Maslow theorized that people have an innate desire for self-actualization. In other words, they are born with a desire to be all they can be, and pursue that desire with vigor. In order to reach their ultimate goals, however, they have to meet their own basic needs, such as food, safety, love and self-esteem.
These basic needs, according to Maslow’s theory, are split into five tiers. These tiers are often displayed as a pyramid, and at the base of this pyramid are the most basic of all, namely Physiological. Examples of physiological needs are breathing, food, water, sex and sleep.
As you progress from the base to the top of the pyramid, the needs become increasingly psychological and social. Needs such as love, friendship and intimacy begin to take precedence the higher up you go, along with personal esteem and feelings of accomplishment.
The whole theory emphasizes the process of growing and developing in order to self-actualize and achieve one’s individual potential.
Needs are also categorized in accordance with whether they are deficiency needs or growth needs. Deficiency needs arise from an individual being deprived of something, and must be satisfied in order to avoid unpleasant feelings or consequences.
In contrast, growth needs stem from a desire to grow as opposed to stemming from deprivation. Although the needs are often portrayed as a rigid hierarchy, Maslow noted that the order in which needs are met does not necessarily follow this standard progression. An example of this is some individuals place more emphasis on the need for self-esteem than, say, the need for love.
Self-actualization is summed up by a single phrase: “What a man can be, he must be”. In other words, individuals must feel like they are using all of their abilities and achieving their full potential in order for them to be fulfilled. Self-actualizing people are highly self-aware, concerned with their personal growth, and interested in fulfilling their potential.
Criticisms of the theory
Various bodies of research have shown support for Maslow’s theories, however most of the research conducted in this regard has not been able to substantiate the idea of a needs hierarchy. Furthermore, Maslow’s definition of self-actualization is difficult to test scientifically.
With the above being said, Maslow’s theory is significant because it represents a turning point in psychology, because his humanistic approach focused on the development of healthy individuals. This is in contrast with the traditional psychological focuses of abnormal development and behavior.
Images (including cover) by Deposit Photos.