Changing Needs, Changing Hats: Defining and Redefining the Self

The topic of how we define ourselves came up over lunch with a dear friend this week. More than just the different hats we wear, defining ourselves is about how we feel wearing these hats and ultimately what we want that hat to convey to the world around us and the payback we may get from that. It also relates to where we draw our energy and how we spend our energies. Like money, energy flows through and around us. How we define ourselves contributes to that energy flow.

We wear various hats: daughter, mother, friend, lover, partner, employee, business owner, writer, consultant, (profession)...the list goes on. What does that hat say about me? This got me thinking about Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. According to Maslow, we have five basic needs that must be met in a certain order for us to thrive. For example, if I am hungry, I am not thinking about a sense of connection with anything but food!

We are constantly renegotiating our basic needs. And we continuously redefine ourselves in terms of these different needs. Today I may feel the need for more money to properly care for myself, so my job takes precedence. I may thus define myself in terms of how much money I make. This ties in with the first two levels: physiological needs and safety and security needs. My need to feel good about myself and fulfill my self esteem needs based on recognition might have me define myself in terms of what I do as a job or profession.

Let's focus here on our love and belonging or social needs. This one is HUGE. We all have a need to belong--to a couple, a family, a group. And this is where how we define ourselves has the power to put us in a situation of actually giving our power away--for the sake of that belonging! Our society is wired these days. We tell ourselves that cellphones, computers and other devices that purportedly facilitate communication, bring us closer. In fact, these electronics can distance us rather than bring us together if we are not mindful. So we look to belong to something greater than ourselves. We have this need to affiliate with others and be part of something bigger than ourselves. Is where we seek to belong truly representative of who we are, and what we wish to say and have others know about us?

Maslow's final need for self-actualization is what allows us the creativity and insight to express ourselves and our potential as in the way in which we constantly redefine our SELF. Certainly it is our prerogative to redefine ourselves. We redefine ourselves every day, whether we consciously do so or not. Very often it's a messy process. That's how we move forward and evolve in our lives.

What Maslow's Hierarchy need most defines you at this moment? What do you stand for? Does it give you energy or drain your energy? Is that hat you wear truly representative of what you want to say to the world around you?


  1. Great post! Love the part about technology and bringing us apart! So true! Cheers!

  2. This an interesting post, Kelly. Hmmm. It made me think. Although technology has some advantages, and I say "some" because it can give you more headaches than anything else,it can tear apart the nucleus we form as a family and in turn as a society. We're becoming more isolated. Maslow's triangle makes me think of George Orwell's 1984 Oceanian society triangle. I wonder why...


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