govern the extent to which we thrive as human beings. Our survival has been contingent on the fulfillment of needs since the moment we were born. Abraham Maslow saw great importance and significance in the fulfillment of human needs and created an entire theoretical perspective based in these needs. Everyone, including myself, is a product of the fulfillment, or lack of fulfillment, of certain needs. Essentially, our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being depend upon certain needs being met.
Maslow's theory rests in the concept that certain needs must be tended to and fulfilled prior to other needs. Furthermore, physiological needs must be established before safety needs, safety needs before belongingness needs, and belongingness needs before esteem needs, and finally all of these needs prior to self-actualization (Poston, 2009). These needs were arranged by Maslow in a pyramid, with physiological needs at the bottom and self-actualization at the top. The following details an exploration of these needs in terms of experiences within my life.
The bottom of Maslow's hierarchy pyramid contains physiological needs, which are basic needs necessary for survival. These needs consist of food, water, warmth or shelter, and rest, and receipt of these things are necessary for survival. For the past twenty-four years of my life I have consistently and effectively had all of my basic needs met. I was born at a hospital in Brooklynn, which immediately provided me shelter and was wrapped in a blanket for warmth. I was immediately given milk from my mother to nourish me and provide for my need for food. I was allowed to sleep whenever I needed in order for my body to heal and grow. All in all, my basic needs have been met from day one. There has not been one day in my life where I have not had enough food or water, I have always had shelter over my head for warmth, and I have always had rest enough to rejuvenate my physical body. This bottom level of Maslow's hierarchy is considered to be a deficit need, indicating that it is possible within this realm to not have enough of something in particular. When I feel a deficit in food, water, warmth, or rest I feel motivated to fulfill that deficit, thus bringing myself back into physiological balance.
Since my physiological needs are consistently and successfully fulfilled, I can now move up to the fulfillment of safety needs. Safety needs also need to be maintained in order for a person to feel secure. Unlike physiological needs, safety needs largely involve psychological factors and are not stable and consistent throughout life. My safety needs have changed substantially from when I was a child. When I was a very young child, my safety needs were based in me feeling that my parents provided me with a safe environment, full of love, warmth, and support. My family was very loving and provided me with a great sense of security. I did not have a dysfunctional family life, so I did not have any problems with moving up to the next level in the hierarchy at that time. However, security needs are different as an adult. In order to feel safe and secure as an adult I need to feel financial security. There have been sometimes in my adult life where my employment and economic future seemed uncertain, thereby making me feel as though my need for safety was not being met. This resulted in me having difficulty moving up to the next level in the hierarchy since I reacted to the anxiety I was feeling by withdrawing socially. As an adult, however, I have never felt that my physical safety was in any way threatened. I've always felt safe and secure in the homes in which I have lived and with the people I have chosen to spend my time with.
The next level on Maslow's hierarchy of needs is belonging needs. This level contains the need for social belongingness, essentially social acceptance by other people. This level of need can only be attended to after fulfillment of physiological and safety needs, and it is characterized by motivation to pursue relationships with others. As a child, I recall feeling a strong desire to have many friends and be accepted by everyone at all times. I tried to please my parents and elicit attention from them in any way I could. Since my parents provided my physiological needs and made me feel safe and secure, the next step was for me to feel that they loved me. I felt loved when they paid attention to me, so I engaged them in conversation as much as possible even when I really had nothing to say or actually already known the answers to the questions I was asking.
As I transitioned into becoming a teenager, my need for belonging swiftly changed from being focused on my parents to being primarily focused on developing friendships with my peers. I played baseball growing up and this is the time in my life when friendships with my teammates started to take on high levels of importance and significance in my life. I felt like I belonged with my team and that everyone accepted me for who I was. The belonging I felt with my team felt similar in quality to the belonging I felt with my parents when I was a younger child. Belonging at this point allowed me to transcend to higher levels of the hierarchy at this point in my life.
In adulthood, my sense of belonging has stemmed mostly from the romantic relationships I have been involved in. Although I still value the acceptance I receive from my parents and teammates, I place great importance on the love and acceptance I get from my significant other. I have always had successful relationships and have therefore always had a strong sense of belonging. This has resulted in me feeling very confident and at ease in social situations, never worrying too much about what other people think about me. This strong sense of belonging results in healthy self-esteem, which takes me to the next level on the hierarchy.
The next level of needs to be achieved is esteem needs. Self-esteem needs to be maintained and like all the levels prior to it, it is still defined as a deficit need. This means that if an individual is low in feelings associated with self-esteem, such as a sense of accomplishment or feelings of prestige, they will be motivated to increase those feelings to bring things back into balance. Associated with this level are two types of self-esteem, lower and higher. Lower self-esteem involves the ego and a prominent need to receive respect from other people (Poston, 2009). Fulfillment of this need manifests through acceptance form others, and it is experienced as fame, reputation, or status level. In my own life, this need has been fulfilled in great part through my experience with baseball. I played baseball in college, and much of my identity and who I thought I was defined by the impressions that other people had of me. I was well-known due to my status in baseball, and this contributed to me feeling respected and accepted by other people. After college I briefly played baseball professionally, which resulted in me being somewhat famous, providing me with external validation and feelings of worthiness stemming from others' opinions of me.
The higher self-esteem is concerned with self-respect, and is internalized and thus not dependent on the outside world for maintenance or validation (Poston, 2009). This type of self-esteem is developed through achievement, and it is through baseball that I have developed this higher form of esteem. Starting from a young age, I have always achieved awards and recognitions through baseball. As a child my team would win championship games, receiving medals and trophies I would hang in my bedroom and I would look at with pride. Each time I won an award I would feel strong and proud, contributing to my confidence and feelings of self-respect. As I got older, it was not these physical symbols of achievement that instilled self-esteem within me, but rather recognition through opportunity. Upon finishing high school I received a scholarship to play college level baseball. This opportunity provided me with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, and I felt as though all my training and hard work over the years playing baseball since I was a small child had paid off. My higher self-esteem based in self-respect was developing, and I carried myself with confidence.
After all of the needs discussed so far have been met successfully, individuals transcend into the potential for self-actualization. Unlike the lower needs up to this point, self-actualization is not characterized by deficit or lack, but instead represents full being. In order to achieve this need, all prior needs must have been met and fulfilled effectively. This need represents an individual moving increasingly toward one's true self or one's calling in life,…