Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs by Wikimedia user Factoryjoe (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs by Wikimedia user Factoryjoe (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Anyone who has felt less than completely well, or has felt less than secure in their life, has experienced multiple levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The idea of the hierarchy is that only when your basic needs are met can you be concerned with the more contemplative issues.

I think this concept is a fascinating look at the human experience. First, you have to be able to eat, drink, breathe, sleep, etc., before anything else is a concern. That lowest level, Physiological, is about having to be able to survive for the next second, minute, hour, day, year. (Sex is on this level because, without it, the population would swiftly decline.)

The next level up, Safety, has to do with being in a safe and secure environment. Are you safe? Your loved ones? Your possessions? Do you live in an environment where you are able to take care of yourself and be safe?

The Love/Belonging level broadens your circle to include family, friends, and closeness with people. If you’re comfortable enough in the first two levels, now you can make yourself at home and invest in others.

The Esteem level involves how you feel about yourself. How do you fit into the greater social circle? How do you feel about your accomplishments? Feeling good about yourself, your work, and your ability to perform tasks is what this level is about.

Self-Actualization occurs when you have the luxury of the rest of the levels being taken care of. Only here can we be free to create openly, live by morals, etc.

There can be much discussion about these levels, and of course it’s never a straight line. Sure, you can’t feel good about yourself enough to create a masterpiece if you can’t breathe, but some people experience world in a less linear way. They can express and create, with plenty of confidence, even if they don’t live in a safe place, without a relationship with family or friends.

I mostly think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a mental exercise. There is a lot of truth in it, but it is more food for thought and discussion.