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Criticizing Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs -- Why It's Faulty, and My Alternative

Updated: Jun 23

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Challenging the Universality of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Contrary to popular belief, I don't think Maslow's hierarchy of needs activity is objectively universal for all human beings, as it was meant to appear. I disagree that these needs are correctly prioritized for everyone, and for some humans, they might not require certain needs mentioned in the hierarchy, like safety. Perhaps there are some risks, even if social, in actualizing ourselves? What if psychological safety stands in our way for love? After all, love requires preperation to suffer.

Humans are subjective beings, making subjectivity worthy of redemption. As such, an objective hierarchy of needs for subjective entities seems oxymoronic and overgeneralizing. And yes, self-actualization may require sacrifice of other needs that appear to be more basic than the very one on the top of the pyramid, which is also paradoxical because a pyramid is built on layers... The removal of a lower layer should devestate the other needs on top of it, but it isn't the case with self-acualization necessarily (given that the opposite could be truer).

There are individuals, for example, who have various special needs not accounted for in Maslow's hierarchy, making his theory not truly universal and applicable to all people, past, present, and future. That may be especially true when these special needs are more basic. For example, autistic people may, at least partially, have a greater need to isolate themselves from the environment, and yet Maslow's heirarchy does not regard the need to be alone, as a need.

Additionally, I disagree with the definition of self-actualization, as it is technically impossible to fully actualize oneself, i.e., achieve a full realization of self-actualization. How come? It is possible that we are always more capable than what we might think.

Exploring the Paradoxes of Self-Actualization

According to this logic, even by asking this question, you have successfully actualized your authentic desire to find knowledge, and I have successfully actualized myself by granting you knowledge. This presents an interesting paradox: how can we truly know if we've achieved Maslow's ideal of self-actualization, AKA, in a definitive, concrete way?

The core challenge lies in the vagueness of "full potential." Logically, maximizing self-actualization could require dedicating every moment, neccessary to explore any single thing that we're capable of. But this raises an uncomfortable truth: missing even a single, necessary second for this internal research, technically constitutes a failure to "achieve oneself to the fullest."

As you can tell, the practical application of realizing an individual full's potential might as well always be in the shadows of our universal ignorance of reality -- including our very own.

This dilemma mirrors the logic of terms like "everything," "perfect," and "nothing", as they are all absolute. Just one instance that contradicts the concept renders it incorrect. "Everything" can be ruined by a single overlooked detail, "perfect" can't be such if its object can be improved, and even "nothing" can't be nothing if there is something in it, however insignificant.

By the same token, you can't realize your full potential if you overlooked a single detail, necessary to do just that. Overlook it, and by the easily-damaged logic of absolution, the "full" isn't actually full, if there is a component amiss.

Therefore, the most effective solution might be to redefine self-actualization. Authentic self-expression, whether occurring once or habitually, can become the phenomenon itself, of self-actualization. In this way, we liberate ourselves from the unattainable pursuit of an eternally evolving "full potential," focusing instead on genuine and present exploration of our beings.

Therefore, we can realize our full potential by expressing ourselves honestly, without the need to research every pathaway that would lead to the actualization of our potential. I offer authentic self-expression because I deem it the bare minimum of self actualization. And in logic, the bare minimum is enough to qualify.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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