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Lets take a trip back to the 1940s. A lot of ideas were being thrown around, and theories of psychology were in full bloom. In the wake of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud's death, as well as the rise of John B. Watson and behaviorism, a new theory was making its break on history. Carl Rodgers and Abraham Maslow introduced a new theory know today as the humanistic perceptive. This is the belief that all humans are unique and should be treated as such. Additionally, it emphasized self-worth and primarily viewed actions as a result of personal-gain. Basically, if something brings you personal pleasure you will continue to do it as well as if something makes you feel bad, you will not continue to do it.
In 1943, Maslow published a paper titled A Theory of Human Motivation, introducing humanism. Within this writing he elaborates a theory unlike any before, The Hierarchy of Needs. As a basic explanation, Maslow believed that there are five levels of needs one must meet in their life before they can reach their full potential. These needs include physiological changes, safety, the feeling of belonging, self esteem, and self actualization. If you cannot achieve the previous level, the rest are considered impossible.
Physiological needs are the basic needs of a human being in order to survive. This includes oxygen, water, food, sleep, and shelter. If this level is not met first, you can not advance up the hierarchy.
The need for safety applies to personal, emotional, and financial security. This also pertains to health as well. We long to feel completely safe within the life that we are living.
We all desire to be accepted. We want to feel as if we belong to something or that we are accepted by someone. We seek acceptance from our family and friends and search for intimate relationships. We cannot be accepted until our basic and safety needs are met.
Similar to love and belonging, we feel that we need to be respected. Not just by others, but self respect too. A low self esteem may bump you back down to lower levels of the hierarchy.
Self transcendence (overcoming your self limits) is an important aspect of this level. The person then recognizes their full potential as a human and what needs to be done to get there.
In Our Society Today
In our society today, the hierarchy is rarely ever heard of or even taught in school anymore. Abraham Maslow, and many other credited psychologists would be gouging their eyes out if they saw our society today. The media has completely destroyed the common simplicity of life and consequently, the hierarchy itself. People tend to focus on the third and fourth levels (love/belonging & esteem) more than the rest. Here's the proof.
Victoria Secret angels, women that young girls look up to as role models, are expected to maintain a 24-inch waist size during their modeling career. Do you know what the average waist size of a standard healthy women is? 34-35 inches. That is almost ten inches smaller than what is considered normal and healthy. Young girls strive to become what is considered "beautiful" or "sexy" and consequently develop eating disorders to maintain their acceptance, skipping both levels of physiological and safety needs.
In the generation of social media, people tend to do anything for likes, follows, or shares. Everyday we see pictures and videos of people doing irrational things just for the kicks of it. They completely ignore the fact they are putting themselves at risk just for the attention. Yeah, eating that tide pod may seem hilarious, but when it blocks your airflow and you pass out or in some cases die, it may not seem as funny anymore?
Within all these cases comes the false portrayal of self-actualization. Media sites such as Instagram or Facebook are a basin to allow others into your life, but is everything you see actually true? In most cases not. A lot of people find comfort in making their lives out to be more than they actually are. This belief could become an obsession, causing one to forget about whats more important, like the four levels that have skipped. This also creates a false identity of what self-actualization really is. There is no "fake it until you make it" when it comes to the hierarchy of needs.
Why is this important?
The hierarchy may seem like a conceptual theory created by a psychologist who is trying to tell you how to live your life. That is not the case at all. Merely, Maslow's goal was to contradict the theories of psychoanalysis and behaviorism because he felt they where "dehumanizing." He felt that we were more than just a subconscious that could be reinforced to do things. He believed that we follow our actions in regards to our morality, which is scarce in our generation today. It is so important to recognize that this hierarchy is not a set of rules, yet it is a guide meant to help you in becoming who you truly want to be in life. In all honesty, I firmly believe that if Abraham Maslow were alive today, he would be pissed to know his work has made no progress and thus been ignored.