Most executives I work with in my coaching practice are familiar with Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The American psychologist (1908-1970) proposed that all humans are motivated to satisfy certain basic needs, and once those needs are secured, they strive to satisfy more needs, eventually seeking self-actualization or the expression of self-fulfillment, to become everything they are capable of becoming.
In exploring how self-confidence contributes to leadership actualization, I found Maslow’s model helpful in explaining why some people find it difficult to climb the pyramid, so to speak. So many of us are stuck between the third and fourth levels. We are busy trying to satisfy our needs for self-esteem so we don’t get to a higher level. But the thirst for self-esteem doesn’t get quenched. We keep on trying to fill our cup with proof of our worth. Without confidence, we don’t satisfy self-esteem needs, and we can’t go on to seek self-actualization. Our leadership potential is inhibited.
Could it be that we are stuck because we haven’t fully met the lower level need for love and belonging? It’s not that we lack relationships—most of us are married, some multiple times. It’s not that we don’t feel we belong—we have our clothes, cars, and clubs to prove otherwise. But I’ve worked in coaching relationships enough to know that some executives are still seeking the approval of a parent figure.
The quest to prove parental scripts wrong or to finally win their respect goes on for as long as memories exist. At a result, a person can devote a lot of energy and drive to achieving goals, and still not feel worthy enough.
This may be why some people struggle with self-confidence in their careers. When you are under-confident, you struggle to meet goals. You are plagued by negative scripts that remind you of your deficiencies. And since self-esteem is built upon achieving competencies and becoming self efficient, you don’t acquire confidence. It’s a vicious cycle.
At high levels of personal development and motivation, you’ve met the basic lower level needs. You are free to be creative and charitable. I’ll share with you here this passage from Robert Kelsey’s book, What’s Stopping You Being More Confident? (Capstone, 2012) because it summarizes so well how Maslow’s model contributes to building self-confidence:
Self-actualization: Charity, creativity, morality, lack of prejudice are all sought once we have…
Esteem: Confidence, achievement, recognition are sought once we have…
Love and Belonging: Friendship, family, intimacy are sought once we have…
Safety: Security, health, employment are sought once we have…
Basic physiological needs: Food, water, air, etc.
Maslow’s view is that high self-esteem and strong confidence will elude us until we have satisfied our requirements with respect to our sense of belonging as well as the support that comes from feeling loved.
What do you think about this? How do you see yourself in relation to the Hierarchy of Needs? As always, I’d love to hear from you. Give me a call, 704-827-4474. Or, you can reach me here and on LinkedIn.