Sorry Dr Maslow, I Think You Got It Wrong
In the 1950s Abraham Maslow published a book entitled " Motivation and Personality" in which he outlided his now famous Hierarchy of Needs. Over the years since its publication Maslow's work has gained wide acceptance as a tool in understanding human motivation. It has been used in areas as diverse as Consumer Marketing and Christian Evangelism,as well, of course, psychology. Maslow rightly holds a place of high regard in many circles.
I do, however, believe Maslow got it wrong....at least in the order in which he places the various needs within his Hierarchy.
According to Maslow, the order ran from basic physiological needs (things we need to maintain life) through safety and security needs, relational needs, self esteem needs through to self-actualisation. I want to suggest a change.
I would rather place the need for self esteem at the very base of the hierarchy, even before the basic survival needs of food, water and procreation. Why? Because I firmly believe that unless the self esteem needs of people are met, there's a strong chance they will even come to the poiont where they ignore those basic needs.
Take for example a person suffering from one of the eating disorders which affect some young people in the teens. I put it to you that much of the problem stems from the fact that they do not esteem themselves very well at all.
What about depression? People suffering this condition often cut back on their interactions with other people. As a result their relationship needs tood to go unfulfilled. They might also become oblivious to the dangers of the situations into which they might put themselves, like walking across a busy roadway without bothering to look either left or right. As a result their safety needs don't get taken into consideration.
Again, I suggest that some,not necessarily all, of the underlying causes of depression relate to self esteem issues.
In fact, I would go so far as to so self esteem issues that go unfulfilled form the basis of the majority of problems people in our modern western world face in life today.
So if your life has not turned out quite the way you had hoped; if the worldly success coming your way leaves you unfulfilled; if you look to the future in dread because you can only look back at the past in horror; if life means endurance rather than enjoyment... there is every likelihood the underlying issue relates to self esteem.
Now if you think I have overstepped the mark in this revision of Maslow's ground breaking work, I admit that I work from a different understanding of self esteem than he did.
Maslow understood esteem as "strength, achievement, competence, and mastery; confidence in the face of the world, the desire for reputation and prestige...status, fame and glory, dominance, recognition."
I came to my own understanding of self esteem by reading the writings of people whose work has continued over the half a century since Maslow's time. In that period, as you might expect, constant work led to a certain amount of refinement and development of Maslow's original work.
For me, self esteem relates to your belief that you have the capacity to achieve whatever you consider worthwhile and the sense of being worthy to benefit from the results produced by those efforts.
That's what I believe, and that's the way I live.
As for you, the choice, as always is yours...
Graham Hunt is the founder of Prentis Carpenter Center, an organisation developed to resource an environment where people who so desire can discover and achieve their potential. As part of that vision Graham has developed a website at http://www.higher-self-esteem-site.com Drop by anytime.
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