Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was developed by Abraham Maslow in the 1940’s as a theory of human motivation and personality.
The basic premise of Maslow’s theory is that human beings have needs that can be organised into a hierarchy of needs from basic needs like food and water, up to self actualisation.
We all begin at the lower level and as the needs of each level are satisfied we progress up the hierarchy. Although these days you can find many examples of the hierarchy that have been modified or added to – some with up to ten levels, the original model consisted of five levels of needs being:
- love and belonging,
- esteem and
- self actualisation.
Physiological needs relate to basic survival and include things like food, water, sleep and breathing. None of the other needs are sufficiently important for us to pursue until these basic needs have been met. Because let’s face it, our bodies and minds do not work very well if we do not have enough food to eat or water to drink. Until we have these very basic needs meet we are unlikely to have any spare capacity for seeking higher level needs.
If you are starving – your focus is necessarily going to be on finding food!
Safety needs are the next level of needs after our basic or physiological needs have been met. Once you have sourced food and water to sustain yourself your focus is going to shift to things like shelter, ensuring your physical safety, finding somewhere to live and securing the financial means to maintain our lives. When you have sourced enough resources to satisfy your physiological and safety needs you can start to focus on the next level in Maslow’s hierarchy.
Love / Belonging Needs
The next level are love and belonging needs. These needs include the need for family and friendships, social interaction, intimacy and affection. It is on this level where we begin to engage in social groups and develop relationships that satisfy our need to love and be loved and to feel like we have somewhere that we belong. The feeling of belonging might be found in a two person, romantic relationship, membership in a family group or within a community.
Esteem needs are about what we think about ourselves and include things like self esteem, confidence and respect or recognition from others.
In simple terms, self esteem is measured by comparing who we think we are with who we think we should be, and our sense of self tends to be influenced quite heavily by the level of positive regard and recognition we receive from significant others in our lives. Confidence comes from a belief that we have the tools, resources and abilities to succeed in what we are attempting.
All of these concepts or evaluations of ourselves require a certain level of self reflection. Which we are unlikely to have the time for until needs on the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy have been met.
Self Actualisation Needs
Self actualisation needs are the top needs on the hierarchy and relate to our need to reach out full potential. Maslow postulated that not all people would reach this level depending on how well they the lower level needs are met.
He did think though that meeting self actualisation needs was desirable, and should be the ultimate goal for all of us. Self actualisation needs include things like exercising creativity and passion, highly developed concepts of morality and problem solving.