much happiness, even though working hard certainly kept the economic wheels turning. While it’d elevate our social standing, chasing wealth and greatness would come at a price, he thought. Furthermore, by spending a lifetime looking ahead at what ‘could’ be, we fail to appreciate what gains we’ve made.
Instead, Smith seemed to suggest that a path that’s good for both us and society was through cultivating passions of gratitude and love. “Humanity does not desire to be great, but to be beloved,” Smith wrote. Interestingly, friendship and love are central tenets of Smith’s philosophy of ‘living well’. If other people see us as loving, caring, and kind – then according to Smith, we’re on to something.