What do you want in your life? Funny that I ask, because I’ve posed the exact question in my inadequacy post, and my last written topic was about attraction. On the one end of the spectrum, you might not necessarily know what you want in life just yet, but on the other hand, you also intuitively know what types of relationship you want.
Before I go on, we are all inherently similar, so let’s get all of our required needs out of the way. My friend actually mentioned Maslow’s theory on his blog when he wrote about (artistic) expression, which reminded me of the hierarchy of needs as shown below:
The first two levels, physiological and safety needs, are pretty self explanatory as these trigger our biological and survival instincts. No one has the extra energy nor effort to agonize about not satisfying the upper levels of the pyramid when he / she cannot even live in a sustainable manner. A lot of people are fortunate enough to not have to worry about whether or not they can afford their next meal or next month’s rent. Most of us are also in a relatively safe zone, or at least, an area we are familiar with, which reduces (but doesn’t eliminate, so we still have to be vigilant) our chances of being in dangerous situations.
Once we ascend the pyramid, well, that’s when it turns tricky.
What type of friendships do you want? What type of partner do you want?
These might seem like really silly questions to ask, but have you thought through them thoroughly before?
I believe that it’s actually important to learn more about the self before asking questions about others. I’ve used the Myer-Briggs Personality Test to gauge what type of person I am, and how I react to different situations and relationships. Remember, you’re the one who’s stuck with you in your entire life. Don’t be so hard on yourself. We are all our harshest critics, and we can all seem to nitpick and replay every single mistake (yes, even the ones we’ve made in middle and high school) way too frequently. Self-improvement is laudable, but belittling yourself through every fuck up in the past is unhealthy as it erodes your confidence and security away. You’re not going to be able to stop that, but you can alleviate this through having a healthier mindset.
I used to try and fit the expected mold and wanted a lot of friends. There were times where I was jealous of how popular some people I know were. They seemed to know most people, and ones who didn’t know them gravitated towards these social butterflies. Meeting new people can be as easy and natural as breathing for some, but I was / am definitely not one of them.
I’ve realized (somewhere along the way) that most, if not all, people crave deeper friendships. The simple knowledge of having a good / close friend you are sure you can fall back on when terrible shit goes down in your life provides a sense of security. I’m also pretty sure that you’d pick having these few friends over knowing a hundred, or a thousand mere acquaintances. This is not to say that people don’t enjoy meeting new people or making new friends, but purely an emphasis on priority. We all want strong friendships with people who hold similar core values as we do (this doesn’t mean that you agree in every single aspect – you can have perfectly healthy and robust relationships where you can debate with that other person), but there are exceptions. We form meaningful, long-term symbiotic friendships with some that satisfy our sense of belonging.
Romantic partners are a little bit more personalized and diverse. I’ve mentioned some of the more superficial aspects of a significant other when I talked about attraction. I personally believe that the physical appearance is the easiest criteria for both women and men to achieve, as it’s instinctual for humans. We can see based on first impressions whether or not we’re attracted to someone.
The hard part is what can’t be seen and can only be observed.
Let’s eliminate the universal desire of wanting to be in a healthy, loving, and supportive relationship with that special someone. I’m pretty sure this is what we (or most of us) want.
We all like to think we’re kind, generous, intelligent, humorous…you know, all sorts of positive characteristics (or as much as we can, since we inherently know that we’re flawed, too) that a human being can possibly possess. We also like to display our best self to others, especially during initial meetings for impression purposes. It takes time and effort to know and observe someone through all of his / her actions in order to know what type of person he / she is though. I feel the need to reemphasize that actions do speak louder than words. Anyone can say that he / she misses and loves you as well as all the sweet nothings, but does his / her action reflect what was said? Are these actions consistent? Are you reciprocating?
A healthy relationship (romantically) should be more or less equal. There will be a side that gives a little more than they take, and vice versa, but it shouldn’t be too off. No one should just take and not give. No one should just give and not receive anything in return. The relationship will end sooner than it started.
