How can I be happy in life? That’s a question asked by many, and this article will answer that question using the Hierarchy of Basic Human Needs. The psychologist Abraham Maslow derived these from his theory of human motivation. Maslow used a pyramid to illustrate the five basic human needs. A close look at this pyramid shows why happiness in some people is so hard to attain.
What are the five basic human needs
These are basic physiological needs that are necessary for survival and maintenance of life. They include food, shelter, sleep, water, excretion, and sex(adults). Most people are stuck here struggling to survive and make ends meet.
Safety and security needs
These are needs such as morality, employment, health, security, safety, education, etc. Some factors that may destabilize these needs include a toxic home environment, toxic partner/parent, toxic work/school environment, physical, verbal, mental, or emotional abuse, etc.
Most parents feel if they have provided their children with physiological and safety needs, then they have made it as a parent. But that is not the case. Parents that don’t strive to provide for their children beyond these needs end up having disgruntled and delinquent children.
Belonging and love
These are needs that involve family, friends, intimacy, relationships, marriage, and self-love. These needs are essential for an individual to achieve self-esteem and self-confidence which are next in the pyramid. It has been proven that human beings thrive on love and function optimally in the presence of healthy and functional human relationships. Especially the relationship with self.
These are needs surrounding self-love, respect from and to others, self-esteem, and self-confidence. Self-esteem is related to how an individual perceives him/herself. If one does not feel worthy of love it negatively affects his/her self-esteem. Additionally, lack of education, unemployment, loneliness are all factors that influence one’s self-esteem.
This also explains why people in extreme poverty have no regard for etiquette, self-respect, respect for others, or integrity. Sadly, they are too preoccupied with trying to survive and stay alive to pay attention to fine things.
Self-actualization is a higher level of needs in which someone reaches his/her highest potential and living purposefully. Where one is able to live his life dreams, reach the highest peak of spirituality, creativity, control, or productivity. One is able to solve problems, govern, and have an audience/followers.
For some parents, self-actualization occurs when they see their children succeed or living “their” dream for the children. However, this is what may send you back down to the needs below especially if you did not achieve them. Needs such as love and belonging may always send you back to the drawing board no matter how much self-actualized you are.
Consequences of not fulfilling the five basic human needs
Lack of fulfillment of these basic needs has undesirable consequences depending on which need has been suppressed.
Physiological needs; deprivation may be fatal resulting in serious illness or death.
Safety and security needs; deprivation may result in post-traumatic stress, paranoia, and other psycho-social deficits.
Love and belonging needs; deprivation may result in depression, self-hate, delusions, low self-esteem, low self-worth, etc.
Self-esteem and self-actualization; deprivation of these needs may result in self-loathing, feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, failure, anxiety, depression and other psychological illnesses.
Initially, Maslow theorized that for you to transcend to another need up the pyramid, you need to fulfill the prior need. However, he later stated that the fulfillment of needs is quite relative depending on the individual involved and the circumstances.
For instance, some people achieve self-actualization without achieving self-esteem or belonging needs. This can be seen in some celebrities who have low self-esteem. But when you do an insight into their lives, you will find that these people are not really happy. To the extent of them surviving on substance abuse or other weird ways of coping with the ghosts that haunt their inner selves. It’s for this reason that we have lost some very successful people or celebrities to suicide or substance overdose.
Maslows theory can also be applied in parenting. Some parents would say, “I have given my children everything, and yet they are unhappy. How ungrateful can they be!”
As a parent or guardian, everything usually refers to quality education, food, water, good shelter, perhaps you even go further and provide luxuries such as access to the internet, frequent outings, or parties. But in essence, you have only provided basic and safety needs.
Some parents further deprive their children of their safety needs by being abusive verbally, mentally, or physically. Dysfunctional families and divorce also rob children of the safety/security basic need. Creating delinquent or psychologically impaired adults out of their children. You can read about the16 signs of bad parenting and how to fix them here.
The five basic needs and happiness
So how can you be happy in life? If true happiness is when your life fulfills your needs, and these above explained are an average human’s basic needs; that means you and I have solved the mystery.
Yes, you are so right! For you to find true happiness, you have to fulfill those needs as illustrated on Maslow’s hierarchy of basic human needs. I earlier mentioned incidences where some very important people self-actualized without achieving self-esteem. Well, I also pointed out the probable and proven fate as found in the world’s history of legends.
That is why a very rich young man who has already attained self-actualization may feel the missing piece in his puzzle of happiness is a wife. Which may drive him back down the pyramid to the love and belonging needs.
It is also the reason a self-actualized woman may walk out of an abusive marriage to fulfill the safety need. Also, the reason why a wealthy star may ditch the limelight in order to find themselves.
Each of these five components feeds into each other and as human beings, we are required to fulfill these needs in order to be satisfied. And satisfaction brings joy; joy brings happiness. Find out more about true happiness from the article the six steps to finding true happiness.
It has been proven that for an individual to perform at optimal levels his/her needs in totality have to be met. Now, these needs can not be met 24/7 without fail. There are some periods of lacking. Like an event where an individual that was once complete, loses his job or source of income. This destabilizes the physiological needs which are vital for life. He drops all the way from the top to the very bottom. He may have to start the journey upwards all over again.
So in the actual sense, Maslow’s pyramid, in reality, looks something like this.
Note the two arrows denoting times when unfortunate events happen and you are thrown back down. But never lose hope, there is always a way up the pyramid again.
So is your happiness safe with the fulfillment of the five basic needs?
Yes. yes, it is. What you need is to understand that life is a cycle. Strive to self actualize without skipping any of those stages. That doesn’t mean that you should have a dogmatic approach to your happiness.
I know a very happy man that self-actualized before he attained the safety and the love and belonging needs. But once he got to the top, he reached down momentarily to fill those two gaps till all his needs were fulfilled.
What works for one, works differently for another. The key is to have a vision, know yourself, know what you want, and fulfill your needs in whichever order that life hands to you. Just don’t leave any gaps at the end of it all. And you will find your happiness.
Check this blog later on how to apply the five basic needs in intimate relationships. Be sure to subscribe.