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How should I understand the Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

How should I understand the Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?


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Should I understand the Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs as a hierarchy of different emotions sorted/hierarchized by their emotional intensity they create in a person's mind? If not, why?


TKN to the best of my knowledge Maslow himself never associated his hierarchy of needs with emotions per se.

It's also worth remembering that his Hierarchy is a THEORY and work in the field of experimental psychology, especially animal studies (Panksepp), Fear Conditioning (LeDoux), Consciousness (Damasio) and Interoception (Barrett) while they disagree, have all demonstrated emotions to work in ways that do not map to Maslow's Hierarchy.

If you're interested in seeing a schema of Emotions and emotional intensity suggest you have a look at Keltner et al (2019) - Emotional Expression: Advances in Basic Emotion Theory


What motivates you to take action?

You already know that the answer varies from day to day, moment to moment. Let’s say you’re on a road trip to see your family for a reunion. You’re excited to get to your destination, but along the way you become very hungry. Suddenly, all you are concerned with is finding the nearest fast-food place, even if it means going out of your way.

Once you’ve had dinner, it’s back to business as usual.

Why did your motivation change? Because you were hungry. We’ve all experienced something like this: your hunger, thirst, need to use the bathroom, or need to nap takes over everything else you had planned to do. Once these are fulfilled, you can focus on fulfilling larger needs.

A psychologist named Abraham Maslow took notice of this idea. In the 1940s, his ideas on motivation and mental health were revolutionary. He decided to look at the ways that people could fulfill their needs in order to reach higher goals.

Humanism helped many psychologists and therapists discover new ways of understanding a person’s motivations and helping them reach their overall goals. Its impact began with concepts like the Hierarchy of Needs.


1. Hierarchy

Maslows hierarchy of needs is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid with the largest, most fundamental needs at the bottom and the need for self-actualization and transcendence at the top. In other words, the theory is that individuals’ most basic needs must be met before they become motivated to achieve higher level needs.

The most fundamental and basic four layers of the pyramid contain what Maslow called "deficiency needs" or "d-needs": esteem, friendship and love, security, and physical needs. If these "deficiency needs" are not met – with the exception of the most fundamental physiological need – there may not be a physical indication, but the individual will feel anxious and tense. Maslows theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire or focus motivation upon the secondary or higher level needs. Maslow also coined the term "metamotivation" to describe the motivation of people who go beyond the scope of the basic needs and strive for constant betterment.

The human brain is a complex system and has parallel processes running at the same time, thus many different motivations from various levels of Maslows hierarchy can occur at the same time. Maslow spoke clearly about these levels and their satisfaction in terms such as "relative", "general", and "primarily". Instead of stating that the individual focuses on a certain need at any given time, Maslow stated that a certain need "dominates" the human organism. Thus Maslow acknowledged the likelihood that the different levels of motivation could occur at any time in the human mind, but he focused on identifying the basic types of motivation and the order in which they would tend to be met.

1.1. Hierarchy Physiological needs

Physiological need is a concept that was derived to explain and cultivate the foundation for motivation. This concept is the main physical requirement for human survival. This means that Physiological needs are universal human needs. Physiological needs are considered in internal motivation according to Maslows hierarchy of needs. This theory states that humans are compelled to fulfill these physiological needs first in order to pursue intrinsic satisfaction on a higher level. If these needs are not achieved, it leads to an increase in displeasure within an individual. In return, when individuals feel this increase in displeasure, the motivation to decrease these discrepancies increases. Physiological needs can be defined as both traits and a state. Physiological needs as traits allude to long-term, unchanging demands that are required of basic human life. Physiological needs as a state allude to the unpleasant decrease in pleasure and the increase for an incentive to fulfill a necessity. In order to pursue intrinsic motivation higher up Maslows hierarchy, Physiological needs must be met first. This means that if a human is struggling to meet their physiological needs, then they are unlikely to intrinsically pursue safety, belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization.

Physiological needs include:

  • Clothes
  • Homeostasis
  • Water
  • Shelter
  • Food
  • Sleep
  • Health

1.2. Hierarchy Safety needs

Once a persons physiological needs are relatively satisfied, their safety needs take precedence and dominate behavior. In the absence of physical safety – due to war, natural disaster, family violence, childhood abuse, institutional racism etc. – people may re-experience post-traumatic stress disorder or transgenerational trauma. In the absence of economic safety – due to an economic crisis and lack of work opportunities – these safety needs manifest themselves in ways such as a preference for job security, grievance procedures for protecting the individual from unilateral authority, savings accounts, insurance policies, disability accommodations, etc. This level is more likely to predominate in children as they generally have a greater need to feel safe. Safety and security needs are about keeping us safe from harm. These include shelter, job security, health, and safe environments. If a person does not feel safe in an environment, they will seek to find safety before they attempt to meet any higher level of survival, but the need for safety is not as important as basic physiological needs.

Safety and Security needs include:

  • Safety needs against accidents/illness and their adverse impacts
  • Personal security
  • Health and well-being
  • Financial security
  • Emotional security

1.3. Hierarchy Social belonging

After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third level of human needs are seen to be interpersonal and involves feelings of belongingness. This need is especially strong in childhood and it can override the need for safety as witnessed in children who cling to abusive parents. Deficiencies within this level of Maslows hierarchy – due to hospitalism, neglect, shunning, ostracism, etc. – can adversely affect the individuals ability to form and maintain emotionally significant relationships in general.

Social Belonging needs include:

According to Maslow, humans possess an affective need for a sense of belonging and acceptance among social groups, regardless of whether these groups are large or small. For example, some large social groups may include clubs, co-workers, religious groups, professional organizations, sports teams, gangs, and online communities. Some examples of small social connections include family members, intimate partners, mentors, colleagues, and confidants. Humans need to love and be loved – both sexually and non-sexually – by others. Many people become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, and clinical depression in the absence of this love or belonging element.

This need for belonging may overcome the physiological and security needs, depending on the strength of the peer pressure. In contrast, for some individuals, the need for self-esteem is more important than the need for belonging and for others, the need for creative fulfillment may supersede even the most basic needs.

1.4. Hierarchy Self-esteem

Esteem needs are ego needs or status needs. People develop a concern with getting recognition, status, importance, and respect from others. Most humans have a need to feel respected this includes the need to have self-esteem and self-respect. Esteem presents the typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others. People often engage in a profession or hobby to gain recognition. These activities give the person a sense of contribution or value. Low self-esteem or an inferiority complex may result from imbalances during this level in the hierarchy. People with low self-esteem often need respect from others they may feel the need to seek fame or glory. However, fame or glory will not help the person to build their self-esteem until they accept who they are internally. Psychological imbalances such as depression can distract the person from obtaining a higher level of self-esteem.

