Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow and his theory

The great American psychologist Abraham Maslow was responsible for developing the now famous hierarchy of needs. He proposed that human beings have built in needs that are arranged in order of importance, similar to a pyramid with the most basic needs forming the base. The first four levels are referred to as deficit needs, meaning that most people are only really aware of them if they are not being met - in other words, if there is a deficit!

Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs



Human needs start at the physiological level. Air comes first, then water, food, and sex. These are linked to primitive drives - we cannot survive without them. (Some argue that sex should not be included as a basic need, but at the most primitive level it is mandatory for survival of the species.)

Next come the safety needs; the drive to secure shelter, warmth and light. Without these we may or may not survive, but the lack of them is keenly felt. In the modern world, a job, a stable home life and a secure future also reside on this level.

The next step up the ladder brings us to the belonging needs. This is the desire for love and acceptance from others. We need social interaction, friends, partners, and the emotional connection to other humans. Without these we can suffer from fear, loneliness and anxiety.

Near the top lie the Esteem needs, and this is where the pyramid gets shaky for many people! We need respect and approval from others and respect and approval from ourselves. Lack of these things is what causes a loss of self respect, low self-esteem and inferiority complexes.

At the very top of the pyramid lies what Maslow called the being needs, or in his term, ‘self-actualization’. Fulfilling these needs doesn’t just bring you up from a negative state to a state of balance - meeting these needs puts you over the top into a positive state where you are constantly able to improve yourself and become a stronger, better you. There is no limit - you can keep pushing yourself further and higher! This is where true happiness, success and contentment can be found. These are the 5 levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

If you start at the bottom of the pyramid and concentrate on filling your needs at each level, you can consciously attempt to reach this plane of transcendence! All it really takes is a willingness to examine your life and find the areas where your unmet needs are holding you back from your own self-actualization.

Maslow's theory of motivation

Return home from hierarchy of needs

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