Self esteem is all about our evaluation of our own worth. If we think we’re worthy, we have higher self esteem. Whereas, if we think we’re not worthy, we tend to have lower self-esteem.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Maslow’s hierarchy (see image below) is a way of showing the steps needed to be able to reach a good level of self-esteem. We refer to these different levels as our ‘needs’. You need to ensure each need, from the bottom up, is met before you can progress up the hierarchy.
Firstly, we need to ensure we have our physiological needs met. This means means we need a warm place to stay, food, water and rest. It even includes things like the ability to breathe, which as we know has been a struggle for people due to Covid more recently. These needs are the basis to our survival, and without these we really can’t function at our best, or even at all.
Secondly, we need to have our basic security and safety needs met. This means that we are free from harm or abuse, as well as having safety and security in our employment and finances. In the pandemic, this step was not achieved by all, due to redundancies and being furloughed. Hopefully these risks are now reducing, and more people are back at work, which will help in progressing up the hierarchy.
Psychological needs (including self-esteem)
Thirdly, we have our need to belong and experience love. We are social creatures and it’s been vital to our survival to live in communities. Even though we’re no longer in caveman times when this was so important, we’re still hardwired to need connection with others. This means we need family and friends around us. We need connection with others.
Again, throughout the pandemic, this has been tested. We’re perhaps very lucky to have technology which has assisted with our ability to connect with others when we couldn’t physically go and see loved ones. Hopefully again, with life returning to normal, more people may be feeling connected and able to progress up the hierarchy.
Fourthly, is the self-esteem layer. Our ability to feel accomplished and proud of ourself. As you’ve seen, we cannot reach this level until our physiological, safety and belongingness needs are first met. If these are met, then we can flourish.
Self fulfilment needs
The very final step, which not everyone reaches, is the self-actualisation needs. This refers to achieving our very best potential. It can also be about our ability to make moral judgements, practice acceptance and solve problems. We cannot reach our full potential without having a good level of self-esteem first.
Summary: self-esteem and Maslow’s hierarchy
As you can see, we need to meet our most basic and psychological needs before we can progress to good self-esteem. Furthermore, we can only progress to being our best selves, if we have good self-esteem first.
I recommend taking 5 minutes out and seeing if your basic needs are being met. Is there anything you can change or need support with? Working on these areas could help to boost your mood and your self esteem.