Most people have a need for stable self-respect and self-esteem. Maslow noted two versions of esteem needs: a "lower" version and a "higher" version. The "lower" version of esteem is the need for respect from others. This may include a need for status, recognition, fame, prestige, and attention. The "higher" version manifests itself as the need for self-respect. For example, the person may have a need for strength, competence, mastery, self-confidence, independence, and freedom. This "higher" version takes guidelines, the "hierarchies are interrelated rather than sharply separated". This means that esteem and the subsequent levels are not strictly separated instead, the levels are closely related.

1.5. Hierarchy Self-actualization

"What a man can be, he must be." This quotation forms the basis of the perceived need for self-actualization. This level of need refers to the realization of ones full potential. Maslow describes this as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be. Individuals perceive or focus on this need very specifically. People may have a strong, particular desire to become an ideal parent, succeed athletically, or create paintings, pictures, or inventions. Maslow believed that to understand this level of need, the person must not only succeed in the previous needs but master them. Self-actualization can be described as a value-based system when discussing its role in motivation self-actualization is understood as the goal-or explicit motive, and the previous stages in Maslows Hierarchy fall in line to become the step-by-step process by which self-actualization is achievable an explicit motive is the objective of a reward-based system that is used to intrinsically drive completion of certain values or goals. Individuals who are motivated to pursue this goal seek and understand how their needs, relationships, and sense of self are expressed through their behavior. Self-actualization can include:

  • Utilizing & Developing Abilities
  • Pursuing goals
  • Utilizing & Developing Talents
  • Partner Acquisition
  • Parenting

1.6. Hierarchy Transcendence

In his later years, Abraham Maslow explored a further dimension of motivation, while criticizing his original vision of self-actualization. By this later theory, one finds the fullest realization in giving oneself to something beyond oneself - for example, in altruism or spirituality. He equated this with the desire to reach the infinite. "Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos".


WHY ARE BASIC NEEDS CALLED DEFICIENCY NEEDS

All of these before self-actualization are basic needs which are deficiency needs.

Back to the top now. We explained that basic needs are called deficiency needs in Maslow’s work. There is a good reason for that. All the basic needs are deficiency motives. That is, they are activated by a lack of food, water, security, love, esteem, or other basic needs.

However, at the top of the hierarchy, we find growth needs, which are expressed as a need for self-actualization. The need for self- actualization is not based on deficiencies. Rather, it is a positive, life-enhancing force for personal growth (Reiss & Havercamp, 2005).


Need for Self-Actualization

When Aisha radiyallahu ‘anhu was asked to describe the Prophet, she said his character was the Quran. Islam has provided for us the layout of an ideal self, and elaborated for us the methods which will help us reach that ideal. Every good deed we are encouraged to do, every evil we are forbidden against, is a means towards becoming that ideal.

All our life is spent in the struggle towards attaining that ideal, and the process of striving, not the ideal itself, is what makes us successful: O you who believe! Do your duty to Allah and fear Him. Seek the means of approach to Him, and strive hard in His Cause as much as you can. So that you may be successful. [5:35]


What Can Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Offer Millennials?

Abraham Maslow was one of the first psychologists to focus on the positive elements of the human experience rather than on what can go wrong. His most famous contribution to the field is his Hierarchy of Needs. This tool was designed to understand what needs people should meet in order to maximize their potential and reach self-actualization. To Maslow, self-actualization meant a stable, realistic view of life combined with a sense of awe, gratitude, and happiness. A self-actualized person is happy to know who they are and what their place in the world is.

The traditional reading of Maslow’s theory is that we cannot leap straight to self-actualization. He believed that there was a hierarchy of needs (with self-actualization at the top), and that the higher needs could be addressed only if the lower needs had already been met. His original conception included five needs, but he later expanded the model to eight.

Physiological Needs: Before anything else, people will seek out air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, and excretion.

Safety Needs: This includes not only physical safety, but economic, social, and psychological security.

Love and Belonging Needs: These social needs include friendship and intimacy, acceptance, the feeling of being a part of a group, and community involvement.

Esteem Needs: This need has two parts to it. Maslow believed we needed both esteem for ourselves as well as feeling the esteem and respect of others.

Cognitive Needs: Added to the expanded model, this acknowledges our mental needs for curiosity, understanding, and meaning.

Aesthetic Needs: Also added to later models, this addresses our need for beauty and balance in life.

Self-Actualization Needs: This need is met when someone realizes their personal potential, pursuing growth and happiness.

Transcendence Needs: Added later, this lesser-known final need recognizes that some people pursue values beyond themselves such as mystical experiences that are often hard to define or pin down.

Psychologists, including Maslow himself, have long asserted that the needs listed do not HAVE to be met in this specific order. Although there are some obvious priorities (you’re not likely to care about whether you’re mentally stimulated on a regular basis if your asthma attack is making it hard to breathe), there is a huge amount of variety in the order in which we attempt to meet our needs.

For instance, being a member of a gang provides such an enormous amount of Love and Belonging that members actively dismiss their need for Safety, although this is the opposite order of Maslow’s hierarchy. In addition, many religious followers pursue Transcendence by ignoring or minimizing their Physiological Needs. This can be a huge encouragement for us!

Many young adults today are living with their parents and working a job they can barely stand to pay off student loans. Although their Physiological needs are met, their Safety (economic) needs are not, nor are their Esteem needs. Very often young adults who move to a new city for work have the added stressor of finding it very difficult to make friends outside of a school context, meaning their Love and Belonging needs are also lacking. Does this mean they are hopeless? Is there no chance of them experiencing cognitive, aesthetic, or self-actualized needs until the ones lower on the hierarchy are addressed?

Yes and no. It is important to continue working to meet those unfulfilled needs. Sometimes this can be helped by practicing gratitude for what you do have. For instance, although a lack of financial security is a very real concern, overall mental health can increase when you take the time to consider that other forms of safety (physical, societal, etc) are met. If nothing else, gratitude for what you have can give you the energy to focus on what you do not.

Although meeting foundational needs will generally always be a consideration, allowing yourself the privilege to pursue higher needs when possible can offer fulfillment despite being “out of order.” Take on a new hobby that will challenge you mentally or offer greater creative opportunities. The satisfaction from meeting your Cognitive and Aesthetic needs can, at worst, distract you from the absence of lower needs, and at best, give you the motivation to continue working toward meeting them.

It’s also worth remembering those who find Self-actualization and Transcendence without meeting their lower needs. After all, Maslow himself identified several qualities of self-actualizers, and many of them can be realized without fully attaining all the preceding needs. Some of these qualities include people who: Perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty Accept themselves and others for what they are Problem-centered, not self-centered Unusual sense of humor.

