What do we actually NEED in life and what’s just a preference? I remember as far back as primary school considering the difference between needs and wants when a teacher explained it like this: “Needs,” she said, were requirements for basic survival, such as food and shelter, whereas “wants” were just desires or wishes for things that whilst nice, we could live without.
I remember this leaving a question mark in my mind as I contemplated the grey area between needs and wants.. what if we were outcasts with no friends and family.. Would we survive that even if we had food? Could human beings survive extreme isolation I wondered? My teacher said I had a very philosophical mind and that I asked interesting questions.
I don’t think I even knew what “philosophical” meant back then but I always remember her saying that word to me.
Later at university I came across Maslow’s Hierachy of needs, a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. Maslow theorised that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others.
This kind of hierarchical idea of needs made sense on first reading; you’d be hard pressed to fulfil a creative dream, for example, if you were starving and homeless.
However, there was always something about Maslow’s pyramid that didn’t sit right for me. It took me years to work out why. Initially I didn’t like the word “need” applied to the mid and high tier aspects like esteem and fulfilment. Especially since my primary school teacher’s definition was still lurking somewhere in my memory.
Later after delving deeper into the concept of human needs I realised I didn’t like the word “need” at all. Why?
Because calling something a “need” gives it a demigod status.
You make it more powerful than you!
Say for example I say I “need” self esteem in order to reach the next level of Maslow’s pyramid – self actualisation. Whilst this linear step by step view makes sense it’s not in reality the way life unfolds. Read any biography of a great artist, writer or musician and you’ll often find an equally great lack of self esteem. I even watched a video recently of Lady Gaga where she talks about hating herself and how she always lacked self esteem.
How do people who hate themselves end up world famous?
I think what happens is that we are driven by an intrinsic motivation to create. That creation is our natural and deepest expression and that it’s not dependant on anything external.
I’ve looked at this both ways and I’ve lived my life from both perspectives. I’ve tried accepting that I have certain “needs” and doing what’s required to get my needs met. I’ve also tried fucking off the idea of needs and just creating the life I want to live from where I’m at the best I can and not worrying about needs at all. I found the latter far more fulfilling and helpful.
Thinking about “needs” causes me to feel a sense of lack. I feel “needy” and concerned about all these potential needs that aren’t being met. I don’t have a loving partner or oodles of friends.. I have some self-esteem but maybe it’s not enough. Thinking about needs just launches a kind of negative lack-based evaluation matrix.
What works better for me is to totally allow myself to be where I am currently at. To draw no conclusions about weather one need takes priority over another. To be an invitation for all of life to come to me with ease, joy and glory! To dance between the different levels in no particular linear order. Sure I admit I do need food and shelter.. but even much of that is superfluous.. like that chocolate bar I had last night. My waistline didn’t need that.
So what’s the moral of this longwinded rant post? Well .. if need is a demigod then creation might be the real deal.
What would you like to create today?