When Jesus said His followers would deny self, there was a context.
It comes right after Peter rebukes Jesus for saying that He would be killed. Jesus says, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”
The next words Jesus says are “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
Immediately after that Jesus says only those who lose their lives for Christ’s sake will find it and then “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Next He says there is a judgment based on what we do and then some of the disciples will see the Kingdom and then on to the Transfiguration, which shows a whole new reality.
Jesus seems to be making a consistent point through these verses. People have no idea what we’re saying or doing. Give it up and follow Christ who is from heaven, who chats with Moses and Elijah, who has incredible power you can’t fathom.
Denying self has little to do with whether you enjoy aspects of life or not, it doesn’t have much to do with using physical talents or not. It has more to do with what your key motivator in life is, which will shift what you enjoy and what you do with your talents.
Are you living for this world, like all the other fleshly minded people on the planet, or are you living for heaven? You can’t pursue your own fleshly goals and follow Christ at the same time. Goals and dreams about attaining earthly things do not fit with losing life, standing before God and living in heavenly glory.
We have to die with Christ and be raised up with Him to new life. The old life aint getting you anywhere. Let it go. Come alive to Christ, seek His goals and His aspirations, which are in line with loving God and loving neighbor more than they are with you seeking your own interests.
This is not easily done. It’s why you need to be born again!