With those in mind, it is clear that one can reach some level of self-actualization through means other than ensuring our Physiological, Safety, Love and Belonging, and Esteem needs are fully met. For instance, practicing acceptance of oneself and one’s situation can go a long way toward increasing the mental health of struggling young adults as well as increase their experience of self-actualization. Often this includes another of Maslow’s characteristics of self-actualized people: holding a realistic view of life.

Acceptance and realistic views of life mean having a full acknowledgement of the bad and of the good. Take the time to write out all of the things about your life that are not going well. Now write another list with an equal number of things that are going well, even if you feel you have to really stretch things to find them. Do the same for yourself personally. Write down all of the things that you see as flaws in yourself. Now write a list with an equal number of strengths that you see in yourself.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a useful tool to help make us aware of what our needs are. Sometimes we downplay our need for friendship, and it can be useful to point at a psychologist’s theory and say, “See! Right there, the need for Belonging is real!” But it is just a tool, and nothing more. If you find yourself becoming discouraged just looking at his pyramid of needs, it might be a good idea to take a mental step back. While full of useful information, this hierarchy is flexible, and there are ways to feel self-actualized even if foundational needs are not fully met.

So don’t despair. Let Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs inspire you to greater things rather than be dragged down by the thought of what you don’t have.


So how can you use this in the library?

We can use Maslow’s hierarchy when we teach. Many library users experience anxiety when they do not know how to do something. They don’t feel as if they belong in the library. Making sure patrons feel like they belong will help them reach the esteem and self-actualization stages. Meredith Francis published an article in 2010 titled Fulfillment of a Higher Order: Placing Information Literacy within Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This article is geared toward academic libraries, but I think it has application for all librarians—especially the part in the article about library anxiety. Regarding library anxiety, she wrote, “By working to decrease library anxiety in [library visitors], we will be increasing their ability to use the library. Comfort within the library often involves the creation of an atmosphere that is welcoming and accepting. This includes both the physical library and the disposition of the staff. The purpose of the library is not to judge a patron’s interests or need for information. The patron must know that we consider their privacy of upmost importance and feel no judgment in whatever question he or she may ask” (Francis, 2010, Library Anxiety, para. 5).

Second, we can use Maslow’s hierarchy when we seek to understand the motivations of our users. Consider what is motivating your users to visit the library. Why do they seek out the space? Why do users contact you for research assistance?

Are users seeking information to further their career? Are they seeking information to keep their job? Are they looking for new information to help them deal with a problem that has arisen? Understanding needs-based motivation can help you provide better services.

To understand the needs of users, develop a survey with questions that align to different areas of Maslow’s hierarchy. For example:

  • Do you use the library to complete your job responsibilities? [Safety–the user needs to keep their job]
  • Do you use the library to seek information for professional development? [Self-esteem]
  • Do you use the library to understand company knowledge in order to feel knowledgeable about the organization? [Belonging]

These questions can be reworked for your organization, but the idea is to ask questions that help you understand what motivates your stakeholders to use the library. Once you have a better understanding of what motivates users, then you can focus on support that meets needs.

This blog post does not get into all the nuances of Maslow’s hierarchy. Therefore, I recommend these additional readings:

Logan, J., & Everall, K. (2019). First things first: Exploring Maslow’s hierarchy as a service prioritization framework. Weave: Journal of Library User Experience, 2(2). Maslow, A. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.

Francis, M. (2010). Fulfillment of a higher order: Placing information literacy within Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. College & Research Libraries News, 71(3), 140-159. doi:https://doi.org/10.5860/crln.71.3.8336

McLeod, S. (2020). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri. Please read her other posts about skills for special librarians. And take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all sizes and budgets.


Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy – Teaching and Learning

Now that we’ve covered the premise of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it is also vital to comprehend how this information can be used in education. First, it is important to understand that regrettably, we cannot satisfy every physiological need of every student. It would be impossible for a teacher or leader to equip every student with sufficient sleep, shelter, clothing, and nourishment. Luckily, free and reduced lunch programs are a great way to solve some of the issues of hunger in schools. Providing clothing, sufficient hygiene practices, and sufficient amounts of sleep are still factors. Based on the model, it is clear that if these basic needs fail to be provided, students will be unable to prioritize education. These are needs that teachers cannot always meet. However, teachers can strive to offer students resources and referrals to school programs in order to satisfy as many needs as possible.

Many aspects should be considered by teachers and leaders in order to help students feel a sense of safety. As previously mentioned, a sense of safety can come from routines and predictability. Teachers and leaders should enact routines in their classrooms. Set forth clear-cut rules and processes for your students. Maintain a predictable daily schedule, allowing students to anticipate and expect order in the classroom. Students will feel a sense of control in their classroom environment because they are able to anticipate what will happen next. Additionally, students must have a sense of psychological and emotional safety in their classroom environment. Teachers should foster an environment that allows for healthy levels of risk-taking, question asking and answering, open thought sharing, and healthy discussion. They should not feel fearful of judgment from other students. Students crave a trust-based relationship with their teacher.

To meet belongingness, self-esteem, and love needs, students want to feel needed, loved, and nurtured. Students may seek gratification from teachers or school staff. As teachers and leaders, it is important to regard each student as a unique individual, appreciating them for their one-of-a-kind character traits. Emphasize healthy, positive behavior and self-esteem. Make an effort to show students that their hard work and dedication are genuinely appreciated. This prioritization will support the development of each student’s self-esteem and self-worth.

Teachers and leaders tend to primarily handle the four deprivation needs (self-esteem, sense of belonging, safety, and physiological). Every step an educator makes toward contributing to those fundamental needs will enhance their students’ capacity for learning and achievement in the classroom. Ensure that you make a true effort to know each student and comprehend the level of their knowledge and their level on Maslow’s Hierarchy. In doing so, you can best help students progress through the hierarchy. It may be necessary to explore outside or government resources for students with lower-level needs to help the students thrive in their learning environment. However, a greater comprehension of each student’s basic needs is likely to lead to the teacher’s ability to help the student overcome their personal educational obstacles, allowing each student to reach their educational potential.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-96.


How I Experience Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a model that I first became aware of during my A level Sociology course around 16 years ago. At that time, I accepted most of what I was taught without question out of respect for the knowledge, expertise and experience of others and acknowledgement of my own lack thereof. Since then, my understanding of psychology, healing and holistic well-being has evolved significantly through study and personal experience. As a result, I have come to realise that while many individual theories and findings include elements of truth, they are part of a far bigger and more complex whole of which we are still learning and discovering as a species. My approach to learning is much more critical and as a result my experience of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is very different today compared to my first exposure to this concept.

