I’ve got an article ready to go on the roles we play in our lives. I was getting ready to publish it when I realized I need to introduce a concept first. It’s a pretty easy one, but it’s so important: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This may look familiar:
Starting at the bottom is our base, our foundation. These are our physiological needs: air, food, water, shelter, warmth, and rest. If these needs aren’t being cared for, nothing else matters. If we don’t have any one of these, life is pretty much over!
Now that we’ve got our physiological needs met, we can focus on the second level, which is our need for safety. We need to be safe from harm. This includes protection from the elements, security, order, and freedom from fear. At this second level, things like relationships, self esteem, and critical thinking don’t matter. We have to be able to sustain life and be safe. These first two levels are our basic needs.
Then we can focus on the third level, belongingness and love. This encompasses friendship, intimacy, affection, and love. This can come from a number of relationships including friends, family, work relationships, and romantic relationships.
Next, our needs begin to take an inward focus. The fourth level is our esteem needs. We need to achieve and feel good about ourselves. This can come from mastery of a task. We may earn prestige and respect from others. This also happens as we achieve independence moving through appropriate developmental stages. The third and fourth levels are our psychological needs. These are not optional for wellness!
Finally, we achieve self-actualization. This comes from realizing personal potential, growth, and experience. We experience self-fulfillment. This is also a necessity for wellness.
So when we look at Maslow’s Hierarchy, other concepts we’ve discussed on IOI become clearer. When we talk about a person needing to accomplish necessary tasks to move to the next developmental stage, it’s not much different than this. Just like you need to trust people before you can achieve autonomy, you also have to be able to eat before you can focus on feeling safe. It’s really important to keep this in mind when we have expectations of people. Is there a need that’s not being met? If a child is coming to school hungry, they are not going to be able to learn.
Maslow addresses us at a basic, almost primal, level. Since first publishing his theory, other stages have been debated and added. I thought it would be good for IOI to have a good handle on the theory in general. The take-home message is that the stages are progressive, and that if a person’s basic needs are not being met, they will not be capable of higher-level functioning. Not capable. It’s not that they’re unwilling, or doing things to spite you. It’s that they are doing what they can.
Next up, I’ll be writing about the different roles we have in life, and how we manage them.