A need is simply something which is needed by an organism in order for it to survive. Needs are often distinguished from desires. In the case of a need, however, a deficiency always results in a very obvious negative outcome: a malfunction or premature death. Desire, on the other hand, involves an active involvement in pursuing aims and activities of a particular kind with a definite end in mind.
Self-esteem or self-image is considered the mirror of one’s overall worthiness or value. It involves an estimation of one’s own personal worth and the worth of one’s own life, based on the combination of what a person brings to the world and how he/she gives to it. The concept of self-esteem was introduced around the start of the 20th century and remains to this day one of the most important concepts in contemporary life. It is associated primarily with an individual’s confidence in his ability to live up to the highest level of his skills, abilities, potential, and achievements. It is also related to a person’s willingness to accept and respect the judgment and opinions of others.
The concept of self-esteem therefore, implies the existence of certain fundamental principles regarding the relationship between human beings and their social needs. One such principle is the principle of reciprocity. According to this principle, individuals are said to be satisfied with what they get and are not dissatisfied with what they do not get in return. Accordingly, a happy and successful existence is nothing but a happy one wherein you get what you deserve and have little or nothing to be grateful for. The opposite, of course, is also true. A person who is contented and confident in his ability to bring home a paycheck will most likely not have much to be thankful for.
Another essential concept of self-esteem is the concept of the psychological pyramid. The pyramid has been proven as one of the most effective tools used in determining the degree of success an individual has attained so far. It is based on the concept that the level of a person’s success or failure is indicated by the position he or she stands at in the pyramid. Thus, it is implied that the level of our psychological or physiological needs is proportional to the height of our psychological or physiological needs.
It is also worth noting that the term “self-actualization needs” refers to those things and people that are necessary for a person to be able to realize his or her full potential. In other words, self-actualization needs refer to those things and people that a person must have in order to reach his or her fullest potential as an individual. One might argue, however, that self-actualization need do with the level of personal growth a person has attained. And this is true. But if we keep in mind that self-actualization only refers to the process of realizing one’s full potential, then self-actualization need not necessarily be coupled with personal growth.
And as for the idea that the person on the bottom has a less significant place in the scheme of things, well, this is just a social construct designed to keep the strong at the bottom and weaker at the top. People’s perception of themselves are influenced by social signals such as how they are treated by others, their position in the social pyramid, etc. But the real definition of self-actualization is really the idea that a person is able to realize his or her full biological and psychological potential. And this requires having a secure place at the bottom of the pyramid. It is this place, finally, that the person with the most significant level of biological and psychological needs will strive to reach.