There are a number of valuable assets to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, which can be applied on a personal level and within the context of coaching. It demonstrates that personality and motivation may be influenced by a multitude of different priorities, which are not fixed but rather change according to time and context. In this way, it gives us a broader sense of a ‘whole’ person, rather than identifying them with individual behaviours. It also helps us appreciate how not fulfilling our more basic needs could have a significant impact on our performance, success and personal development – thus highlighting the importance of fulfilling our needs in order to achieve our best, rather than neglecting ourselves in pursuit of our goals. This example also fits perfectly into Maslow’s Hierarchy as it shows how our needs for social belonging and approval are hindered by our physiological need for sustenance. This is an example I can personally relate to and experience quite regularly!

In my experience however, human personality and motivation are far more complex than Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can encompass alone. There are many examples of behaviours that are not explained by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or are in direct conflict with it – such as suicide, eating disorders or self-harm. One possible argument could be that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs represents a ‘healthy’ and ‘balanced’ response to our inner and outer world and that these conflicting behaviours are not a healthy, natural response – however Maslow’s Hierarchy does not address this. There are also many behaviours that would likely not be considered ‘unnatural’ or ‘unhealthy’ that contradict the order of Maslow’s Hierarchy for example a mother, sibling, spouse or CEO neglecting their own physiological needs in favour of those of their loved ones or company. There are also thousands of men and women who put their own safety at risk on a daily basis for a cause they feel is greater than themselves – such as the military. Many people believe that it is necessary to abstain from some of the basic physiological needs Maslow identifies such as sex or food in order to progress towards self-actualisation. Many people also enjoy a number of dangerous hobbies such as skydiving or rock climbing for fun, which directly risks their physical health and safety.

Maslow used the term ‘peak experience’ to describe:

‘…a profound moment in a person’s life, an instance when they feel in harmony with all things, clear, spontaneous, independent and alert and often with relatively little awareness of time and space.’

Yet this type of experience that could be attributed more closely to self-actualisation is often reported by people when embarking in dangerous activities or during a near-death experience –when their most basic needs for safety and survival are in direct jeopardy.

From my experience therefore I feel that the various levels of the hierarchy are too restrictive. It may be more beneficial to group the various levels together into two or three sub-groups e.g. those that ensure survival by satisfying basic physical and psychological needs and those that promote the person’s evolution, development and self-actualisation. I would also raise the variables of cultural, societal, upbringing and age differences, which could cause some levels of the hierarchy to be attributed significantly more importance than others – for example, we may compromise our basic physiological needs or safety in ways that help us achieve more love, belonging, recognition or respect among our family or peers. A more flexible approach to Maslow’s Hierarchy could help us to understand why people would be willing to sacrifice their needs in one of the more basic areas for a payoff elsewhere, which could explain many of the examples of behaviour given above that do not otherwise appear to fit within the given model.

In conclusion, while Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs does have value in helping us understand human behaviour and experience, I believe this should be viewed within the context of a wider knowledge and experience while always remaining open minded. I believe that nothing is more important than approaching ourselves and each individual client or sessions as a student of life. By bringing our unique areas of expertise to the table so that they might benefit those we serve while also remaining humble and open minded, we are then able to work in a flexible way to adapt to our clients’ needs and serve their best interests. From my experience as a holistic therapist, I would add that in the vast majority of cases, I find the need for love is the fundamental motivating force behind much of behaviour – whether it is self-love, love for or from others or love from a more spiritual source. This could be because in the UK our basic physical needs and the need for safety have already been met and therefore this experience is a reflection of my client’s progression on the hierarchy. From a personal perspective however, I wonder if this drive for love is a deeper ‘soul’ calling which transcends the various levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy and which we are yet to understand.


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in the Workplace

I’m an Engineering Manager, and every other week I have 1–1s with direct reports back to back. It is both thrilling and tiring to have continuous meetings, but the consecutive conversations allow for easy recognition of patterns. I work with a few junior and a few senior engineers, and recently noticed similar themes within these groups. Senior engineers tended to question why and how we do things — how did we decide on these designs? How does the engineering team clean up tech debt as we write new code? etc — while junior engineers are naturally focused on learning the tools and processes — how to write tech specs, Cypress tests, participate in design reviews, etc.

It occurred to me that these patterns of thinking, based on years and comfort in the field, could be explained by a version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid… From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.
https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

Maslow initially said that individuals must satisfy lower levels before progressing to higher ones, though he later revised the process so that when a need is more or less satisfied, we move towards the next level.

Using this general structure of basic, psychological, and self-fulfillment needs, and understanding that this growth is not strictly linear, I organized my thoughts into the following pyramid:

Here is how I perceive this hierarchy, starting from the bottom:

Job security. First and foremost, if you feel like you might lose your job, this will occupy a significant amount of head space. I’ve observed (and personally experienced) that it is difficult to be successful when you are still learning the tools, worrying about layoffs, or feel that your role is at risk.

Allies & friends. Community and a sense of belonging are important for us human beings. Having friends at work moves various levers like productivity, creativity, and communication. When you establish community, you are empowered in your job and motivated to contribute to the team’s goals.

Sound working process. We can’t get work done without a process, individually or holistically. A system — whether it’s a todo list, tickets, communicating over Slack, writing tech specs, defining a project lifecycle, or good working relationships — allows for individuals to achieve personal goals and for teams to accomplish business goals.

Feeling of success. By satisfying the first three needs, you are most likely feeling successful. You believe in your job security, feel a sense of community, and have a good rhythm of how you and your team function.

Attitude of questioning how and why. The only constant is change, so what worked for you and the team three months ago may not serve you still. Inevitably kinks arise, the dynamics change, or you notice something that could be fine-tuned. From my experience, I’ve seen two distinct versions of this stage. One is, a person is able to question but unable to drive towards solutions. They can identify areas for improvement, but cannot — whether because of poor communication, collaboration, deficient tools, or lack of ideas — move the needle.

Advocating and collaborating for change. The second version is this, where a person is solutions-oriented. Being able to identify problems is one thing being able to solve them is an entirely different skill, and (in my opinion) much more satisfying. In this iterative step, we do not stagnate at the questions, but rather continually reach new levels of fulfillment by seeking solutions. I’d also suggest that this step solidifies the foundation, if done properly — by working towards a better process, you build stronger relationships in the organization and are recognized for your work, which gives you more job security, which makes you feel more successful. The pyramid gets stronger!

A few caveats and disclaimers:

  • Keep in mind that growth is not strictly linear. You can bounce around. This is just a framework that (I believe) generally works bottom to top.
  • That said, there may be dangers to bouncing around too much — for instance, questioning the process while you’re still learning the tools — but I think this comes down to a matter of self awareness. What do you know, what are you learning, what is your current role in the org, what basic need requires focus?
  • It’s possible that the top need, “attitude of questioning how and why,” is too narrow. Maslow notes that self-actualization can take many forms. It “refer[s] to the realization of a person’s potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.” Every person’s potential is different, and in this case the top could be mentoring, teaching, or changing roles to find a better fit for your skillset (which maybe is just another form of “advocating and collaborating for change”).
  • This is from the perspective of software engineering, though it may apply elsewhere.
  • I am not a psychologist )

What thoughts do you have? Does this ring true? Tell us about your experiences in the comments, and thanks for reading.


Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy – Teaching and Learning

Now that we’ve covered the premise of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it is also vital to comprehend how this information can be used in education. First, it is important to understand that regrettably, we cannot satisfy every physiological need of every student. It would be impossible for a teacher or leader to equip every student with sufficient sleep, shelter, clothing, and nourishment. Luckily, free and reduced lunch programs are a great way to solve some of the issues of hunger in schools. Providing clothing, sufficient hygiene practices, and sufficient amounts of sleep are still factors. Based on the model, it is clear that if these basic needs fail to be provided, students will be unable to prioritize education. These are needs that teachers cannot always meet. However, teachers can strive to offer students resources and referrals to school programs in order to satisfy as many needs as possible.

Many aspects should be considered by teachers and leaders in order to help students feel a sense of safety. As previously mentioned, a sense of safety can come from routines and predictability. Teachers and leaders should enact routines in their classrooms. Set forth clear-cut rules and processes for your students. Maintain a predictable daily schedule, allowing students to anticipate and expect order in the classroom. Students will feel a sense of control in their classroom environment because they are able to anticipate what will happen next. Additionally, students must have a sense of psychological and emotional safety in their classroom environment. Teachers should foster an environment that allows for healthy levels of risk-taking, question asking and answering, open thought sharing, and healthy discussion. They should not feel fearful of judgment from other students. Students crave a trust-based relationship with their teacher.

To meet belongingness, self-esteem, and love needs, students want to feel needed, loved, and nurtured. Students may seek gratification from teachers or school staff. As teachers and leaders, it is important to regard each student as a unique individual, appreciating them for their one-of-a-kind character traits. Emphasize healthy, positive behavior and self-esteem. Make an effort to show students that their hard work and dedication are genuinely appreciated. This prioritization will support the development of each student’s self-esteem and self-worth.

Teachers and leaders tend to primarily handle the four deprivation needs (self-esteem, sense of belonging, safety, and physiological). Every step an educator makes toward contributing to those fundamental needs will enhance their students’ capacity for learning and achievement in the classroom. Ensure that you make a true effort to know each student and comprehend the level of their knowledge and their level on Maslow’s Hierarchy. In doing so, you can best help students progress through the hierarchy. It may be necessary to explore outside or government resources for students with lower-level needs to help the students thrive in their learning environment. However, a greater comprehension of each student’s basic needs is likely to lead to the teacher’s ability to help the student overcome their personal educational obstacles, allowing each student to reach their educational potential.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-96.


How I Experience Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a model that I first became aware of during my A level Sociology course around 16 years ago. At that time, I accepted most of what I was taught without question out of respect for the knowledge, expertise and experience of others and acknowledgement of my own lack thereof. Since then, my understanding of psychology, healing and holistic well-being has evolved significantly through study and personal experience. As a result, I have come to realise that while many individual theories and findings include elements of truth, they are part of a far bigger and more complex whole of which we are still learning and discovering as a species. My approach to learning is much more critical and as a result my experience of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is very different today compared to my first exposure to this concept.

There are a number of valuable assets to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, which can be applied on a personal level and within the context of coaching. It demonstrates that personality and motivation may be influenced by a multitude of different priorities, which are not fixed but rather change according to time and context. In this way, it gives us a broader sense of a ‘whole’ person, rather than identifying them with individual behaviours. It also helps us appreciate how not fulfilling our more basic needs could have a significant impact on our performance, success and personal development – thus highlighting the importance of fulfilling our needs in order to achieve our best, rather than neglecting ourselves in pursuit of our goals. This example also fits perfectly into Maslow’s Hierarchy as it shows how our needs for social belonging and approval are hindered by our physiological need for sustenance. This is an example I can personally relate to and experience quite regularly!

In my experience however, human personality and motivation are far more complex than Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can encompass alone. There are many examples of behaviours that are not explained by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or are in direct conflict with it – such as suicide, eating disorders or self-harm. One possible argument could be that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs represents a ‘healthy’ and ‘balanced’ response to our inner and outer world and that these conflicting behaviours are not a healthy, natural response – however Maslow’s Hierarchy does not address this. There are also many behaviours that would likely not be considered ‘unnatural’ or ‘unhealthy’ that contradict the order of Maslow’s Hierarchy for example a mother, sibling, spouse or CEO neglecting their own physiological needs in favour of those of their loved ones or company. There are also thousands of men and women who put their own safety at risk on a daily basis for a cause they feel is greater than themselves – such as the military. Many people believe that it is necessary to abstain from some of the basic physiological needs Maslow identifies such as sex or food in order to progress towards self-actualisation. Many people also enjoy a number of dangerous hobbies such as skydiving or rock climbing for fun, which directly risks their physical health and safety.

Maslow used the term ‘peak experience’ to describe:

‘…a profound moment in a person’s life, an instance when they feel in harmony with all things, clear, spontaneous, independent and alert and often with relatively little awareness of time and space.’

Yet this type of experience that could be attributed more closely to self-actualisation is often reported by people when embarking in dangerous activities or during a near-death experience –when their most basic needs for safety and survival are in direct jeopardy.

From my experience therefore I feel that the various levels of the hierarchy are too restrictive. It may be more beneficial to group the various levels together into two or three sub-groups e.g. those that ensure survival by satisfying basic physical and psychological needs and those that promote the person’s evolution, development and self-actualisation. I would also raise the variables of cultural, societal, upbringing and age differences, which could cause some levels of the hierarchy to be attributed significantly more importance than others – for example, we may compromise our basic physiological needs or safety in ways that help us achieve more love, belonging, recognition or respect among our family or peers. A more flexible approach to Maslow’s Hierarchy could help us to understand why people would be willing to sacrifice their needs in one of the more basic areas for a payoff elsewhere, which could explain many of the examples of behaviour given above that do not otherwise appear to fit within the given model.

In conclusion, while Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs does have value in helping us understand human behaviour and experience, I believe this should be viewed within the context of a wider knowledge and experience while always remaining open minded. I believe that nothing is more important than approaching ourselves and each individual client or sessions as a student of life. By bringing our unique areas of expertise to the table so that they might benefit those we serve while also remaining humble and open minded, we are then able to work in a flexible way to adapt to our clients’ needs and serve their best interests. From my experience as a holistic therapist, I would add that in the vast majority of cases, I find the need for love is the fundamental motivating force behind much of behaviour – whether it is self-love, love for or from others or love from a more spiritual source. This could be because in the UK our basic physical needs and the need for safety have already been met and therefore this experience is a reflection of my client’s progression on the hierarchy. From a personal perspective however, I wonder if this drive for love is a deeper ‘soul’ calling which transcends the various levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy and which we are yet to understand.


