Maslow, Self-Actualize this!

Of course I am talking about the famous Hierarchy of Needs.  I have no years of scientific experimentation with statistics under my proverbial belt and neither am I arrogant enough to think I could “debunk” it, but I have good observations about people and human nature and I have to wonder about the order of some of the things on that list.  Before I question anything though, here is the list in order from “most basic” to “highest human potential” according to Maslow:
  1. Physiology; breathing, food, water, shelter, sex, homeostasis, excretion
  2. Safety; of employment, of resources, of morality, of the family, of health, of property
  3. Love/Belonging; friendship, family, sexual intimacy
  4. Esteem; self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others
  5. Self-Actualization; morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts

So, what’s the big deal anyhow?  I really am not sure what anyone else thinks about it, but I am quite tired of all of the pressure and ideologies that are out there telling us whether or not we “measure up” as people.  We perpetually have to achieve “something” by someone else's standard in order to be worthy.  Well, I have decided that it is time to examine the granddaddy of all such lists and see if I cannot humanize it!

My problem with this list stems from the fact that some of the things that people are supposed to strive for in the “Physiology”, “Safety” and “Love/Belonging” categories, are harder or in some cases impossible to achieve for some people without some of the intrinsic qualities in the last two sections already in place.

Assuming that you are alive and “breathing”, if you are incapable of caring for yourself (and if you are found), food, water and shelter would be provided for you by the state which would negate the list outright.  If, on the other hand, you can eek together a basic living and provide for your physiological needs and some education, but then fail to secure the social signs of personal success like the right type of job, a nice home, a newer vehicle, and a partner, that could lead some people to feel as though they have failed and also that they have done so because they are in some ways inadequate compared to others. Then, a person might lose what little they have due to a lack of confidence.

That is key!  Most of us could achieve very little in our lives without confidence.  What ends up happening for most people is that they achieve their own version of “homeostasis” or balance with a certain level of personal care and achievement, similar to what they had exposure to while they were growing up, but do not then go on to achieve anything beyond that because they lack that internal self-belief that they are able to move forward or are worthy of such achievement even if they do.   

Think about it.  How do you walk up to anyone in any social setting and make the right type of impression without it?  Picking up the clichéd “one-night-stand”, networking amongst industry professionals for the job of your dreams and popping the question to that special someone, are all monumentally out of reach without some measure of confidence.  

Another thing that I believe happens to some other people is that they have the self-reliance necessary to achieve success in one or two areas, but then have self-doubt in some other sphere.  So the professional who neglected a family life until she achieved a level of success that she felt gave greater merit to her personal worth, may not know how to approach the type she desires, and based on that may doubt her basic ability to do so.  Wow!  This means that an industry leader can be too insecure on some level to approach the “hottie” working in R&D (research and development)!  

For me, based on my oft-repeated plethora of conversations with innumerable people believe that the stages as Maslow has outlined them are not mutually exclusive if you take them out of order.  Some people need to believe in themselves before they can achieve even the most basic level of survival, some others can operate on auto-pilot and do what is necessary to survive, but still lack confidence and yet others can have confidence personally but lack it professional or vice versa.  

It’s perhaps too idealistic in this modern world of high inflation and higher personal stress to think that people will necessarily achieve anything in the order that it has been laid out simply because it seems logical.  I am fairly logical, but I am positive that there are at least a couple billion people who are not.  Anyhow, I think even the old, old school way of doing things, turns the Hierarchy on its ear: go through primary and high school (and maybe college), find a mate, get married, move out of parental home into your own home, get jobs, and plausibly have children.  

As much as it is straight logic to think that your need for home, food and water would be the correct thing to seek first, many people seek companionship and belonging first before they seek out anything else because that need for them is greater than everything else!  Besides, in the new era of the two-income household, it is by far easier to achieve greater financial security with double the earning power.  As things stand, modern life virtually requires some sort of financial success from each person before he/she goes out to find a potential mate, making “employment” the baseline minimum achievement before you can even leave your parent’s home. Obviously without an income, you cannot feed, house or clothe yourself.

So, am I full of poo and arrogant beyond belief to think that I could challenge the great Maslow’s Hierarchy, or do I actually have a point?  I would never claim to speak for anyone else except myself, so let us examine how I fare against the great list:
  1. Physiology; I sort of have this covered, but not in the way that I want
  2. Safety; I have some of this but not all by my estimation
  3. Love/Belonging; again I have some of these things but not all
  4. Esteem; I can say yes to everything in this section without being boastful at all
  5. Self-Actualization; scarily enough, I can say yes to everything in this section too

It is completely possible that I am a freak of nature and the only one in the whole world who defies the undoubted sense behind Maslow’s great Hierarchy.  It is also completely possible that in order to logically achieve the stages of the list as written, it would require everyone to be perfectly logical. Unfortunately for Maslow, I don't live in “that” world.