Today, I stumbled across this hierarchy of needs on Facebook. I did laugh, I mean sometimes I feel like I would put wifi before food. But in all seriousness, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has just cleared up something for me. I feel like I’ve just had a realisation on a lot I have struggled with in the past.
I have spent a lot of time working with young people in really disadvantaged situations. Drugs. Violence. Bad home situations.. The list goes on. I would always try and preach this way of living your dreams and trying to surpass your surroundings by working on what you are good at, and what you WANT to do not have to. But after observing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs I notice that I was merely trying to work on their problems from the top down. Much of this can be said for when trying to work with the long term unemployed. People chastise these groups (both disadvantaged young people and the long term unemployed) for doing whatever it takes to make some money rather than attempting to tap into their goals and career dreams. Trying to get people in these situations to focus on the top of the hierarchy pyramid (self actualisation) is going about it the wrong way, after all we all know that of you loosen the blocks from the bottom of a pyramid, things will start to crumble.
I can attest to this. Less than 3 years ago, I was in a pretty bad situation. Dreams of becoming a musician had meant that I had taken on far too many debts and a flat out of my means (of course I believed that I NEEDED that second room for a studio). We struggled to pay for food, bills, shelter (i.e first level needs). Looking back on it, I was pretty depressed. A black fog seems to be hanging over me. I now realise this was because my physiological needs were in jeopardy. Simply put, when this block is loose, nothing will stand.
I guess I take from this a lesson. You can’t try to help others self actualise or reach the top of the pyramid if their basic needs are in jeopardy. So just support them to lay some good foundations. Once you’ve done that, it’s all the way to the top baby.