Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

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Since time immemorial man’s action has always been governed by his “needs”. Everything and anything we do is to fulfill some need. But we may often confuse need with wants. Needs are different in the sense that not fulfilling them will harm our psychological health. Our needs are a part and parcel of our surroundings. A different person in different surroundings has different needs but even in all the chaos, we generate in the uniqueness of our needs certain similar attributes.
Being inquisitive by nature, it was inevitable that soon studying man’s needs and the effect of these needs on psychological health would become paramount. The credit goes to an American Psychologist, Abraham Harold Maslow, for achieving the Herculean task of organizing the “needs” of man into a near-perfect hierarchy that would soon become the most legendary idea in the world of psychology.

Behind The Scenes

A 35-year-old Jewish American with Russian ancestry, Abraham Maslow, was looking for the meaning of life at a time where every single person in America was searching for the American Dream. He was searching for human life. Maslow turned to Psychology to find the answer to his questions, unlike others who believed that religion could answer the fundamental question of what we truly want with life. 


Instead of focusing on the negative traits of a human being, Maslow instead focused on the positive attributes. He was interested in human potential and how we fulfill that.

For Maslow, a person is always ‘becoming’ and never remains static in these terms.

Who knew at that time that a 35-year-old young psychologist would release a paper in a journal in America in the year 1943 that would revolutionize the way we think. Hidden in the jargon-rich article of that paper would be a rather mundane-looking triangle divided into five parts that would redefine the meaning of needs. Maslow through this triangle went on to answer the most perplexing question in mankind’s history: – What are we really after in our life?

A Tale Of Hardin, The Perfect Normal Man

In a certain village, there is an ambitious and young man, Hardin, who seeks to live life to its fullest. But Hardin was a poor man. His first concern was putting food on the table and so he decided to go to the main city and start a small business. Once his business was secured Hardin rented a cozy little apartment and started expanding his business. 

Still new in the city, Hardin now felt that he was a bit lonely so he made some friends that used to be around his shop. Soon Hardin got to know new and better-off people through his previous friends and became friends with a big-time investor who agreed to invest in Hardin’s business. Now having a blooming business, Hardin felt lonely at his small apartment that housed no one but him. One fortunate day, Hardin finds the lady of his dreams and three months later he marries her and they start a family together.

With his social and intimate life brimming with perfection, Hardin plays a gamble and starts an investing firm looking for start-ups that he believes will be the next best thing. The next three years witness the growth of Hardin as he builds a huge business empire. Now Hardin commands respect as he gets counted amongst the top businessmen in the country. 

You can imagine for yourself how the rest of Hardin’s life will go as he has everything that a man could always dream of. So why did we just narrate a fairy tale? This story of Hardin relates to us the perfect life lived according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Let us assess this story from a critical viewpoint to understand the various components in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Components Of Maslow’s Pyramid/Hierarchy Of Needs

Maslow-21st Tier: Physiological needs

In Hardin’s story, the first thing that Hardin thinks about is food. According to Maslow, the base of the pyramid is formed by certain non-negotiable needs that come under the Physiological Needs. These are the basic needs every man has to fulfil before even thinking about the other tiers.

Physiological needs are constituted by:

  • Food
  • Warmth
  • Water
  • Rest


In layman terms, a man will only think about moving upwards on Maslow’s pyramid if he has a filled belly (food), a quenched thirst (water), a shelter where he can warm himself, survive the forces of nature and have a sound amount of rest to revitalize his energy.

According to Maslow, 85% of Americans have the physiological needs met.

2nd Tier: Safety Needs

Once Hardin had food and shelter, the next thing he sought was a sense of security by familiarizing himself with the city. The need for a sense of security and protection from damage is what constitutes the second tier of Maslow’s pyramid.


Humans by nature are afraid of forces they can’t control and that seem life-threatening much like any other animal. Thus, after non-negotiable needs like food, the most urgent need is to achieve security and protection.

According to Maslow, 75% of Americans are fulfilling their safety needs.

