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  • Adam Stanford

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs




As a therapist, I’m very interested in understanding the factors that drive our behavior and motivation. Perhaps you have heard of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, a theory that explains human motivation based on a hierarchy of needs. In this article, I will provide a comprehensive guide to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, including examples and explanations for each level of the hierarchy.


Introduction to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a theory of human motivation that was proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943. According to Maslow, human beings have five basic levels of needs that must be fulfilled in order to achieve self-actualization, or the realization of one's true potential. The five levels of the hierarchy, in order of importance, are:

  • Physiological

  • Safety

  • Love and Belonging

  • Esteem

  • Self-Actualization

This is referred to as a hierarchy because Maslow believed that each level must be satisfied before an individual can fully move on to the next level. For example, an individual must have their physiological and safety needs met before they can focus on love and belonging needs. Additionally, Maslow believed that self-actualization is the ultimate goal of human motivation and its meaning will vary from person to person.


Physiological Needs

The first level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is physiological needs, which are the most basic needs that must be fulfilled in order for an individual to survive. These needs include food, water, shelter, air, and sleep. A person who is starving and dehydrated will not be concerned with making friends or achieving their life goals. Instead, they will focus solely on finding food and water to survive.


Safety Needs

The second level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is safety needs. These needs include physical safety and security, as well as emotional security. Individuals require a sense of stability and predictability in their lives as well as an environment in which they can relax without the threat of harm. A person who lives in a dangerous neighborhood may feel anxious and on edge. They may seek out a safer environment by moving to a different location or installing security measures in their home. A person who lives with an abusive person may choose to leave and stop the cycle of abuse.


Love and Belonging Needs

The third level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is love and belonging needs. These needs include the desire for friendship, intimacy, and a sense of belonging to a group or community. Humans are social creatures and require social interaction to feel fulfilled. A person who has no friends or family may feel lonely and unfulfilled. They may seek out social interaction by joining a club or volunteering in their community. Someone who has let friendships fade away may choose to take a more active role in maintaining their relationships going forward.


Esteem Needs

The fourth level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is esteem needs. These needs include the desire for self-esteem and the esteem of others. Individuals require a sense of accomplishment and recognition to feel fulfilled. A person who achieves a professional goal may feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. They may seek out recognition from others by sharing their success on social media or celebrating with friends and family. Someone with low self-esteem can start practicing self-gratitude and forgiveness or building mastery towards something that interests them.


Self-Actualization Needs

The fifth and final level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is self-actualization needs. These needs include the desire for personal growth and development, as well as the realization of one's potential. Individuals require a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives to feel fulfilled. A person who is passionate about a particular cause may dedicate their life to working towards that cause. They may feel a sense of fulfillment and purpose in knowing that they are making a difference in the world.


Examples of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in Real Life

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs can be observed in many aspects of daily life. For example, businesses that provide their employees with a safe and comfortable working environment are fulfilling their employees' safety needs. Similarly, schools that provide students with opportunities for social interaction and personal growth are fulfilling their students' love and belonging and self-actualization needs.

Additionally, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs can be used to understand the behavior of individuals in different cultures. For example, in cultures where individualism is highly valued, individuals may prioritize their esteem and self-actualization needs over their love and belonging needs. In contrast, in cultures where collectivism is highly valued, individuals may prioritize their love and belonging needs over their esteem and self-actualization needs.

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