As a philosophy student I encountered several people who appeared to be convinced that, at the heart of things, human are ego-centered beings, and that every action we take is in some sense directed at the gratification of our own ego.
I do not believe this. As an example, let me talk about the idea of love, which I’ve heard people say is really just intended for one’s own happiness. The train of though goes like this: Love desires to make other people happy, and the root of that desire is that the other person’s happiness makes the person who loves them happy, and so really it’s all about just making yourself happy, with whatever love you happen to need in order to accomplish that.
This train of though ignores a few important aspects of the whole situation. First, if someone else’s unhappiness is itself enough to make you unhappy, then you have already started to dismantle the “self vs. other” boundary. If that person’s happiness then causes you to be happy, this is further evidence of the same. So instead of promoting your own happiness by making someone else happy, you are really promoting the happiness of a two-person emotional unit composed of both your emotions and those of the person you endeavor to make happy. It serves more than simply the self.
Second, by breaking down the self vs. other boundary (at least emotionally) you are in essence expanding your ego to include other people, making their happiness of equal weight to your own, and making them a part of your emotional self. This is really a kind of incredible thing, and it forces a redefinition of traditional “self vs. other” models, which means throwing out the idea of Egoism (which itself is the epitome and total culmination of such models, claiming that self and other are totally dichotomous).
So to love, when we think of loving as striving to make others happy (and I believe this is just one aspect of love, among many, many more), serves not to gratify the ego or the self, but to actually begin to dismantle it and build connections between people.