When considering their basic needs, most people think about food, water, air, and shelter. Each of these factors qualifies as a basic need for survival. In the physiological sense at least, but they alone will not ensure that you lead a mentally healthy life.
Consider the basic needs required to live a mentally healthy life. Do you picture Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? You should. The pyramid provides a general guideline of what is needed to uncover our full potential.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
When Abraham Maslow published his article, “A Theory of Human Motivation” in the journal- Psychological Review in 1943, he stated that five basic needs drive humans. When you examine Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you will notice that physiological needs are the building block of the entire period. Physiological needs, immediately followed by the need for safety must be met. You may then not begin to obtain your basic mental health needs of love, belonging, esteem, and ultimately self-actualization.
Emergence of Needs
Maslow believed that our needs emerged as we fulfilled the need found in the prior tier. The hierarchy of needs visualizes his idea that physiological needs would arise first and would require fulfillment before humans could register the need for safety and security. The trend continues as you move up the pyramid.
Later in life, Maslow revisited the idea regarding the emergence of needs and determined that the prior need may not be fully satisfied when the next need emerges. However, to begin fulfilling the next need, we would have to fulfill the need below.
Love and Belonging
General agreement among scientists teases that the need for love and belonging came from evolution. Many professionals believe that the need for love and belonging, in the past, would ensure that human infants survived to maturity. This need is ingrained into our psyche from the day we are born.
As infants and young children, we need our caregivers to fulfill our need for love and belonging. Older children and adolescents need caregivers, friends, and role models to ensure their need for love and belonging is met. In adulthood, intimacy and romantic interests fulfill the need for love and belonging.
Maslow believed that if the human need for love and belonging was not met it would lead to mental illness. He specified that a lack of love and belonging led to psychiatric illnesses like anxiety and depression.
Humans have a basic impulse to achieve. However, the desire to achieve is encouraged through our basic need for esteem. We crave the recognition gained by others and the pride we feel for each achievement. These achievements boost our confidence, self-respect, and self-esteem.
We do not merely seek to build self-esteem but to gain the attention of our peers. Personal and social acceptance, respect, and recognition from others are also necessary to fulfill Maslow’s need for esteem.
Our need for esteem must be fulfilled for us to become self-actualized. When we have satisfied our need for esteem, we think about ourselves, others, and the world in a more positive light. This allows us to seek emotional balance and maintain emotional, mental, and physical health.
Once our physiological, safety and psychological needs have been met, we may begin working towards self-actualization. Maslow defined self-actualization as, “The desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that once can be.”
Essentially, self-actualization allows us to uncover our potential, fulfill our sense of self, and pursue personal growth. Once we become self-actualized, Maslow predicted that we would feel complete, satisfied, and entirely content. This is the basic goal of the human experience.
Expanded Hierarchy of Needs
The five-tier, Hierarchy of Needs model was expanded upon to create the eight-tier model. The new model includes cognitive, aesthetic, and transcendence needs. Cognitive needs include the desire for knowledge and understanding, exploration, and the need for meaning. Aesthetic needs include the search for beauty and balance. Transcendence needs include motivations on values that extend beyond the self.
In the new model, physiological, safety, love and belonging, and Esteem needs are classified as deficiency needs. Cognitive, Aesthetic, Self-Actualization, and Transcendence needs are classified as growth needs.
Application of Maslow’s Theory
Unfortunately, there is no scientific way to prove that Maslow’s theory regarding the Hierarchy of Needs is accurate. The theory was primarily built upon Maslow’s observation and analyses of individuals. Despite this, the needs outlined in the original Hierarchy of Needs are widely believed to be universal. However, many professionals disagree as to whether the needs should be met in any specific order.
Maslow’s theory is primarily used today in the world of business. Employers utilize the theory to increase employee satisfaction and retention rates. In addition to this, the theory is often used to assist in the development and marketing of new products.
We can take the theory and apply it to our own lives as well. Self-actualization refers to having met our full potential. A self-actualized individual would be content and satisfied. Ensuring that these needs are met can allow us to obtain the peak of mental health.