3rd Tier: Love and Belonging

Hardin was new to the city and was feeling lonely due to which he decided to socialize and make some friends. Soon Hardin felt that he belonged in the city as he had numerous contacts in the city that he could socialize with. After making some friends, Hardin’s next concern was to fulfil his intimate need of being loved unconditionally, and thus he started looking for a soul-companion. He soon found the love of his life and got married starting a family he could call his own.


This tier of human needs is perhaps the most difficult to cross. Being loved and feeling that you belong is a very crucial social need and if not fulfilled often causes severe psychological damages. Clinical Depression, Anxiety, and Bipolar Disorder are just a few psychological issues that affect those who are unable to satisfy their third tier of needs.

According to Maslow, 50% of Americans are satisfying this need.

4th Tier: Self Esteem

After feeling that he has enough love and a sense of belonging in his life, Hardin’s next ordeal was to gain respect and create a name for himself. Only certain individuals in real life can challenge this tier. Those who do succeed in fulfilling their fourth tier of needs become examples and are often looked up for guidance by those who are stuck in the tiers below.


But oftentimes individuals make a jump from the second to the fourth tier, just partially fulfilling the third tier. These individuals might have a very esteemed social image but it’s more of a farce than a reality proving the fact that this tier is very complex to truly fulfill.

There are two parts- one is what others think of you and the second is what you think of yourself. Some examples are people trying to own branded sports cars and on the self respect side, people try to fish for compliments on the way they look or their behaviour.

5th Tier: Self Actualization

This tier has probably never been achieved by any individual in the history of mankind. When Maslow coined the legendary term “Self-Actualization”, he was talking about a state in which a man has completely realized his full potential and can live life according to his whims and demands.


In self-actualization, a person finds a reason and meaning for their life. When we look at this from Indian mythology, quite a few gurus and prominent leaders have tried to attain this stage. Swami Vivekananda, Lord Buddha, to name a few.

As each individual is unique, the motivation for self-actualization is in different directions. For some people self-actualization can be achieved through creating works of art or literature, for others through sport, in the classroom, or within a corporate setting.

Self-Actualization is a stage that can only be achieved if an individual has fulfilled all the needs in the previous tier, something considered to happen only in movies and fairy tales, and can live according to who he truly is.

Reflecting On Real Life

Today’s world can be arguably defined as a world full of individuals hackling to fulfil their third-tier needs in Maslow’s pyramid. We all have the basic amenities bare a few unfortunate ones and we all are searching for a sense of belonging and being loved. In our monotonous life, often we sway towards material needs at times, and on other occasions, we are more focused on our spiritual needs of love and self-esteem

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a guiding concept that, if reflected upon, shall help us realign ourselves and help us answer the question of what we want out of life.

But Maslow’s pyramid is applicable even in the economic world of businesses and huge MNCs. Companies can use Maslow’s pyramid to understand and develop products that better fit the needs of their customers. They can also be used to create an ideal environment where the employees are satisfied and can work in their optimal state.

Humans are truly multi-faceted animals, who are obliged at once, to unfurl their souls and live according to their destiny and also to make sure they can pay their bills at the end of the month. Faced with such a dilemma, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs provides a portrait of a life that is lived in harmony with the complexities of human nature.

Citations :

Skillioma Home (March 1, 2024) Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from
"Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs." Skillioma Home - March 1, 2024,
"Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs." Skillioma Home - Accessed March 1, 2024.
Skillioma Home July 27, 2023 Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs., viewed March 1, 2024,<>
Skillioma Home - Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. [Internet]. [Accessed March 1, 2024]. Available from:
"Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs." Skillioma Home [Online]. Available: [Accessed: March 1, 2024]

Power Words :

  • Immemorial
  • Herculean
  • Brimming
  • Chaos
  • Jargon
  • Farce
  • Inevitable
  • Mundane
  • Amenities
  • Psychological
  • Perplexing
  • Dilemma


Critical thinking challenge question :

Considering the changing work environment since Maslow’s theory, do you agree or disagree with the needs that he outlined? Why or why not? Explain briefly

Watch this video for further learning :

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