To become whom one wants to be (2)

I read Maslow’s book on the hierarchy of human needs. Humans are creatures controlled by their desires, and these desires are neither good nor evil. Humans are also the only creatures able to overpower these desires by their own will.

These desires (which Maslow calls needs) are in a hierarchy. At the bottom, physiological needs. This is followed by safety needs, interpersonal needs (belongingness), esteem needs, until finally one can reach self-actualization. Once one level of ‘need’ is satisfied, people move on to the next.

It is extremely difficult to adapt marketing techniques to the self-actualized customer. The shape self-actualization takes is unique to each individual, and it is very different from satisfying the lower needs where there is one simple direction. Satisfying these lower needs was relatively easy.

It is difficult for consumers of a mature society to reach self-actualization. They form a market that humanity had not faced before. When judging whom the consumers of a particular product would be, one would either assume a target consumer group or have a group that one wishes to target. It is impossible to create a product without having a target group in mind. ‘For whom’ and ‘why’ are questions that need to be addressed in designing a product.

‘Having one’s hypocritical behaviour minimised’ is the definition of self-actualization in psychology. As soon as we reach a basic cognitive understanding of the world as children, we begin to live with another version of ourselves. This other self is ceaselessly observing and admonishing oneself when he has strayed from his aspired path. You cannot deceive or betray him, because he is you.

You make compromises in order to be praised by the other self. For that recognition, you would work, sweat, and endure things that you cannot even believe. And when you lie in bed at the end of the day exhausted, you hear the words “you did well”. With these words of approval from the other self, your life feels less hypocritical.

When this other self that criticizes disappears, you have reached the beginning of self-actualization. You have the ability to summon this other self back if you so wish.

Self-actualization, to summarize Maslow’s concept briefly, occurs when one is able to show minimal hypocritical behavior, to show no antagonism towards oneself, and to show that one’s character is in unity. He has a healthy level of self-respect, which means that he has acquired sufficient knowledge of his own capabilities.

He does not need to rely on his own pride for praise, as enough is given from others.

He does not seek unjust fame, nor does he applaud notoriety.

He is empowered by the fact that he can control himself so competently.

He is able to dictate his own destiny.

He does not fear himself, nor feel shame, nor be downhearted by mistakes. That is not because he is perfect, but because he sees, at the end of all his mistakes, himself overcoming those same mistakes that he used to make.

I keep the words of Maslow in mind and question whether I am as I should be. There always seems to be room for improvement.