I leave you with one of the profound sentences that Maya Angelou has left in the world to us:
“When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”
I don’t know about you, but I can pinpoint some of my positive and negative attributes in a more or less objective manner. None of us are perfect, as perfection doesn’t exist anywhere but in our own minds, so we should strive for the second best, which is something that can actually be obtained. It’s important to be with someone whose core personality complements yours. This is why I emphasize the importance of knowing yourself first before delving into all types of relationships. Can you describe yourself with excruciating detail? I mean, you should be able to (and if not, work on it, it will help), and it’s also important to be honest and not sugarcoat anything. You will only be able to know what type of person will work well with you in the long run after getting familiar with that one person who’s going to be hanging around with you till the end of time, so get going.
“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”
– Maya Angelou
Don’t place anyone else above you. I know, sometimes it’s so hard, because you love that person so much. I get it. But why not give some of that love to yourself? Love from family, romantic relationship, and friendships will never be enough for you if you can’t even appreciate yourself (even if it’s just a little).
After all of what I just wrote above, is there really the need to explain esteem needs?
Okay, I’m kidding. Esteem is important. What does prestige and feeling of achievement even mean?
What do you strive to be in terms of career and as a person?
We all have different definitions of success. We all have different goals as well as directions in our lives. That’s pretty obvious. Once we satisfy our lower tiered levels from the hierarchy, we can’t help but to try and impress our harshest critic – ourselves.
No one wants to feel like they’re born into this world and existing without a purpose and taking up extra oxygen. We want to be involved with causes, activities, people, and industries that we are drawn to. We want to have a thriving career in a sector that we’re passionate about. We want to excel in our hobbies (whether it’s a type of sports, or language learning, or even beating your own record time solving a Rubik’s cube). We also want to live by our own values.
Essentially, these main actions produce a significant something called self-esteem. We believe in our own worth through achievements that are considered as important milestones to us. We also respect ourselves by following through or avoiding certain actions based on our values. For instance, I’m taking steps to be more honest not only to myself but also to others – especially people I care about, and this is one of the deeds that makes me respect myself.
This level, along with belonging and love needs, are both continuous.
We strive to improve all of our relationships. We meet people and get more and more familiar and attached to them (hopefully this is a mutual thing, if not – that is being creepy). We distance ourselves from some others, and although it hurts at times, we heal, grow, and cherish what existed.
We spend those extra hours practicing and learning to hone our skills just a little bit more. We willingly do overtime at work sometimes to see if we can complete an extra task, as these little steps of additional labor might lead to a promotion or a new potential. We take classes to absorb new knowledge and broaden our horizons. We make decisions that might not be the easiest to make, but deep down we know that they are the right ones to make that align with how you perceive yourself (obviously, there are still a lot of people out there who consciously make terrible decisions that hurt not only others but themselves, too).
The core difference between these two levels is one is about how strong your relationships are with others, and the other is about how strong your relationship is with you. Let that sink in for a bit.
The icing on the cake is self-actualization. This level is more or less a desire more than a need. I believe not obtaining self-actualization wouldn’t make one feel like he / she is inadequate or make one dissatisfied with life, but without it, there’s less…drive. It’s probably like living life to half or two-thirds of one’s potential.
The definition of potential from the Oxford Dictionary is:
- [attributive] Having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future.
I think it’s pretty straightforward.
Are you counting your days pass by with monotony? Or are you living?
Before I offend anyone, by living, I don’t mean going on spontaneous international adventures or splurging on designer products or going to fancy restaurants. Perhaps some do define these activities as living, but I think of them more as lavish activities (granted, there are some methods to travel to another country in a low budget, as my best friend just traveled around the world for over a year).
