The high position of esteem needs in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

How and why do we protect our self esteem?
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The high position of esteem needs in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs reflects the importance accorded by him to self-esteem in our quality of life. Without high self-esteem, we cannot, according to Maslow, proceed to realize our full potential (‘self-actualization’). Equally, this importance is reflected in the work of the other great humanist psychologist, Carl Rogers, who was concerned to afford his clients unconditional positive regard. In his view this is a fundamental human need. Before you can accept yourself, you need to see that others accept you.

Self-esteem is the disposition to experience oneself as being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness. It is confidence in the efficacy of our mind, in our ability to think. By extension, it is confidence in our ability to learn, make appropriate choices and decisions, and respond effectively to change. It is also the experience that success, achievement, fulfillment-happiness-are right and natural for us. The survival-value of such confidence is obvious; so is the danger when it is missing.

Self-esteem is not the euphoria or buoyancy that may be temporarily induced by a drug, a compliment, or a love affair. It is not an illusion or hallucination. If it is not grounded in reality, if it is not built over time through the appropriate operation of mind, it is not self-esteem.

The root of our need for self-esteem is the need for a consciousness to learn to trust itself. And the root of the need to learn such trust is the fact that consciousness is volitional: we have the choice to think or not to think. We control the switch that turns consciousness brighter or dimmer. We are not …