Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a hierarchical representation of a set of five human needs depicted inside a pyramid. These needs can be broadly classified into basic, psychological and self-fulfillment needs. The five needs from the bottom are physiological needs, safety needs, needs of belonging and love, esteem needs and self-actualization. It goes without saying that the needs in the bottom layers must be fully or partially satisfied before the individual can begin having the needs that appear further up the pyramid.
Furthermore, the first four needs at the bottom are classified as the deficiency needs and the last and uppermost need is called the growth or the being need. Why you ask? Well, deficiency needs are so called because these needs arise to lack of availability. And when that happens, the more the person is motivated to find it so as to satisfy that particular need of his. Take hunger for instance. When you start getting hungry, do you tell yourself, “naah, I’m too lazy to cook, I’ll just starve to death”? No. We find a means that provide us sustenance.
Although deficiency needs have to continuously be met, we have a next set of needs that have not yet been met. And these become the most important aim then. Throughout all these, many people feel the need to grow as a person and begin exploring the growth needs. This unlike the others does not come from a deficit of something. Once a taste of it is got, then this particular need becomes more pronounced. However, if an average person’s life is examined, they may go through various ups and downs in life like a divorce, loss of a loved one etc. and due to this reason, a person keeps fluctuating between the different deficient need levels.
What exactly comprise these needs? The bottom most physiological needs comprise of biological human needs such as food, water, shelter, warmth, sex and sleep. These needs are considered most important as the human body cannot function properly without satisfying these first. Next comes the needs for safety and security. These usually point in the direction of a family and societal setup. This brings order and control without which there is chaos and uncertainty and humans do not function well under such circumstances. The third need for belongingness and love motivates forging of friendships and other relationships. The fourth one i.e. esteem needs focus on self-respect and respect from others. Maslow pointed out that the reputation need was most important for children and adolescents and this leads to real self-esteem or dignity. Self-actualization needs may manifest in a multitude of ways. From being the ideal version of something each person perceives for example, a great artist, a highly successful businessman, or an ideal parent.
To understand the importance of Maslow’s Hierarchy of human needs, ponder over what Maslow said, “It is quite true that man lives by bread alone — when there is no bread. But what happens to man’s desires when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled? At once other (and “higher”) needs emerge and these, rather than physiological hungers, dominate the organism. And when these in turn are satisfied, again new (and still “higher”) needs emerge and so on. This is what we mean by saying that the basic human needs are organized into a hierarchy of relative prepotency.”