Are you doing the things that frighten you? By this, I don’t mean for you to face your phobias directly, as they might result in a panic attack. I mean, I’m scared shitless when I see a cockroach, and you bet my initial reaction is to run. I’m not going to feel like I’m reaching for a potential in my life when I confront a cockroach. This is closely related to the next question, too. By things that frighten you, I mean to do the things you‘ve always wanted to do but didn’t have the courage to before. Trust me. It’s scary. I know. We are all facing the same type of fear for different challenges. I don’t think I could run a half marathon, I don’t know if I can, but I signed up for it. It scares me, but I feel the drive to do it.
Are you breaking your comfort zone (obviously, with your own pace)? This would be to do things you typically wouldn’t, because you’re scared of rejection or humiliation. I’ve done that actually for the first time…I’d say, one and a half to two months ago? It’s silly, but I felt the spur of courage to tell someone how I feel, and it was extremely liberating. The result isn’t the ideal one that I want, but that’s how life is, isn’t it? Outcomes will sometimes be good, and sometimes be different from what I want them to be (I wouldn’t necessarily call them bad, you know, maintain the glass half full instead of the glass half empty mentality sometimes). They might change in the future, anyway, but the point to note here is that I’m escaping my habitual actions, because routine only leads to one result.
Are you doing things that are meaningful to you? Don’t get me wrong. Netflix binges are meaningful to me, and probably to you as well, but I mean it in a long-term sense. Are you giving back or providing something of worth to your community or surroundings? Are you making an impact and a change? What is the magnitude? It states on the pyramid of a potential development of a new focus or helping others. Once a lot of the basics are achieved, we tend to want to leave a mark in the world for as long as we can. This is why people invent, create, and express (through music, literature, art, and much more).
Are you striving to be the person you want to be? This one is a bit related to the esteem level, which is why self-actualization is directly above it. There are less requirements for one to obtain self-esteem than for one to obtain self-actualization. Respect can be earned in many different ways and through simpler (not saying it’s easy, but it’s more concrete) methods. Reaching one’s potential essentially means being the best version of yourself. Are you working on doing that? We’ll never be exactly satisfied with anything, so this version is ever changing and evolving, which means constant work. Are you putting in the effort?
We develop and mature from exposure to different experiences, so it’s no surprise that we’re consistently changing. It’s whether or not you are able to grow and modify yourself after these events.
I do think these are some core questions to ask yourself if you’re wondering about self-actualization. Of course, no one knows precisely what his / her potential is.
There are a lot of physical factors that come into play, such as geographical location (which is tied to culture and society – unfortunately, women are not treated as equally around the world, but is especially obvious in certain countries) and background (the higher socioeconomic status one has, the more resources and connections one can potentially get). It is without saying that there are more possibilities for those who are better off. The world is not fair at all.
There’s also other factors that may hinder you, which may be toxic relationships (yes, people do drag you down on purpose, and you get used to it and it turns into a vicious cycle where you can’t leave), mental illnesses, or insecurity / confidence / personal issues. Let’s not forget, just because one cannot see certain issues, doesn’t mean those problems are not as significant or debilitating. We are all fighting our individual battles, so it doesn’t hurt to be a little kinder or empathetic to others.
Even though there are people who possess a higher chance of a “better” outcome, it doesn’t mean that you are deprived of something great, too. Remember, others may seem great on the outside, but you’ll never know their true state unless they’re completely candid with you (and that itself takes a lot of courage). The power of stubbornness (or a better way to describe it: grit) can take you a long way as long as you are consistent. There’s even scientific research on the importance of grit and how it correlates to success. The little uphills and improvements do matter and will make a difference.
So if you’re able to read this blog in a safe environment, without needing to worry too much about surviving in general, have healthy (or at least, you’re trying to have) relationships in your life, and you’re maintaining and working on your esteem needs…well, you better fucking work on reaching for your potential self. It’s not going to be easy, but it’ll be worth the fight.
Stop wanting, and actually be the person you’ve always wanted to be.