It is probably more important now than most times in history to possess a clear understanding of human need. When someone “needs” something, they may take extreme measures to obtain it. In our relatively affluent society, the word need often replaces the more appropriate “want.” Just because I desire something that does not mean I need it. Furthermore, if I reflect on my desires, I may discover I have allowed the advertising industry to convince me that I should desire that thing.
Our actual needs may be well met (clean water and air, safe food, protection from heat, cold, or predators, and relationships that matter) yet we think we “need” something else. But in our community, most certainly, in our nation, many people struggle for adequate food, shelter, and safety. So. when I say, “I need a new computer.” What I probably mean is “my current level of luxury is insufficient, since I know there are faster, fancier computers with more bells and whistles.” There may come a time when my computer stops functioning completely, and my local computer guru cannot repair it. When that happens, as a writer, I might truly say, “I need a new computer.”
Maslow has given us help in the process of deciphering our real needs from our wants often promoted to needs by our lack of clarity. But Maslow does suggest that we have needs other than physical necessities, personal safety, or the relationships that sustain us.
The fourth level in the hierarchy of need is sometimes labeled: achievement. As individuals, we need to have some sense of accomplishment. The question why and I here? Is often answered by pointing to some accomplishment. However, many people remain unconvinced of their worth by looking at others (who have done more) or by comparing actual attainment with the hoped-for ideal.
Another understanding of Maslow’s fourth level is ego-strength. Often when we speak of a person’s ego, we equate it with egotism. An egotist is a person who thinks the universe revolves around them. The most important thing about any action is how it makes them look or feel. To such a person, failure is always someone else’s fault, and they can do no wrong.
Ego-strength, on the other hand, enables us to be strong enough in our self-understanding to accept our mistakes and learn from them. The person with a healthy ego accepts responsibility, even takes part of the blame for problems even when they played only a small role. Such a person also shares the praise for successes and keeps others accountable.
Most people can point to accomplishments as well as places where things did not occur as intended. The person with a strong ego can claim their successes and acknowledge their shortcomings. A healthy self-respect will help us stay focused even in the face of defeat.
What we need to promote for a healthy future is Ego-strength. On the other hand, those with big egos often are very fragile, and drain away a lot of the community’s energy propping up their egos or responding to their inappropriate accusations.
Someone with positive ego strength is well equipped to address the fifth and final of Maslow’s classifications of needs: Self-Actualization.