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You Will Feel Whole When Your Needs Are Met

boundaries fulfillment maslow's hierarchy of needs personal growth purpose relationships self-actualization wellbeing May 17, 2024

We all have needs. From the most basic physiological requirements like food, water and shelter, to the higher yearnings for love, esteem and self-actualization. Psychologist Abraham Maslow laid out these universal human needs in his famous hierarchy. Understanding this hierarchy provides a roadmap for understanding ourselves and charting a path to greater wholeness and wellbeing.

At our core, we are physical beings with bodily needs that must be met for survival. Pain, hunger, thirst, and lack of shelter will quickly dominate our awareness if unmet. This is why taking care of our physical health through proper nutrition, hydration, sleep, and medical care when needed is foundational. We can't focus well on higher needs if we are starving, freezing or ill.

Once physiological needs are stable, we turn to issues of safety and security. We need to feel protected from danger and have a sense of stability in our living situation, finances and close relationships. Constant worry about threats to our physical or psychological security will thwart further growth. Creating wise boundaries to limit unsafe or abusive situations and people is crucial.

With basic needs shored up, we yearn for love and belonging. Humans are hardwired for connection. We need to feel seen, accepted and supported by family, friends and community - what I call our "concentric circles" of relationships. Over-relying on one person to meet all our love and belonging needs is unrealistic and places strain on that bond. Cultivating connections in expanding circles, being intentional about investing time and emotion, is the path to relational health.

From the grounding of being loved, we can develop true self-esteem. Not an egoistic sense of superiority, but genuine self-respect balanced with respect for and from others. We want our talents and contributions to be recognized and valued. In families, workplaces and communities, each person's role should be esteemed. As the Bible notes, the eye cannot say to the hand "I don't need you." Mutual appreciation is vital.

With physiological, safety, love and esteem needs largely met, we are freed to pursue what Maslow termed "self-actualization" - fully developing into our best selves. This is not narcissistic self-aggrandizement. It's taking ownership of our feelings, attitudes, behaviors, choices, thoughts, desires and values and intentionally growing them. It's discovering meaning by developing our unique potential in service of something greater than ourselves.

Deficit needs lower on the hierarchy require more immediate attention. If you are gasping for air, pondering the meaning of life takes a back seat. The genius of the hierarchy is seeing how each level builds on the one below. You can't reach your full potential without a foundation of health, security, love and respect.

So reflect on your own hierarchy. Are there areas of greater lack or struggle? How might you take one small step today to shore up a deficit need? Building better boundaries is often key - limits that provide for your needs, protect from harm, define you and enlarge your freedom to become all you were meant to be.

Make a list of your key relationships and assess if they are mutually supportive. Are there changes needed in how you invest your time and emotional energy to cultivate thriving concentric circles? Initiate a conversation to appreciate someone's role and contribution. Take an inventory of your talents and ponder how you want to develop them to make your unique positive impact.

Meeting our own needs frees us to transcend ourselves and serve others. We gain empathy and overflow out of our own abundance. Keep the big picture in mind. From basic sustenance to higher purpose, tending to our hierarchy of needs is really about becoming whole. It's a lifelong process of growth into the fullness of who we are created to be - as individuals and in life-giving relationships. One step at a time, you can move towards greater health and wholeness.

Get Dr. Cloud's free guide on how to deal with the toxic people in your life. 

Dr. Cloud can help you live the life you were meant to live!