Self-Actualization Is The Key

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Man on a mountainI have a confession to make – I have watched every single season of Big Brother. I am a huge fan of several different reality shows (Survivor, the Bachelor franchise, and Amazing Race among them), so I’m always engaged in a new reality “saga.” If you’ve been watching Celebrity Big Brother, you know that one of the contestants is a man named James Maslow. I’d admit, I had no idea who he was when the show started (he is a member of the band Big Time Rush), but just hearing the last name Maslow piqued my interest.

Abraham Maslow was a famous psychologist who established Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I have been on a bit of an internet search to see if the two men are related, but have been unsuccessful so far. (Does anyone know??) And in doing this search, I was reminded of how interesting Abraham Maslow’s theory really is.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs
Image Source: Wikipedia

In 1943, Abraham Maslow published the hierarchy of needs. It includes five levels, all of which make up different levels of a pyramid, moving from lowest to highest: physiological, safety, belongingness/love, esteem, and self-actualization. The idea behind the pyramid is that if you haven’t been able to fulfill one level, there is no way to effectively climb to the next. It is a bit more fluid than one at a time, but that is the general idea. For example, our primal needs need to be met first. If you have little access to items like food and shelter, it will be very difficult for you to concentrate on moving up to your next set of needs. The goal of the pyramid – and life – is to reach self-actualization. To get to a place where all of the levels of the pyramid are being nurtured and met so that you can be who you were meant to be.

One of my favorite Maslow quotes is “What a man can be, he must be.” It says to me that we must work our hardest with what we are given. With what we have not been given, it is our duty to keep working to fulfill that need. If you do not have a stable home, it is your responsibility for yourself (and those around you) to do everything in your power to create a more stable situation. Sign a year-long lease instead of a month-to-month. If you are couch surfing, save the money to rent a room in someone’s house, making your ultimate goal to rent an apartment.

Maslow’s theory speaks to many reasons that people get stuck. If you don’t have a sense of community or family in your life, it’s tough to work on your self esteem. Having that support system is often what gives you the platform for security and allows you believe that others respect you. Again, this is a more fluid pyramid than one level at a time, but you can see how each relates to the next. If you have no water and are suffering from thirst, your mind can’t concentrate on building friendships. If you don’t believe in yourself, it is very difficult to have an effective relationship. If you tend to judge people, perhaps you need to work on your own self esteem. Why do you feel the way you do? Where did it come from? What can you do about it? It is answering these questions that will help lead you toward self-actualization.

So what is self-actualization? Self-actualization is a place in which you are comfortable with yourself and see your goals very clearly. It is being able to work towards being your best self on a day-to-day basis because all of the other basic needs below this one are met. It is living authentically and openly to be who and what you were meant to be.

We can’t see clearly if we don’t believe in ourselves. We all have our moments (or days) of doubts and not one of us is perfect. But if you work to make sure that you are climbing the pyramid, you will find a center and direction for your life. Are you allowing yourself to live as the person you were meant to be? If you’re not, think about why that might be. What is stopping you? Who is stopping you? What do you need to do to take one more baby step towards the next level of of the hierarchy of needs? It is all right there for you. Empower yourself and give yourself the gift of evolution. You deserve it.

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