The human experience is a complex one. We all are born, live, and then die, but what happens in between these stages are astronomically different for everyone. For some, life is about living comfortably enough to get through it. For some, it’s about being absolutely perfect, the best version of yourself. But what do we need in life, really? In this article, I’ll be talking about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs - a theory of psychology explaining human motivation based on the pursuit of different levels of needs.

Originally created by Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist in 1943, his hierarchy describes the different level of the human experience. This hierarchy follows the principle that each level should be tackled before doing the other, as one need usually rests with the prior satisfaction of another. It is split into 5 levels: Physiological, Safety, Needs of Belonging, Esteem and Self Actualisation.

Stage 1 - Physiological needs

The essential human needs, such as food, water, shelter, and air are the ones that keep us alive. Most people can’t function or survive when any one of these is lacking. Without the basic level of survival, a person can’t be expected to achieve anything much higher, as they would crave and strive towards the bare minimum.

Stage 2 - Safety needs

Once the basic needs are fulfilled, you can move to the next level. This is when it becomes a bit more complex - we need security and safety to go about our daily lives. This could mean financial security, freedom from fear, and stable health. Life would be incredibly difficult if you lacked any of these - for example, if you were poor, a target of crime or ill. 

Stage 3 - Needs of belonging 

Once basic survival and security is achieved, we often go towards anything that gives human a sense of belonging. This could be friendship, love, community etc. 

Stage 4 - Esteem needs

Satisfaction in self-esteem leads to feeling self-confidence, and therefore we believe we have a worth. This makes us stronger and more capable of being useful in the world. This stage focuses on dignity, esteem, or personal achievement etc. This is considered the ultimate condition of human opportunity. 

Stage 5 - Self actualisation

Once a person has everything they need to survive, function, and understand their position in the world and their relationship with those around them, they move to this stage. This creates a desire to explore, create or expand skills, such as enhancing beauty, art or even learning a new language or instrument. This way we become the best version of ourselves. 

This hierarchy can be implemented anywhere, but not many people reach self-actualisation. It’s important to realise the order of levels varies with person - for some, esteem outweighs love, for some love outweighs safety. Nonetheless, the hierarchy can be useful for everyone, whether it’s in the workplace, school or etc it helps us gain a better understanding of priorities in life.