Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a fairy tale of privilege.
If it was just an ancient psychological theory, I wouldn’t care, but thinking that agrees with it continues to shape people’s judgments about motivation and acceptability.
Let’s break it down.
Maslow’s hierarchy sought to explain human motivation. In simple terms, it says humanity has 5 basic needs which motivate behavior. These needs fall into a pyramid-like hierarchy. People want to fill the lowest level need, then the second lowest, and so on, until they reach the peak of motivation: self-actualization. It lists needs as (from most fundamental, moving up):
Physiological: health, food, water, sleep, clothes, shelter, and sex
Safety: personal, emotional, financial, health (i.e. a sense of security and stability)
Social belonging: friendships, intimacy, family
Self-esteem: feeling respected and valued by others
Self-actualization: utilizing and developing abilities, talents, and goals
Transcendence: finding purpose outside one’s self, e.g. altruism or spirituality
Why is this model (and beliefs that reinforce it) so toxic?