What is Maslow's hierarchy of needs?

Back in 1943, Abraham Maslow, the famous psychologist, released Maslow's hierarchy of needs in his well-known paper: A Theory of Human Motivation. The concept, most frequently displayed in pyramid form, explains the human desire to satisfy the most basic of our needs prior to focusing on the more complex ones. In this article, we look in greater detail at each level of Maslow's hierarchy, looking at the things which humans seek in life for personal health, stability, and fulfillment.


At the base of the pyramid are our physiological needs - the things that we simply must have in order to survive. Naturally, food and water slot into this layer, as does warmth. Without access to these things, we would die; they are our basic needs as human beings. Other desires are important but can potentially be lived without - this is simply not the case with physiological requirements.

The next level of the hierarchy looks at safety. In order to live a life that is unlikely to be taken away prematurely, we must have a sufficient level of protection in place. This explains our desire as humans for a neighborhood that is safe to reside in, health care and insurance, some form of shelter, and a job that is secure and pays enough for us to live properly.

Social needs aren't as basic as those relating to having food and water or a stable income, but are still important for our psychological and physical wellbeing. We need to feel loved; we need to feel appreciated; we need to feel like part of a community that accepts us. This incorporates not only relationships with family members and friends, but also that sense of belonging one extracts from being part of a group in society - be it social or religious sectors.

The final two levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs are more about what we need to live a happy, fulfilling life - rather than simply to survive. Although they still matter to our health, esteem needs focus more on how we feel about ourselves (self-esteem), the need to accomplish things (big and small), feeling as though you are recognized to some extent by society, and believing that you have personal-worth.

Self-actualizing needs complete the hierarchy - by reaching this high level, we know that we are committed to realizing and fulfilling our potential as individuals. When we achieve this, we are more likely to feel satisfied and content with our lives, as we will probably have a better understanding of ourselves as individuals. In most cases, what other people think of us may be less important than before when we reach the fifth stage, as we, ourselves, are satisfied with our identity and who we are.

With all of the five layers accounted for, Maslow's hierarchy of needs displays in a concise, clear way what we humans need - firstly, to survive, and then, to have a sense of achievement in our lives. Failure to satisfy some of these needs - especially those nearest to the base of the pyramid - may well result in us being unable to survive.