Baleigh Shortreed
4 min readSep 9, 2020

How to Use the Theory of The Hierarchy of Needs to Change Your Life.

When life for me feels absolutely derailed, I often use introspection into trying to solve my problems. I believe I am what they call the classic “overthinker’’. We (overthinkers), I find, often become obsessed with finding the answers to our questions, which more times than not, causes strain on the relationships in our lives.

As I try to grow into my voice as an independent female as well as a small content creator, I find it hard to sift through the clutter that plagues my mind. Daily, I sift between question and answer, question, and answer, only to find more questions by the time I gain another answer.

Recently, I’ve decided to challenge myself in stripping back my thoughts and analyzing my life as a whole. As a part of this process, to which I will share and challenge you to also try, I decided to take introspection past my egotistical thought processes and go to my furthest and most primal of instincts. By stripping back my ego, I unveiled the pyramid which consists of my life at the most basic of functions as a human: my hierarchy of needs.

For perspective reasons, as well as context into how you too can challenge yourself as I have, I will have links and descriptions below.


So, what is our hierarchy of needs? What does it mean and why is it significant to our health and happiness?

Before we can answer these questions, we must first have a bit of context into the history of the pyramid and why it is still important and relevant today.

The theory of the Hierarchy of Needs was developed by Abraham Maslow (1908–1970). Maslow was a psychologist who held a deep fascination for the field as well as positive psychology and mental health. By the end of his years, he had obtained three psychological degrees from the University of Wisconsin (a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate), during which developed a name for himself as one of the founding fathers of the field of humanistic psychology.

With his focus being primarily on human behavior and desire, Maslow found himself in the development of three particular theories: the Theory of Self-actualization, the Theory of Peak Experiences, and the Theory of the Hierarchy of Needs. The development of these theories cemented his name in the field as well as set him apart from other theorists, especially that of behaviorists, who were more focused on the negative behaviors of psychology instead of the positive.

The largest difference we can find between Maslow’s findings and that of behaviorists is that Maslow believed that our driving force as humans is surrounded by the concept of achieving our greatest potential, rather than being doomed to be a constant loop of our negative behaviors.

With that background, we can see now how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs fits into the context of his beliefs and studies. To further understand his ideas better, we can take a look at the pyramid itself.


Maslow’s pyramid (as seen to the left) can be broken down into three basic groupings of needs. The first is our basic needs or the needs in which we need to survive or properly function. The group consists of our psychosocial needs, the needs that make us feel accepted socially. The third group is our needs for respect, whether that be from others or ourselves, we’ll get into later. For now, let’s take it slow and break down each tier.


  1. Physiological needs — these are biological requirements for human survival, e.g. air, food, drink, shelter, clothing, warmth, sex, sleep.
  2. Safety needs -(security, safety, employment, housing, health) emotional security, financial security (e.g. employment, social welfare), law and order, freedom from fear, social stability, property, health and wellbeing (e.g. safety against accidents and injury)
  3. Love- Examples include friendship, intimacy, trust, and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work).
  4. Esteem. (i) esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence) and (ii) the desire for reputation or respect from others (e.g., status, prestige).
  5. Self-actualization needs are the highest level in Maslow’s hierarchy and refer to the realization of a person’s potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences (morality, creativity, problem-solving, acceptance of facts). This is where growth happens.


Now to the hard and debatably the only important part of this discussion: how can I apply this knowledge to my life? In order, and in my personal opinion, please try the following.

1. Understand the Pyramid

2. Access Your Specific Needs and Wants

3. Slowly Begin from the Bottom and Work Your Way Up

4. Master Your Tier, Then Move Up

5. Fail and Try Again

6. Be Patient and Have Faith

By following these steps and having a more in-depth understanding of the Hierarchy of Needs and how your pyramid looks, you should be able to implement daily changes in your life for long term changes and results for a better life.


Baleigh Shortreed

Writer, Author, & Entreprenuer teaching you to advocate for yourself through written, verbal, and digital means.