It wasn’t Maslow’s fault. He just identified the fact that people have a hierarchy of needs, and he put them in a pyramid.
At the bottom are survival needs — for shelter and food. Above these are the “nice to have” needs — for love and esteem. At the top of the pyramid he put self-actualization — the need to find your purpose and, like totally fulfill your potential.
So far, so obvious. If your night-time accommodation is a grubby sleeping bag in a shop doorway and your last meal was an out of date sandwich, you’re probably not spending too much time searching for a high flying job or fretting about the lack of a soul mate. You need to cover the basics first.
Similarly if you don’t have the love of a group of friends or the respect of your peers, you’ll be wondering what you’re doing that’s pissing everyone off. You’re probably not spending a whole lot of time on your ultimate, maximized potential. Right?
There is a kind of madness going on at the moment causing vast numbers of people to behave like confused lemmings, leaping blindly to the top of the pyramid.
In their mesmerised state, they fall victim to a new kind of predator – the love child of the New Age Philosopher and the Internet Marketeer.
“You are special. You can be, do and have anything you want. You just have to BELIEVE, and of course BUY my fairy dust, then you can FLY to the top of the pyramid.”
Obviously “Believe AND buy” is a contradiction, but that’s never stopped an entrepreneur, so let’s move on.
After six weeks of a Mastery program (Mastery = buzz word) you can…
Build a six figure business (why is it always six figures? What’s wrong with an actual number or an original phrase?)
Grow your database, expand your reach and have your own army of fans (for therein lies fame and glory.)
Get a six pack or a thigh gap and attract the alpha partner of your dreams (the double whammy of “gorgeous” and “with somebody gorgeous”.)
But what about the old ladder of success? The one currently leaning against Maslow’s pyramid. What about the love and esteem stuff in the middle? No problem, because the internet has that covered. It allows you to leap over these needs by providing digital alternatives.
INTERNET LOVE This means you don’t have to invest time in people who might actually love you. Internet Love can be bought with GIFS, gifts, cards, emojis and an app reminding you when and where to click stuff to. Specially curated playlist? Thanks Spotify! With the time saved, you can now love a thousand people in the same time it took you to love half a dozen.
INTERNET ESTEEM No need to acquire esteem from something real — like working hard, doing routine things with grace or being respected by colleagues, a community, or even yourself. Internet Esteem saves so much time! It can be bought with a database, an affiliate marketing plan and a P.R. guru. With the time saved, you can now impress tens of thousands of people.
This has changed the game on the pyramid. No more steps up ladders to the top, just snakes selling oil (with small print that says, Caution — could cause slide to the bottom.)
A lot of people are unhappy right now. Not only are they not maximising their potential, they are disappointed by their lack of results, and when they see Instagram pictures of people who are “totes nailing it” they believe that this is ALL THEIR FAULT.
But it’s not.
Snake oil is making them feel unwell. Internet Love is making them feel lonely. Internet Status is making them feel depressed. (New research reveals that the more time people spend on social media, the more they are likely to become depressed.)
“Great!” Say the Internet Marketeers…more needs we can capitalise on! We must make Lonely and Depressed the new buzz words. Such a business opportunity! Let’s get cracking, making products and solutions. We can add a whole new niche to the lucrative self-help market.
Spiritual Lite for the busy millennial.
Madness. And the Marketeers say the people they’re selling to are the ones with the mental health issues.
Our minds are incredible, but no-one really taught us how to use them. Our minds are able to imagine a better future and also feel remorse for past mistakes. This sets us apart from every other living thing on the planet. It means we don’t have to wait for the evolutionary P45, we can take charge of our ascent to higher consciousness all by ourselves.
But if we can’t rise to the challenge of this upgrade, we’ll become easy pickings for the snake oil sellers.
Imagination and memory are powerful tools when we learn how to use them.
IMAGINATION If we can’t imagine the way we want our own life to be, and we can’t THINK CREATIVELY about how we’re going to get there, it’s easy for someone else to sell us their life — hence the proliferation of “lifestyle” brands. Make just one choice of a brand you like (eg Gwyneth Paltrow) then buy Gwyneth endorsed everything… clothes, books, inner peace, food, vitamins, even sex dust… yes, really.) Saves so much time!! No need to use our own imagination. The end of confusion and ALL THOSE DAMN CHOICES.
MEMORY If we can’t process our past mistakes, we certainly won’t want to spend ANY time in the middle of Maslow’s pyramid. Because…
Love We’ve all acted without kindness and integrity. This gives us an opportunity to forgive ourselves, forgive others, step up, and become a better friend or lover. If this is too difficult, we’ll just leap into the arms of Internet Love.
Esteem We’ve all been lazy and narcissistic. Unfortunately, discipline, patience, and humility, can’t be delivered by the three fairies at birth. Bippity Boppity Boo. They have to be earned. If this is too difficult we’ll swop real status for Facebook Status — likes, re-tweets and recommends. SEE SOMEBODY THINKS I’M GREAT.
In their own journey to adulthood, children are constantly asking “Why?” As adults we’ve learnt not to voice the Why? (lest people think we’re foolish) so we whisper it internally. And the answer whispers right back.
When we are bombarded by the “Maximise your Potential!” message, a voice inside whispers “Why?” And another voice whispers “Because…”
“Because you’re not smart enough, not slim enough, not rich enough, not good enough and more recently… not spiritually enlightened enough.”
The last one is the strangest of all. In addition to Internet Love and Internet Esteem, we now have Internet Spirituality. This is the kind of spirituality, which is very photogenic. Yoga poses in luxury resorts; smiling orphans in Rajasthan; a hand painted bowl filled with organic blueberries, chia seeds and hemp milk. This kind of spirituality requires a hefty budget for international travel, designer jeans (so distressed) and Wholefoods.
Spirituality is ultra competitive at the moment. It’s also cool because it announces to the world that you’re at the top of the pyramid. It’s supposed to signify “I have achieved every goal and now I just want to give back.” But give back to who?
Sadly, the answer is often Marketeers, who are right now calculating your next need. (I think that’s how we got to the ridiculousness of the sex dust.)
Save yourselves from this madness before it’s too late. Don’t let your insecurities become someone else’s retirement plan. You’re fine. You’re more than fine. You’re perfectly flawed… because perfect doesn’t exist.
- Flex your imagination and no day will be ordinary — despite the absence of a six figure salary, a six pack or a sick global online presence.
- Love as many people as possible. It’s the portal to the other side of the looking glass. (Narcissism is so over rated.) You are what you love,not what loves you.
- Be kind. It costs nothing and creates waves that reach far and wide. A dent in the universe doesn’t have to come from something big and flashy.
- Step away from the social media. There’s nothing to see. And it’ll still be there when you come back.
- Learn to love ladders. They give a constantly changing view on the way up and a solid platform to enjoy it from. This is not the same as an internet platform, which is basically made of air.
- Laugh more.
Pretty soon, you’ll catch sight of yourself in the mirror and realise you’re with someone you like.
Voila! You are actualised! *
*You are an actual person, not a bot.