Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist who studied the human behavior, published a theory in 1943 known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. According to this theory, our needs, being everything from essential physical requirements to the need of love and appreciation, are ranked in a specific order. A “lower” need does not apply until all previous needs are fulfilled.
In practice, what this means is that, in order to require for example intellectual needs, such as the need of understanding, the need of sleep must first be fulfilled. Without the sleep we require, we are not able to focus on needing something else the most important needs are thus ranked higher than less vital needs. Let’s have a look at an overview of the hierarchy, as Maslow presented it:
1. Biological and physical needs, such as sleep, breathing, food, sexuality, etc.
2. The need of safety & security
3. The need of proximity and love
4. The need of appreciation, commendation and confirmation
5. Esthetic and intellectual needs
6. The need of self realization
The last need the need of self realization is the most interesting and important need. In order to achieve this, all prior needs must be fulfilled. The need of self realization is essentially about using one’s talents and abilities because one can and want to. As a result of this, one’s dreams and goals in life can be fulfilled.
However, it is possible, according to Maslow’s theory, to get stuck at any prior need and skip it. When this is done, a negative effect is the result. If the need of self realization arises before previous needs are fulfilled, the use of talents and abilities becomes an attempt to compensate for the lack of fulfillment of other needs. One attempts to prove, to one self as well as others, that one is worthy despite the lack of, for example, love and appreciation (should that be the missing ingredient).
Maslow’s hierarchy has, however, received some criticism. For instance, his methods of science have been questioned, and it has been revealed that they were not completely scientifically correct.
Additionally, some scientists consider the hierarchy to be somewhat more individual than what Maslow presented it as. For example, it is believed that not all will require every need listed in the hierarchy in order to reach the final need in a positive way. It is also not considered for everyone to require the needs in the same order. Some, for example, may experience intellectual needs prior to the need of confirmation.
In short, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is all about one thing: we require first the physical needs, and only later needs associated to feelings arise. Only when all needs have been fulfilled can we achieve self realization, meaning the persuasion of our own dreams and goals in life through the usage of our talents and abilities.