Imagine you are getting set up to participate in a meditative activity like yoga. The lighting is low, essential oils are wafting through the air, and you attempt to reach a sense of calm and mindfulness…but then your stomach growls. All of a sudden you are yanked out of your mindfulness state and plunged into the ache of hunger. No matter how badly you yearn to resume your peace, the screams of your hunger will not be silenced until you eat. So you get up, grab a snack, and a few minutes later you are able to focus on your mindfulness once again. This kind of event happens to us all the time when it comes to striving for mental wellness, but we do not often realize the effects it has during the process.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Abraham Maslow was the first to describe the stages of growth in humans as a hierarchal model. In other words, he created a list reflecting the universal needs of humans and how they are connected to behavioral motivations. He came about this concept by studying and observing monkeys’ patterns of behavior and how they addressed their priorities. According to Maslow, human motivations generally move in specific patterns, and in order to progress their motivation to the next stage, the current and previous stages must be satisfied. The word “satisfied” may seem a bit daunting, but what Maslow is really saying is that the need is fulfilled to one’s content; the next need in the process can emerge even when the current one is not 100% satisfied.
There were originally five stages when Maslow developed the Hierarchy of Needs. He later went on to modify his original model to create an eight-stage Hierarchy of Needs, but we will start with learning the basic model. All five stages, in their respective order, are physiological needs, safety needs, belonging and love needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization.
Physiological needs are the basic necessities for survival, such as air, water, food, sleep, clothes, and shelter. In the previous example, food was the physiological need that was in deficit and not allowing any higher-level needs to be met until it was taken care of. It is the base of the pyramid because without having met our basic needs, we will consistently struggle when attempting to complete anything higher.
The next needs on the hierarchy are safety needs which include health, physical, personal, economic, and emotional. Health, in this instance, refers to feeling safe with one’s health status and well-being whereas physical safety refers to events like a natural disaster or family violence. Our human and civil rights would be an example of personal security and financial safety would encompass job and financial security. Lastly, emotional safety applies to stability in our emotions as compared to feelings of insecurity, inferiority, or vulnerability.
Love and Belonging Needs
Love and belonging needs are pretty self-explanatory. These are the needs to give and feel loved – both romantically and non-romantically – by others. Even creating emotionally significant relationships, in general, would fulfill this need whether that be through friendships, family, or significant others. The trust, acceptance, and intimacy gained from these relationships would allow this need to be met. However, it is not uncommon for this need to seem more important than our basic needs when peer pressure is applied.
The fourth stage of esteem needs encompasses two forms: lower and higher. The lower version of esteem includes our need for respect from others, perhaps in the form of status, recognition, and attention. The higher version of esteem consists of the need for self-respect, self-confidence, independence, and freedom. Esteem needs can be met through encouragement by self and others, supportive environments, and learning opportunities.
Lastly, self-actualization simply means one has realized their full potential and found a meaning to life that is important to them. However, the journey does not stop once you have reached the top of the pyramid. Life experiences have a habit of getting in the way of our growth and motivations. Self-actualization is a continual process instead of one-and-done. It is something we would consistently strive for and achieve through peak experiences that bring us joy or euphoria. For example, a father may experience self-actualization when he is able to capably care for his children or a novelist finished their book. It is unique for everyone and it is no simple task, but you will see just how capable you truly are once all the previous needs are satisfied and you were able to actualize your potential.
Maslow and Mental Health
As mentioned before, life can get in the way sometimes, and, for whatever reason, the need is not met. It is during these interruptions that we may experience anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, or other mental health issues. Unmet needs are also why there may be struggles and blockages when trying to strive for the upper portions of the pyramid. If you find yourself in a situation that sounds similar, try assessing your needs. Have they all been met? Is there a need lower on the pyramid that may need to be addressed first? Once that need is met, you will find it less challenging to pursue your goals and strive for self-actualization.
If you find yourself struggling to meet your needs or reach your full potential, please contact us at (832) 352-1600 or contact us here.