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Take a Look at Your Needs

By Suzanne E. Harrill

Many times we get caught up in our busy lives and forget to tune into ourselves to notice which of our needs are crying for attention. Meeting our basic needs helps our lives run more smoothly and makes us happier and healthier individuals. Some of you may be saying, "Needs? I am not even aware of what my needs are." Or others of you may be saying, "There's no one I can count on to meet my needs." Let us discuss a fundamental principle in meeting our needs and see a brief overview of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to help us get in touch with some of our needs today.

You will be much happier if you learn to meet most of your own needs. Why? Many times others are unpredictable, have self-esteem issues, and are needy themselves, wishing you would meet their needs. By all means enjoy it when another meets your needs, especially social or intimacy needs. Just remember not to turn over responsibility to them and expect them to meet them each and every time. Remember to have more than one or two people in your life when working on improving your social, connectedness needs, so you don't expect from another person what they cannot give.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow explained that people are motivated to satisfy basic needs. Using a pyramid with five levels, he said that as lower-level needs are satisfied, one moves up the hierarchy of a needs ladder. The bottom level describes physical needs, those one needs to survive and stay alive; food, air, water, sleep, protection from heat and cold, pain avoidance. At Level 2 security needs are important -- safety and protection. Level 3 is meeting social needs--to respond and communicate. Love, belonging, and feeling closeness to others are important. Level 4 is where self-esteem needs are important--to respect one's self and receive respect from others. And finally, Level 5 is the need for self-actualization or to realize one's potential. Creativity, imagination, self-motivation, and making a contribution to society are important here.

Where do you see yourself operating within Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs? Which level of needs dominate for you and need fulfillment before you move up the ladder? For example, if you are not getting proper sleep, it may be difficult for you to work on safety issues like finding a better job or getting out of a bad relationship. Maybe you need to cultivate respect for yourself in order to use your talents to contribute to making a better world.

Most of us operate a little on all levels, with one level being our primary range. When we seem to slide back to a former level of frustration on our life journey, it is helpful to look at our needs. Determine which needs, not always a level down (remember Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is only a theory or model to get us started), might benefit from attention in order to move along to re-experience our progress. For example, you may know you are working on cultivating reciprocal, give and take, supportive friendships, but feel your heart is not in the social situations you set up. As you look at the hierarchy of needs or simply ponder your situation, you may find spending time alone to process your feelings and issues is lacking in your week. When you take time for your inner work, you magically find yourself enjoying building friendships and meeting your social needs.

Let us borrow Maslow's categories to assess some of our current needs. As we build awareness of our needs we can take positive steps to meet those needs in order to improve our lives. Following are some examples of needs you may have. Add some to the list, as it is endless.

Physical needs: to eat healthy food, to get enough sleep, to exercise

Security needs: move to a safer neighborhood, leave an abusive job or relationship

Social needs: join a group to build feelings of belonging, make a new friend that accepts you as you are, take risks to smile more to show kindness to others in order to feel a connection

Self-Esteem needs: quality time alone to ponder, meditate, read, etc. in order to do the inner work necessary to become your own best friend, forgive yourself for mistakes and being unaware, build situations where you respect yourself, deal with feelings

Self-Actualization needs: to become more aware, to express interests and talents, to heal and grow beyond conditioning and unconscious patterns, to create, to daydream or visualize possible futures, to meditate on your spiritual purpose, to actualize ideas, to be proactive with solutions to problems

Another way to assess needs is to put them in the following categories: physical needs, emotional needs, mental needs, social needs, and spiritual needs. This clarification can help you determine the next appropriate step to help you meet your needs.  For example, reading articles such as this one or working with affirmations helps us work on our mental needs, to upgrade limiting thinking patterns.

List some of your needs, or take a moment to close your eyes to ponder what you have just read in order to identify some of your immediate needs. Note the ones that you know or feel must be addressed at this time. Commit to meeting one of your basic needs at this time to improve your life. Remember to take responsibility for meeting most of your own needs.





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