Meeting Basic Needs: The Foundation of Personal Growth


Do you ever ponder why you’re not experiencing the level of personal growth, happiness or fulfilment you desire? You might even blame yourself, feeling like you’re not good enough or trying hard enough. But here’s something to consider: have you ever stopped to think that maybe, just maybe, it might be because you’re not meeting your basic needs?


It’s easy to overlook this connection, but the truth is, your well-being is deeply intertwined with whether you’re meeting those fundamental requirements for a healthy and balanced life.


In western society, the relentless pursuit of success and achievement often overshadows our fundamental human needs. The constant bombardment of external pressures can lead you to neglect the basics that underpin your well-being.


Meeting your basic needs before striving for higher goals is crucial for sustained personal growth and health. This concept, deeply rooted in therapeutic principles, emphasises the importance of addressing your foundational needs to build a stable and fulfilling life.




Understanding Basic Needs


We can visualise human needs as a hierarchy, famously represented by Abraham Maslow’s work. At the core are physiological needs, such as food, water, and sleep. Above these are safety needs, including personal security, health, and financial stability. Higher up are social needs, like love and belonging, followed by esteem needs, which encompass respect, self-esteem, and recognition. At the pinnacle is self-actualisation, the realisation of personal potential and self-fulfilment. Maslow’s hierarchy relates to motivational theory – he believed people feel motivated to achieve the next level when they fulfil the current level.



“It is quite true that man lives by bread alone— when there is no bread. But what happens to man’s desires when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled? At once other (and ‘higher’) needs emerge and these, rather than physiological hungers, dominate the organism. And when these in turn are satisfied, again new (and still ‘higher’) needs emerge and so on. This is what we mean by saying that the basic human needs are organized into a hierarchy of relative prepotency.” Maslow, A.H. 1943




Neglect of Basic Needs


It’s easy to believe you’re somewhere near the top of the pyramid, because you’ve met a semblance of your basic needs. For instance, you may consume food of your choice regularly, exercise for half an hour every morning, sleep every night in an oversized comfortable bed with fluffy pillows, and have heaps of WhatsApp groups with many friends.


But what if your food lacks essential nutrients for optimal health? What if you follow exercise with ten hours in front of a screen, and sleep happens around life? Maintaining social connections digitally means you belong, but it doesn’t replace the depth of face-to-face interactions humans need.


This oversimplified perception leads to a mistaken belief of high levels of fulfilment when you’re merely scratching the surface of your basic needs. If you fail to acknowledge the depth of basic needs, you neglect crucial aspects of well-being, trapped in a cycle of confusion and dissatisfaction. Mass media narratives and societal norms that prioritise external markers of success over internal fulfilment and basic needs exasperate this understanding.


Reconnecting with the true essence of basic needs and understanding their nature is essential for fostering genuine health and happiness.




Doing the foundational work in therapy


It’s essential to recognise the significance of the foundational work. Prioritising your basic needs before striving for higher aspirations isn’t just a recommendation; it’s a fundamental aspect of fostering sustainable well-being. In a world that often glorifies hustle culture and achievement, it’s easy to overlook the importance of slowing down and tending to your most basic requirements. Neglecting these foundational needs can hinder your ability to thrive and flourish in all areas of life.


Consider the analogy of building a house. Before constructing the upper floors and adding elaborate decorations, you must ensure the foundation is solid and stable. Similarly, in your personal development journey, you must first lay the groundwork by meeting your physiological, safety, and emotional needs. This means nourishing your body with nutritious food, ensuring you feel safe and secure in your environment, and creating tactile connections with others.


In the context of therapy, this principle is paramount. A therapist cannot guide you towards higher levels of self-actualisation or fulfilment without first addressing your lower-level needs. When you try to build the house without a solid foundation, the structure will collapse under the weight of unsupported aspirations. You must work collaboratively with your therapist to create a sturdy foundation, providing tools and support to address your basic needs before delving into deeper issues.


So, when you ponder why you’re not experiencing the level of happiness or fulfilment you desire, pause and reflect on whether you’re truly taking care of yourself at the most fundamental level. Do you get adequate sleep and nourish your body with nutritious food? Do you have healthy relationships and set boundaries where necessary? These are the questions that form the cornerstone of genuine personal growth and fulfilment.





I’ve come to understand that true knowledge isn’t just about the letters after my name or the timeline of my academic pursuits. It’s about the stories shared, the moments of vulnerability, and the human connection that transforms both you and me. As an ex chaser of certificates, I have a few to share with you here.

I am a member of the CNHC and an Anxiety UK registered therapist.