In our continuing series on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we come upon the pulsing, urgent center of all human drives; the one that so often keeps people up at night and has them writing poetry and songs (or at least reading and listening to them). I’m talking about our sense of Love and Belonging. For the sake of ease and swiftness, we’ll group both aspects of this topic into “Love.”
In the classic self-help trailblazer How To Make Friends and Influence People, author Dale Carnegie makes the point straight out the gate that every single human being wants to feel important. Think of what a powerful word this is: “important.” He doesn’t say “famous.” He doesn’t say “powerful.” He doesn’t say “attractive.” Naturally, all such things are commonly craved by the human ego.
But Carnegie says important, because when you think about it – yes! – everybody does want to feel that way. And the fastest way to pour water on people’s sense of importance is by either criticizing them or leaving them out. We see that a sense of importance is a Social drive. We can’t feel important on our own, in a basement somewhere (although many Internet trolls certainly take their best shot at doing so). In order to feel important, we have to be important – which means we have to Be Important To Someone Else.
It’s no accident that social media has taken over the world. We’re almost all on there, in our own ways, trying to be and seem important. The effects of social media are so pervasive that it can make us feel important by allowing us to post flattering material about ourselves, or make us feel important through our efforts to interact with others. It can even make us feel important on the sidelines by either unplugging our accounts or not participating much, which has the net effect of saying, “Oh, I can’t play with you all; I’m too important!”
Point being, human beings are social animals and our sense of importance is entirely rooted in social activity. Naturally, the utmost in social standing is being Loved. This might take the shape of us finding an intimate life partner, or it might go grand-scale and have us being Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Teresa. Most of the time, it’s probably somewhere in between. We probably have intimates, along with “fans” – for lack of a better word. And I’m not talking about Instagram fans. I’m talking about people who might appreciate us at the workplace, in our communities, or perhaps simply as friends.
What Happens When We’re Not Getting This Basic Need Met?
It’s nightmarish, right? In a way, a starved heart is more painful than a starved belly. Sure, we need to be healthy and we need to be safe, but once those elements are in their rightful places, we need Love. All of us. Without exception.
What Do We Do When Love Is Lacking?
It all goes back to the topic of being Important. We should ask ourselves, if we’re running low on Love, are we truly being helpful to those around us? Oftentimes, people slip into ruts wherein they stop appreciating the social nature of the human animal. In other words, they withdraw from society. They don’t know where they fit. It’s just not working out, it seems.
But I guarantee you that if you come at the Love game from the vantage point of being useful, and thus being Important, Love will flow your way in many forms. Sure, being “useful” doesn’t sound terribly exciting or romantic, but if you look at every single soul on Earth who knows love, you can bet that he or she is providing real-life value to someone else; from cooking their breakfast to picking them up from school to legislating for major changes at the county level, or to singing songs that knock listeners sideways.
Give, Give, Give, Give. That’s the only path to community (all shapes, all sizes), and community is the only path to Love.