I want to talk about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Actually, I want to talk about Harry Potter, or the fact that Tatiana Maslany is apparently going to guest star on Parks and Recreation this season, or the movie I just saw, The World’s End.
But I am going to talk about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs…
Anyway, those who once took an Intro to Psych course, like myself, know that a psychologist named Abraham Maslow had this theory of human motivation, usually interpreted using a pyramid. Basically humans needed to fulfill each need starting at the bottom with the most essential and tangible before they would or could even think about moving up to the next one.
Here’s a picture:
There’s a lot of controversy around this theory. For one thing, there are villagers in third world countries without clean drinking water who still worry about belonging and want to be “actualized,” and people in war torn areas that may not be safe but have to work on their self-esteem. It’s a much more complicated issue. And though later theorists have expanded on Maslow’s original, that’s not the point.
The point is that I recently realized that, at least for me, Maslow may have been onto something.
Tonight I had dinner with a friend, and as inevitably happens when two single 20-something are together for a few hours, the topic of dating popped up. As my friend regaled me with a matchmaking anecdote, I realized that it had been a while since I actively thought about dating, and that it just wasn’t on my mind right now. In college, which was only 2 months ago, I thought about dating a lot and was very much in favor of it. But in college I also had an apartment and a job.
According to Maslow, I’m still working on my “safety” stage, looking for shelter and security. And it’s true, I am way too preoccupied with my job and house search to think about trying to date. I’m just not settled enough for it.
However, I’m also “skipping” a few of his steps. Because even though I’m worrying about some early stages, I’m also actively working on my self-esteem (confidence helps in interviews!) and I still want to feel loved and like I belong, meeting up with friends and talking to my family. And, of course, all of this is in the hope that in the future I can find the right job and live in the right place where I can be fully “actualized” and reach my full potential.
Okay, so, Maslow isn’t right. He was on the right track, but like most psychologists and intelligent people have figured out, he didn’t cover the whole picture. And I really just used him in this post as a plot device.
The point remains, though. We can get so focused on one or two things, have tunnel vision for what we want, and it’s not always a good thing. I’ve been stressed looking for a job and an apartment, and things are moving forward (at a glacial pace, but still forward). Sometimes, though, it’s good to take a step back and think about some of those other human needs. I had an interview at a temp agency today, and spoke with a friend (who will most likely be my roommate) about some housing stuff. Great, first two levels worked on. Then I saw a movie (gonna count that as self-esteem because I felt great afterwards, it was a comedy and a very good one at that) and had dinner with a friend (Belonging. Check!). Now I’m writing this, which I’d like to think is a bit self-actualizing.
In that way, I’ve worked on all of my needs in one day. I may not have completely met any of them beyond the immediate, but I’m feeling pretty satisfied for now.
Take that, Maslow. Hierarchy of Needs, the daily version.