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in the Workplace

I’m an Engineering Manager, and every other week I have 1–1s with direct reports back to back. It is both thrilling and tiring to have continuous meetings, but the consecutive conversations allow for easy recognition of patterns. I work with a few junior and a few senior engineers, and recently noticed similar themes within these groups. Senior engineers tended to question why and how we do things — how did we decide on these designs? How does the engineering team clean up tech debt as we write new code? etc — while junior engineers are naturally focused on learning the tools and processes — how to write tech specs, Cypress tests, participate in design reviews, etc.

It occurred to me that these patterns of thinking, based on years and comfort in the field, could be explained by a version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid… From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.
https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

Maslow initially said that individuals must satisfy lower levels before progressing to higher ones, though he later revised the process so that when a need is more or less satisfied, we move towards the next level.

Using this general structure of basic, psychological, and self-fulfillment needs, and understanding that this growth is not strictly linear, I organized my thoughts into the following pyramid:

Here is how I perceive this hierarchy, starting from the bottom:

Job security. First and foremost, if you feel like you might lose your job, this will occupy a significant amount of head space. I’ve observed (and personally experienced) that it is difficult to be successful when you are still learning the tools, worrying about layoffs, or feel that your role is at risk.

Allies & friends. Community and a sense of belonging are important for us human beings. Having friends at work moves various levers like productivity, creativity, and communication. When you establish community, you are empowered in your job and motivated to contribute to the team’s goals.

Sound working process. We can’t get work done without a process, individually or holistically. A system — whether it’s a todo list, tickets, communicating over Slack, writing tech specs, defining a project lifecycle, or good working relationships — allows for individuals to achieve personal goals and for teams to accomplish business goals.

Feeling of success. By satisfying the first three needs, you are most likely feeling successful. You believe in your job security, feel a sense of community, and have a good rhythm of how you and your team function.

Attitude of questioning how and why. The only constant is change, so what worked for you and the team three months ago may not serve you still. Inevitably kinks arise, the dynamics change, or you notice something that could be fine-tuned. From my experience, I’ve seen two distinct versions of this stage. One is, a person is able to question but unable to drive towards solutions. They can identify areas for improvement, but cannot — whether because of poor communication, collaboration, deficient tools, or lack of ideas — move the needle.

Advocating and collaborating for change. The second version is this, where a person is solutions-oriented. Being able to identify problems is one thing being able to solve them is an entirely different skill, and (in my opinion) much more satisfying. In this iterative step, we do not stagnate at the questions, but rather continually reach new levels of fulfillment by seeking solutions. I’d also suggest that this step solidifies the foundation, if done properly — by working towards a better process, you build stronger relationships in the organization and are recognized for your work, which gives you more job security, which makes you feel more successful. The pyramid gets stronger!

A few caveats and disclaimers:

  • Keep in mind that growth is not strictly linear. You can bounce around. This is just a framework that (I believe) generally works bottom to top.
  • That said, there may be dangers to bouncing around too much — for instance, questioning the process while you’re still learning the tools — but I think this comes down to a matter of self awareness. What do you know, what are you learning, what is your current role in the org, what basic need requires focus?
  • It’s possible that the top need, “attitude of questioning how and why,” is too narrow. Maslow notes that self-actualization can take many forms. It “refer[s] to the realization of a person’s potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.” Every person’s potential is different, and in this case the top could be mentoring, teaching, or changing roles to find a better fit for your skillset (which maybe is just another form of “advocating and collaborating for change”).
  • This is from the perspective of software engineering, though it may apply elsewhere.
  • I am not a psychologist )

What thoughts do you have? Does this ring true? Tell us about your experiences in the comments, and thanks for reading.


What motivates you to take action?

You already know that the answer varies from day to day, moment to moment. Let’s say you’re on a road trip to see your family for a reunion. You’re excited to get to your destination, but along the way you become very hungry. Suddenly, all you are concerned with is finding the nearest fast-food place, even if it means going out of your way.

Once you’ve had dinner, it’s back to business as usual.

Why did your motivation change? Because you were hungry. We’ve all experienced something like this: your hunger, thirst, need to use the bathroom, or need to nap takes over everything else you had planned to do. Once these are fulfilled, you can focus on fulfilling larger needs.

A psychologist named Abraham Maslow took notice of this idea. In the 1940s, his ideas on motivation and mental health were revolutionary. He decided to look at the ways that people could fulfill their needs in order to reach higher goals.

Humanism helped many psychologists and therapists discover new ways of understanding a person’s motivations and helping them reach their overall goals. Its impact began with concepts like the Hierarchy of Needs.


So how can you use this in the library?

We can use Maslow’s hierarchy when we teach. Many library users experience anxiety when they do not know how to do something. They don’t feel as if they belong in the library. Making sure patrons feel like they belong will help them reach the esteem and self-actualization stages. Meredith Francis published an article in 2010 titled Fulfillment of a Higher Order: Placing Information Literacy within Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This article is geared toward academic libraries, but I think it has application for all librarians—especially the part in the article about library anxiety. Regarding library anxiety, she wrote, “By working to decrease library anxiety in [library visitors], we will be increasing their ability to use the library. Comfort within the library often involves the creation of an atmosphere that is welcoming and accepting. This includes both the physical library and the disposition of the staff. The purpose of the library is not to judge a patron’s interests or need for information. The patron must know that we consider their privacy of upmost importance and feel no judgment in whatever question he or she may ask” (Francis, 2010, Library Anxiety, para. 5).

Second, we can use Maslow’s hierarchy when we seek to understand the motivations of our users. Consider what is motivating your users to visit the library. Why do they seek out the space? Why do users contact you for research assistance?

Are users seeking information to further their career? Are they seeking information to keep their job? Are they looking for new information to help them deal with a problem that has arisen? Understanding needs-based motivation can help you provide better services.

To understand the needs of users, develop a survey with questions that align to different areas of Maslow’s hierarchy. For example:

  • Do you use the library to complete your job responsibilities? [Safety–the user needs to keep their job]
  • Do you use the library to seek information for professional development? [Self-esteem]
  • Do you use the library to understand company knowledge in order to feel knowledgeable about the organization? [Belonging]

These questions can be reworked for your organization, but the idea is to ask questions that help you understand what motivates your stakeholders to use the library. Once you have a better understanding of what motivates users, then you can focus on support that meets needs.

This blog post does not get into all the nuances of Maslow’s hierarchy. Therefore, I recommend these additional readings:

Logan, J., & Everall, K. (2019). First things first: Exploring Maslow’s hierarchy as a service prioritization framework. Weave: Journal of Library User Experience, 2(2). Maslow, A. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.

