Core Human Needs

We all have needs, not just for basic survival but for quality living. These needs range from basic physiological needs like food, water, and shelter to more complex psychological needs like belongingness, self-esteem, and self-actualization. Everything else, like love, connection, intimacy, recognition, social and emotional security, employment, health, freedom, etc., comes in between.

Author – Lauren Frensham

Core human needs in the light of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.

Abraham Maslow put forth core human needs in one of the most legendary and best-known models. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs categorises human needs into five levels, from physiological to self-actualization. This hierarchy suggests that people are motivated to fulfil basic needs before progressing to other, more advanced needs.

Maslow’s hierarchy holds prime importance among other theories of motivation because it provides a framework for understanding human motivation and behaviour and helps to identify which needs must be met first for individuals to achieve their full potential.

The five-stage model follows a bottom-to-top approach and can further be divided into two broad categories of needs—deficiency needs and growth needs. The first four levels are referred to as deficiency needs, and the top tier contains growth needs.

Deficiency needs, also known as “D-needs,” are basic needs that must be met to avoid discomfort or deficiency. These needs include physiological needs like food, water, and shelter, as well as safety needs like security and stability, and psychological needs like love, belongingness, and esteem.

Growth needs, also known as ‘being needs’ or ‘B-needs,’ are higher-level needs that are not essential for survival but are necessary for personal growth and fulfilment. These needs include self-actualization, which is the need to reach one’s full potential and achieve personal growth and fulfilment.

Understanding the difference between deficiency needs and growth needs is vital because deficiency needs must be met before individuals can focus on growth needs. It means that individuals must have their basic physiological and safety needs met before focusing on psychological needs and must have their psychological needs met before striving for self-actualization.

Maslow described self-actualization as a process of personal growth in which individuals strive to achieve their own unique potential through creativity, problem-solving, and personal development.

Self-actualized individuals are characterised by a strong sense of purpose and meaning in life, a clear understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses, and a deep connection to their inner values and beliefs. They are driven by a desire for personal growth and fulfilment rather than external rewards or recognition.

Whether or not we agree with this model or place the needs in the same order, this theory helps shine light on the core human needs that drive our behaviours.

Better Self Psychology specialises in helping children, teenagers, and young adults.

More Articles

Self Improvement

The Impact of Social Media on Body Image and Disordered Eating

Every time I write a blog about the dangers of social media use, I can feel myself age in real-time. I’m well aware that social media is disproportionately used by young people, and disproportionately complained about by people, like myself, who aren’t deemed young anymore.


The Language of Disordered Eating

If you’ve ever gone to a dog training class, you’ve likely heard the terms reinforcement and punishment before. Reinforcement is a pleasant outcome that makes a behaviour more likely, while punishment is an unpleasant outcome that makes a behaviour less likely.