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Is The Maslow Pyramid Broken? Millennials and Self-Love

Is The Maslow Pyramid Broken? Millennials and Self-Love 

The frequently quoted Maslow pyramid is a recognised and praised model of human needs. Building on each other, the model is composed of five separate parts, namely the physiological-, the safety-, the love and belonging-, the esteem-, and the self-actualization needs. According to Maslow’s book (1954), Motivation and Personality, a block can only be reached by first fulfilling the ones below it. For instance, he claims that a person would not feel the need to make friends while not having enough food to survive. Do the principles of this theory, which is approximately 70 years old, still hold now as they once did? Or does the rapidly changing world prove otherwise? Could the self-love trend of TikTok undermine it? 


Maslow Pyramid


Since the isolation brought on by COVID-19 struck humanity, the widespread self-love trend has appeared in many different forms. Videos on “romanticising your life” to “prioritise yourself” have been going viral on TikTok and on other media platforms. With various audios participants show off their art, cooking, and other achievements. All of the videos feature young people promoting acceptance of their bodies and acting out their inclinations without anxiety of being ridiculed. As a result, the content creators can feel confident and open about themselves.


The global interconnection of social media allows people to see the immense diversity from every corner of the world. Users are aware of cultures and civilizations from the colourful communities of Africa to relatively newly formed beliefs about the world. This awareness results in a growing acceptance of others, as well as one’s self. The videos of the self-love trend Have roots in the idea of paying more attention to the self of the individual, regardless of the outside world. Since every person differs, everyone may be embraced just as much as the other. 


As presented in the Maslow pyramid, the need for love from others comes first; in forms of friendship and sense of belonging. Following that, the individual has a need for self-esteem and self-love. Interestingly, this order is contradictory to the viral self-love trend—an ideology shared by millions today. People must eventually learn to accept, acknowledge, and love themselves, according to the current theory. Only after achieving that can the individual focus on building relationships and integrate into a community. One first has to know themselves to find their place in the world. Does loving others or loving ourselves come first?


Hence the question arises, who is right? Perhaps each approach is applicable in different eras or in diverse situations. In a world that was only beginning to recover from the destruction of the first half of the 20th century, Maslow developed his theory. He could only use the resources which were at his serving. Society has since changed— including the development of the individualization of lifestyle. The idea of “living up to someone’s perception” was abandoned. Stepping into, as Andreas Herdeux phrased it, the age of collective individualism, self-love became increasingly important. The new concept of self-love is disseminating like wildfire and every individual seems to adore it. 


The idea of reconstructing Maslow's work has been raised before, over the years. Those works have also suggested various ways to renovate the pyramid of needs. An article in  SAGE Journals had proposed to renovate the model on the higher levels. It claimed that the “lower” needs, which gives the base, remain the same, while the more abstract needs tend to change as evolution goes along. The popular self-love trend suggests the same. Meanwhile, many studies use the model as a reference point even today. For instance, Groff Paris and Terhaar used it to “attain healthier work environment”. If the pyramid really is in need to be re-organized, the tailoring can affect these works and theories as-well. The base then might be thrown off, and consequently collapse. The Academy of Management recognised this bittersweet aspect of using the model. For a long time, management theories have been applying Maslow’s work to put together management approaches. Now, the Academy published a paper about the drawbacks and possible bad outcomes of this notion. This also creates awareness of the need to keep up to date with the generational changes; just as the self-live trend does. 


The self-centered nature of this movement must be discussed in order to examine its impacts further. Does the circulation of such a self-focused idea bring forward a more developed society? The 21st century has already cultivated a human-centered view of the world. Now, the upcoming generations deepen this belief with this trend. However, perhaps a healthy relationship with one’s self is exactly what humanity needs. The ancient teaching of Tao Te Ching voices, 

“If there is to be peace in the world,

There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,

There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,

There must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors,

There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,

There must be peace in the heart.”

He claims that through this domino effect can benefit humanity, but it must be started within ourselves.


Whichever explanation is correct, the conflict between the Maslow model and the TikTok movement is evidence that the world is changing. In the end, it would seem that the Maslow has to be re-examined in the context of younger generations.


Edited by: Tom Culf


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