Francis, M. (2010). Fulfillment of a higher order: Placing information literacy within Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. College & Research Libraries News, 71(3), 140-159. doi:https://doi.org/10.5860/crln.71.3.8336

McLeod, S. (2020). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri. Please read her other posts about skills for special librarians. And take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all sizes and budgets.


Need for Self-Actualization

When Aisha radiyallahu ‘anhu was asked to describe the Prophet, she said his character was the Quran. Islam has provided for us the layout of an ideal self, and elaborated for us the methods which will help us reach that ideal. Every good deed we are encouraged to do, every evil we are forbidden against, is a means towards becoming that ideal.

All our life is spent in the struggle towards attaining that ideal, and the process of striving, not the ideal itself, is what makes us successful: O you who believe! Do your duty to Allah and fear Him. Seek the means of approach to Him, and strive hard in His Cause as much as you can. So that you may be successful. [5:35]


WHY ARE BASIC NEEDS CALLED DEFICIENCY NEEDS

All of these before self-actualization are basic needs which are deficiency needs.

Back to the top now. We explained that basic needs are called deficiency needs in Maslow’s work. There is a good reason for that. All the basic needs are deficiency motives. That is, they are activated by a lack of food, water, security, love, esteem, or other basic needs.

However, at the top of the hierarchy, we find growth needs, which are expressed as a need for self-actualization. The need for self- actualization is not based on deficiencies. Rather, it is a positive, life-enhancing force for personal growth (Reiss & Havercamp, 2005).


1. Hierarchy

Maslows hierarchy of needs is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid with the largest, most fundamental needs at the bottom and the need for self-actualization and transcendence at the top. In other words, the theory is that individuals’ most basic needs must be met before they become motivated to achieve higher level needs.

The most fundamental and basic four layers of the pyramid contain what Maslow called "deficiency needs" or "d-needs": esteem, friendship and love, security, and physical needs. If these "deficiency needs" are not met – with the exception of the most fundamental physiological need – there may not be a physical indication, but the individual will feel anxious and tense. Maslows theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire or focus motivation upon the secondary or higher level needs. Maslow also coined the term "metamotivation" to describe the motivation of people who go beyond the scope of the basic needs and strive for constant betterment.

The human brain is a complex system and has parallel processes running at the same time, thus many different motivations from various levels of Maslows hierarchy can occur at the same time. Maslow spoke clearly about these levels and their satisfaction in terms such as "relative", "general", and "primarily". Instead of stating that the individual focuses on a certain need at any given time, Maslow stated that a certain need "dominates" the human organism. Thus Maslow acknowledged the likelihood that the different levels of motivation could occur at any time in the human mind, but he focused on identifying the basic types of motivation and the order in which they would tend to be met.

1.1. Hierarchy Physiological needs

Physiological need is a concept that was derived to explain and cultivate the foundation for motivation. This concept is the main physical requirement for human survival. This means that Physiological needs are universal human needs. Physiological needs are considered in internal motivation according to Maslows hierarchy of needs. This theory states that humans are compelled to fulfill these physiological needs first in order to pursue intrinsic satisfaction on a higher level. If these needs are not achieved, it leads to an increase in displeasure within an individual. In return, when individuals feel this increase in displeasure, the motivation to decrease these discrepancies increases. Physiological needs can be defined as both traits and a state. Physiological needs as traits allude to long-term, unchanging demands that are required of basic human life. Physiological needs as a state allude to the unpleasant decrease in pleasure and the increase for an incentive to fulfill a necessity. In order to pursue intrinsic motivation higher up Maslows hierarchy, Physiological needs must be met first. This means that if a human is struggling to meet their physiological needs, then they are unlikely to intrinsically pursue safety, belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization.

Physiological needs include:

  • Clothes
  • Homeostasis
  • Water
  • Shelter
  • Food
  • Sleep
  • Health

1.2. Hierarchy Safety needs

Once a persons physiological needs are relatively satisfied, their safety needs take precedence and dominate behavior. In the absence of physical safety – due to war, natural disaster, family violence, childhood abuse, institutional racism etc. – people may re-experience post-traumatic stress disorder or transgenerational trauma. In the absence of economic safety – due to an economic crisis and lack of work opportunities – these safety needs manifest themselves in ways such as a preference for job security, grievance procedures for protecting the individual from unilateral authority, savings accounts, insurance policies, disability accommodations, etc. This level is more likely to predominate in children as they generally have a greater need to feel safe. Safety and security needs are about keeping us safe from harm. These include shelter, job security, health, and safe environments. If a person does not feel safe in an environment, they will seek to find safety before they attempt to meet any higher level of survival, but the need for safety is not as important as basic physiological needs.

Safety and Security needs include:

  • Safety needs against accidents/illness and their adverse impacts
  • Personal security
  • Health and well-being
  • Financial security
  • Emotional security

1.3. Hierarchy Social belonging

After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third level of human needs are seen to be interpersonal and involves feelings of belongingness. This need is especially strong in childhood and it can override the need for safety as witnessed in children who cling to abusive parents. Deficiencies within this level of Maslows hierarchy – due to hospitalism, neglect, shunning, ostracism, etc. – can adversely affect the individuals ability to form and maintain emotionally significant relationships in general.

Social Belonging needs include:

According to Maslow, humans possess an affective need for a sense of belonging and acceptance among social groups, regardless of whether these groups are large or small. For example, some large social groups may include clubs, co-workers, religious groups, professional organizations, sports teams, gangs, and online communities. Some examples of small social connections include family members, intimate partners, mentors, colleagues, and confidants. Humans need to love and be loved – both sexually and non-sexually – by others. Many people become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, and clinical depression in the absence of this love or belonging element.

This need for belonging may overcome the physiological and security needs, depending on the strength of the peer pressure. In contrast, for some individuals, the need for self-esteem is more important than the need for belonging and for others, the need for creative fulfillment may supersede even the most basic needs.

1.4. Hierarchy Self-esteem

Esteem needs are ego needs or status needs. People develop a concern with getting recognition, status, importance, and respect from others. Most humans have a need to feel respected this includes the need to have self-esteem and self-respect. Esteem presents the typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others. People often engage in a profession or hobby to gain recognition. These activities give the person a sense of contribution or value. Low self-esteem or an inferiority complex may result from imbalances during this level in the hierarchy. People with low self-esteem often need respect from others they may feel the need to seek fame or glory. However, fame or glory will not help the person to build their self-esteem until they accept who they are internally. Psychological imbalances such as depression can distract the person from obtaining a higher level of self-esteem.

Most people have a need for stable self-respect and self-esteem. Maslow noted two versions of esteem needs: a "lower" version and a "higher" version. The "lower" version of esteem is the need for respect from others. This may include a need for status, recognition, fame, prestige, and attention. The "higher" version manifests itself as the need for self-respect. For example, the person may have a need for strength, competence, mastery, self-confidence, independence, and freedom. This "higher" version takes guidelines, the "hierarchies are interrelated rather than sharply separated". This means that esteem and the subsequent levels are not strictly separated instead, the levels are closely related.

