“A[n] assumption of self-actualization theory is that it very strongly requires a pluralism of individual differences…. Such a true acceptance of individual differences has several key implications that should be stated briefly… it means that we try to make a rose into a good rose, rather than seek to change roses into lilies.” –Abraham Maslow, creator of the famous hierarchy of human needs, in an unpublished essay written in October 1966 called “Critique of Self-Actualization Theory.”
“Helping people fulfill their unique potential” is a fair description of parenting – or at least how I see parenting. But it also applies inwardly as well as outwardly. The only hope I have for my children to grow into confident, resilient people who know how to live and love well, who can dare to be their best selves, is to actually BE that person.
As I said in a podcast I recorded Thursday (with the charming and wonderfully open-hearted Paul Sating), *being* is the foundation for *striving*. We can (and do) lumber through life, broken and limping along, getting done what needs doing, but just as we recognize that children need love most of all – more than anything else we can give them; love is primary – that’s what we need as well. I need to be able to say to myself, “I am enough” and just dwell in that thought (daily, if not more often). From that foundation of knowing I’m enough, just as I am, imperfect today, I can grow from there, striving and reaching for the things that make life worth living.
And when we start from that place of being imperfect but enough, then we can more easily accept the uniqueness of others, and help them grow into the most beautiful rose they can be.
I often say “put your own oxygen mask on first” – that’s not an exhortation to selfishness (as our modern world understands it). It’s a fundamental statement of how living has to work. Bringing our own unique potential into being in the world is the foundation for being of service to others.
Maslow updated for 2017: