Twelve-year-old Alyssa is a very precocious and unique child. She learned how to read at the age of four and was into Shakespeare by the time she was seven. Academically, she excels and is currently top one in her gifted students’ class. Because she is the best, she is always sent to student competitions. Alyssa is also musically inclined and plays various instruments such as the piano, violin and the flute. She is in the local orchestra and performs with them in concerts. In addition she ballets, tap dances, acts and sings and naturally is a member of the village theater group. She is physically very agile and outruns all the boys in her class. In fact she represents her school in triathlons. One would think that because of all the things that Alyssa does, she would feel pressured and miserable. In reality though, she feels the opposite. She is bubbly, happy and very positive. When people ask her what her secret is, she tells them that her genes may have given her skills and talents but her happiness and positive thinking is all because of Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs.
So who is Maslow and what is this needs hierarchy? Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who created a series of human needs that according to him had to be accomplished by people in order for them to reach self-actualization. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is depicted as a five-leveled pyramid. The lowest levels of the pyramid are the most basic needs while the top holds the more complex needs. The hierarchy means that people must fulfill the basic needs before they move up to the other ones.
• Physiological needs are requirements for human survival—water, sleep, food, clothing and shelter. These biological needs are the strongest and the most basic because humans will cease to function without them.
• Safety needs, such as personal and financial security, health and well-being and safety against accidents/illnesses, are not as demanding as physiological needs, but are still quintessential for survival.
• Social needs are the psychological aspect of Maslow’s hierarchy. The need for belongingness and acceptance is an important element of human life. Loneliness, anxiety and depression may result from the absence of social needs such as friendship, intimacy and a supportive family.
• The need for esteem represents man’s need to belong. This and self-respect are the reasons why people need to gain recognition and engage in activities that would give them a sense of contribution. Inferiority complex and depression will result if this need is not addressed.
• The need for self-actualization is the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Self-awareness, concern for personal growth, fulfillment of potential and disregarding criticisms from others belong to this level.
Again, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs, individuals must satisfy the lower level of needs before they can reach self-actualization. That is, man can only attain his full potential if he has balanced his physiological, safety, social, and esteem needs. Growth can only be achieved if these are met in the right environment. Considering how Alyssa is such a happy individual despite the pressures in her life, she must have met most if not all of her human needs!