1.5. Hierarchy Self-actualization

"What a man can be, he must be." This quotation forms the basis of the perceived need for self-actualization. This level of need refers to the realization of ones full potential. Maslow describes this as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be. Individuals perceive or focus on this need very specifically. People may have a strong, particular desire to become an ideal parent, succeed athletically, or create paintings, pictures, or inventions. Maslow believed that to understand this level of need, the person must not only succeed in the previous needs but master them. Self-actualization can be described as a value-based system when discussing its role in motivation self-actualization is understood as the goal-or explicit motive, and the previous stages in Maslows Hierarchy fall in line to become the step-by-step process by which self-actualization is achievable an explicit motive is the objective of a reward-based system that is used to intrinsically drive completion of certain values or goals. Individuals who are motivated to pursue this goal seek and understand how their needs, relationships, and sense of self are expressed through their behavior. Self-actualization can include:

  • Utilizing & Developing Abilities
  • Pursuing goals
  • Utilizing & Developing Talents
  • Partner Acquisition
  • Parenting

1.6. Hierarchy Transcendence

In his later years, Abraham Maslow explored a further dimension of motivation, while criticizing his original vision of self-actualization. By this later theory, one finds the fullest realization in giving oneself to something beyond oneself - for example, in altruism or spirituality. He equated this with the desire to reach the infinite. "Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos".


What Can Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Offer Millennials?

Abraham Maslow was one of the first psychologists to focus on the positive elements of the human experience rather than on what can go wrong. His most famous contribution to the field is his Hierarchy of Needs. This tool was designed to understand what needs people should meet in order to maximize their potential and reach self-actualization. To Maslow, self-actualization meant a stable, realistic view of life combined with a sense of awe, gratitude, and happiness. A self-actualized person is happy to know who they are and what their place in the world is.

The traditional reading of Maslow’s theory is that we cannot leap straight to self-actualization. He believed that there was a hierarchy of needs (with self-actualization at the top), and that the higher needs could be addressed only if the lower needs had already been met. His original conception included five needs, but he later expanded the model to eight.

Physiological Needs: Before anything else, people will seek out air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, and excretion.

Safety Needs: This includes not only physical safety, but economic, social, and psychological security.

Love and Belonging Needs: These social needs include friendship and intimacy, acceptance, the feeling of being a part of a group, and community involvement.

Esteem Needs: This need has two parts to it. Maslow believed we needed both esteem for ourselves as well as feeling the esteem and respect of others.

Cognitive Needs: Added to the expanded model, this acknowledges our mental needs for curiosity, understanding, and meaning.

Aesthetic Needs: Also added to later models, this addresses our need for beauty and balance in life.

Self-Actualization Needs: This need is met when someone realizes their personal potential, pursuing growth and happiness.

Transcendence Needs: Added later, this lesser-known final need recognizes that some people pursue values beyond themselves such as mystical experiences that are often hard to define or pin down.

Psychologists, including Maslow himself, have long asserted that the needs listed do not HAVE to be met in this specific order. Although there are some obvious priorities (you’re not likely to care about whether you’re mentally stimulated on a regular basis if your asthma attack is making it hard to breathe), there is a huge amount of variety in the order in which we attempt to meet our needs.

For instance, being a member of a gang provides such an enormous amount of Love and Belonging that members actively dismiss their need for Safety, although this is the opposite order of Maslow’s hierarchy. In addition, many religious followers pursue Transcendence by ignoring or minimizing their Physiological Needs. This can be a huge encouragement for us!

Many young adults today are living with their parents and working a job they can barely stand to pay off student loans. Although their Physiological needs are met, their Safety (economic) needs are not, nor are their Esteem needs. Very often young adults who move to a new city for work have the added stressor of finding it very difficult to make friends outside of a school context, meaning their Love and Belonging needs are also lacking. Does this mean they are hopeless? Is there no chance of them experiencing cognitive, aesthetic, or self-actualized needs until the ones lower on the hierarchy are addressed?

Yes and no. It is important to continue working to meet those unfulfilled needs. Sometimes this can be helped by practicing gratitude for what you do have. For instance, although a lack of financial security is a very real concern, overall mental health can increase when you take the time to consider that other forms of safety (physical, societal, etc) are met. If nothing else, gratitude for what you have can give you the energy to focus on what you do not.

Although meeting foundational needs will generally always be a consideration, allowing yourself the privilege to pursue higher needs when possible can offer fulfillment despite being “out of order.” Take on a new hobby that will challenge you mentally or offer greater creative opportunities. The satisfaction from meeting your Cognitive and Aesthetic needs can, at worst, distract you from the absence of lower needs, and at best, give you the motivation to continue working toward meeting them.

It’s also worth remembering those who find Self-actualization and Transcendence without meeting their lower needs. After all, Maslow himself identified several qualities of self-actualizers, and many of them can be realized without fully attaining all the preceding needs. Some of these qualities include people who: Perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty Accept themselves and others for what they are Problem-centered, not self-centered Unusual sense of humor.

With those in mind, it is clear that one can reach some level of self-actualization through means other than ensuring our Physiological, Safety, Love and Belonging, and Esteem needs are fully met. For instance, practicing acceptance of oneself and one’s situation can go a long way toward increasing the mental health of struggling young adults as well as increase their experience of self-actualization. Often this includes another of Maslow’s characteristics of self-actualized people: holding a realistic view of life.

Acceptance and realistic views of life mean having a full acknowledgement of the bad and of the good. Take the time to write out all of the things about your life that are not going well. Now write another list with an equal number of things that are going well, even if you feel you have to really stretch things to find them. Do the same for yourself personally. Write down all of the things that you see as flaws in yourself. Now write a list with an equal number of strengths that you see in yourself.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a useful tool to help make us aware of what our needs are. Sometimes we downplay our need for friendship, and it can be useful to point at a psychologist’s theory and say, “See! Right there, the need for Belonging is real!” But it is just a tool, and nothing more. If you find yourself becoming discouraged just looking at his pyramid of needs, it might be a good idea to take a mental step back. While full of useful information, this hierarchy is flexible, and there are ways to feel self-actualized even if foundational needs are not fully met.

So don’t despair. Let Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs inspire you to greater things rather than be dragged down by the thought of what you don’t have.



Comments:

  1. Cadabyr

    Wonderful, good idea

  2. Jirka

    Of course. This was and with me.

  3. Knocks

    I am very grateful to you. Many thanks.

  4. Chinua

    Quick answer, a sign of quick wits;)

  5. Noah

    Did you yourself come up with such an incomparable phrase?

  6. Ashton

    Nice post! I drew up a lot of new and interesting things for myself!



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