I would rather be a realist, with self-awareness and vision than a short-sighted optimist buoyed up by visions of grandeur that are, mostly, based on aggrandized caliber and misplaced confidence in skills one does not actually possess.
Also, I beware of entities demanding “loyalty”, especially of friends, but more or less of anything, including but not limited to nation, brands, sports teams, pets, school, culture, religion, even spouses and what have you. The only loyalty that will do anyone any good, is one they have for themselves. The people demanding or commanding loyalty do so with the knowledge, albeit lack of acceptance, of their inadequacy of actually warranting it. Like respect, loyalty should be earned and when earned correctly, it needn’t be demanded. Of course, delusion extends to people thinking they have earned it, or they will earn it once loyalty towards them has been proven. Can we ever be, even reasonably, convinced of the ethics and value-system of whoever is commanding the loyalty? (hint: NO). In the end the only person we can hope to know really well is ourselves, and to reiterate, anyone who demands loyalty significantly lacks self-awareness (clearly!) if it’s a person, and if it is anything bigger (in size or fame) than a person, it lacks the honesty and the transparency.
Loyalty is for dogs, who nice as they are, lack self-awareness, do not particularly need self-respect and cannot aspire to be free or objective of their owners. Loyalty to a nation, often mislabeled as patriotism, correctly interpreted by groups of people is actually loyalty to their dear and unadulterated principles, because nations are build by people. Of course with the caveat that people are, as mentioned above not always exactly deserving of it. Principles are the aforementioned value-system which can borrow from some religious thought and some moral grounds, but given the world we live in, should not actually be aligned to any. People with the same principles and vision often unite without demanding loyalty when what they hope to achieve is something beyond limits, something for the whole world, e.g., the NRA is made of people who agree with people’s rights to own guns and defend that and is full of “loyalists” because other than loyalty and gun owning, which is like car owning: everyone who owns a car does not share a bond, there is no fixative holding them together. There banding pitches their “group” and “cause” against others groups and individuals, who may not have any other differences in principles otherwise, but of course, they often do (and yes, this was a misleading example, a proper one follows). Whereas, climate activists like Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Greta Thurnberg, Boyan Slat (he designed the first ocean plastic cleanup system at around 18 yrs of age) do not demand loyalty to themselves. They see the big picture, have principles that band people from everywhere, or would, had the people been aware of the issues. Art also does not need loyalists, even if several times elite groups have tried to control it, sooner and sometimes rather late but eventually, people are bound by an artist’s true soul.
As the Roman poet and writer Horace said
I am not bound to swear allegiance to a master, where the storm drives me, I turn in to shelter.
In the end, know yourself to know the world. Would that be enough to love yourself? Maybe not. Would you be a pessimist if you find no joy in false claims and imaginary glory in a group that turns you into someone one-dimensional who cannot come to terms with life as a composite? Maybe. But if you can love and respect the world, you can always earn self-love honestly and without needing loyalty or appreciation from anyone else.