During high school in Holland, I learned about Abraham Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’. Maslow proposed that everyone follows a similar trajectory in life, transitioning from basic to more complex levels of self-realization. Humans begin their journey seeking to satisfy their basic physiological needs and then we try to obtain a sense of security, satisfying one level before graduating to the next. Moving further up the ladder, we seek out love and belonging before we strive to build up our self-esteem. Our final goal is to obtain our full potential, which Maslow called, ‘self-actualization’.
In college, I swam five miles a day and trained in the gym regularly, competing in the Paralympics while working on my self-esteem. I had a feeling for when I was living up to my expectations and when I was falling short. By not doing what I knew I was capable of, I would feel bad about it afterwards. This helped motivate me to try my best.
I think we all have thermometers inside that give us a reading on how we are doing in life. Are we reaching our potential or are we just getting by? I believe that we never stop improving ourselves or stop raising the bar no matter how old we get. We keep stretching ourselves in different ways but we keep stretching. It’s not always fun and easy but it makes us feel good about ourselves when we reach a new level. We rise through physiological needs, seek security and then love and belonging. Gaining self-esteem catapults us up the road towards self-actualization and obtaining our full potential, which is the rewarding end game, we all seek.