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If you landed on this blog, there is a good chance that you have begun to embark on some sort of personal growth, self-actualization journey. Similar to myself, you have probably figured out by now that this journey of transformation encompasses conquering the many levels of self. While navigating this path toward reaching my true potential, I came across this psychological theory that you too might find intriguing and beneficial to your story.
What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, birthed by the American psychologist and philosopher Abraham Maslow in 1943, is a psychological theory concerning human motivation. The hierarchical pyramid is made of five levels in which the four lower-order levels include our basic needs such as the need for food, safety, love, and self-esteem. According to Maslow’s philosophy, the accumulation of these essential needs must be met in order to achieve our ultimate goal of self-actualization.
The Five ‘Layers’ of the Hierarchy Are (starting with the lowest):
Before anything else, these are considered the most essential of needs. They are the biological requirements for human survival, air, food, drink, shelter, clothing, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.
Without these physiological needs being satisfied, we as humans cannot function; therefore, preventing our ability to transition to the next level of the pyramid.
Now that the basic biological needs have been met, humans now require economic and social protection- security, order, and stability. I think we’ve all had to endure the pains of this level at some point or another in our lives. This level exposes the fears that often plague our day to day lives. The loss of a job, our family, home, savings, insurance, even child trauma etc. can leave us absolutely overwhelmed and vulnerable.
Feeling secure and part of a ‘tribe’ – being included – is vital for most people. The need for social or interpersonal relationships satisfy our need for receiving and giving affection, love, friendship, and, trust.
Fostering a healthy sense of self-esteem and control over your life is not simple – but it is essential. This need can be broken down into two sections: (1) esteem for oneself- mastery, self-reliance, confidence, and achievement and (2) reputation – our respect and status from others.
The ultimate goal! Why we’re all here right? This is where we find personal development, innovation, creativity and fulfillment. The desire to become everything we know God created us to be- our Superhero Alter Ego!
As you can see, our goal of self-actualization takes a little work to reach. So, where does the practice of summoning our Superhero Alter Egos come into play in relation to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? I believe when employing the alter ego strategy, as so intended for this blog, it gives us the confidence, courage, and mental tools necessary to overcome our deficiencies and make the shift from one level to the next.
When we ascend and become one with our inner superheroes, truly integrated, I believe only then will we have legitimately achieved self-realization.
According to Maslow, we can’t focus on self-actualization in any meaningful sense before we take care of the four lower motivations. These are known as ‘deficiency’ motivations, because we only notice them if we’re lacking in some way!
Self-actualization, meanwhile, is a ‘growth’ need; we focus on it as we try to reach our full potential.
Moving on Up… and Down… and Up Again
All of us have an inbuilt desire to scale this pyramid of motivation, even if we haven’t described it in so many words.
But it’s important to recognize that this isn’t a straightforward, one-direction climb. Life has setbacks and unexpected challenges: illness, divorce, losing a job.
You might need to fluctuate between the different levels of Maslow’s hierarchy. That’s OK! You’re not failing, you’re just re-stabilizing your foundations.
Climbing Maslow’s Hierarchy With the Help of Your Superhero Alter Ego
You were wondering when I’d get started on this part, huh? Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that I have some tips on using superhero powers to work through this famous psychological pyramid.
Before We Begin
A great way to get started on Maslow’s hierarchy is by getting a notebook and writing each hierarchy as a title on a new page.
Underneath the title, write a little list of ways you can work towards meeting each need. Are you working through some health issues? Feeling like you need more socialization? Jot it down now. Getting it all in one place helps focus the mind.
If you’re severely lacking in any physiological needs, you’re unlikely to be prioritizing ‘growth’ needs. But that doesn’t mean that your superhero can’t help you. Imagine your alter ego as someone who’s giving you a helping hand as you work on these base problems.
Perhaps she is better at swallowing her pride and getting help from others. Let her guide you in filling in government forms or reaching out to family for aid.
Maybe she is smart about healthy eating, which will help you get some health issues under control. Write your meal plan according to her advice!
This is a tough one. If you’re feeling unsafe in some way, changing your situation is vital for self-fulfillment.
In this era, safety concerns are often to do with domestic abuse (parents or partners) or living in an unsafe part of the city. The solutions can be dangerous in themselves, so work with your super-self to develop an action plan that minimizes exit risk.
This might be the point in which you use your alter ego’s confidence to reach out for help again. It might seem counter-intuitive, but seeking help from others is a big part of becoming the best version of you. It’s the acceptance that we can’t do everything all the time.
Loneliness can be all-encompassing. Humans are social creatures and, while some of us need more social time than others, all of us need connections.
Working on the love/belonging layer of Maslow’s hierarchy can mean several things. Possibly, you want to refresh and strengthen your existing relationships.
This could mean seizing opportunities to spend time with your spouse, children, family and friends. Use your empathy powers to work out what each person or group requires to become a stronger part of your life. Maybe you need more alone time with your partner; or to make a commitment to call your mother every weekend?
At this point, you might come to the realization that you’ve expended too much effort on people who aren’t fulfilling your love/belonging needs.
Some friendships are one-way and sap the energy from us when we should be focusing on growth. Don’t cut people off without thought; but bear in mind that it is a possibility. It’s your choice who you spend your time on.
Strengthening your love/belonging motivation could also mean forging new relationships. If you’d like to expand your friendship group, or begin a romantic relationship, now’s the time to think about it! Harness the zest for life that radiates from your superhero alter ego: join a hobby group, start a team sport, or maybe even try out internet dating. Just remember that you’re not auditioning for affection: they have to impress you, or you won’t make progress up the pyramid.
Building self-esteem is easier said than done, but there are some exercises that can help on this last step towards self-actualization.
Affirmations can seem super cringey when you first start, but there’s a reason that so many people recommend complimenting yourself every day. If you feel embarrassed or silly, let your alter ego take over: she will tell you all the cool things about yourself before you start your day.
A gratitude journal is another way to stabilize your sense of self.
Taking time to write down three awesome things in my life each day (my husband cooking for me; the beautiful blossom on the Spring trees; a super-friendly barista) really places my perspective back in the ‘positive’ zone.
In turn, this reminds me that I am worthy of these things.
Finally! The top of the pyramid. Now we’re getting to the nitty gritty.
The self-actualization summit will look different to everyone. In the context of this blog, though, I’d like to share my own view.
Our superhero alter egos are fun and effective ways to make life changes with confidence. However, we don’t want to keep these ‘super’ parts of ourselves separate forever.
Self-actualization occurs when we can integrate fully with out alter ego. We can act as them without consciously ‘transforming’ in our minds.
The good news is that this is a process that happens quite naturally. You will slowly find yourself acting as your superhero self without consciously thinking about it. It just takes time and commitment to self-growth.
The Wrap Up
If it doesn’t speak to you, don’t worry – it’s by no means the only way to achieve your goals. Keep reading this blog for a plethora of possibilities.
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