Esteem needs are the fourth tier of needs on Maslow’s hierarchy. They refer to the needs we have for either respect, admiration, and acknowledgment from others; or self-respect.
The lower-level esteem needs are the needs that involve explicit social acknowledgment. To achieve these needs, you need other people to think highly of you. Examples include winning awards, having a respectable title, or owning an expensive car.
The higher-level esteem needs refer to the need for self-esteem. This might involve meeting your own personal goals in the gym, knowing that you’ve achieved mastery at something, or feeling career satisfaction.
Lower Level Esteem Needs Examples
Lower level esteem needs refer to the need for respect and admiration for others.
1. Awards and Honors
We’ve all seen those award ceremonies on TV where celebrities are given Oscars, Golden Globes, and Emmys. But there are many other kinds of awards that people can strive for.
There are awards for everything from academics to athletics to business. Even a university degree can be a symbol of esteem.
The important thing is that the award is a way of receiving recognition from others. It is a way of boosting one’s self-esteem and confidence because you are seen as someone who is of high regard by people in your community.
This is why businesses proudly show trophies or certificates on their walls that show public recognition for their products or customer service.
The ultimate goal for many people is to achieve fame. Although it is often associated with celebrities, anyone can become famous. In the age of social media, it is easier than ever to become an overnight sensation.
All it takes is one viral video or picture to make someone a household name.
Fame is desirable to many people because it is a way of gaining the respect and admiration of others. That, in turn, boosts a person’s self-esteem.
Here, we can see that fame goes beyond having a sense of belonging (which is the tier below on Maslow’s hierarchy – social needs). It is a sense that you’re towards the top of the social group and recognized as a remarkable person within society.
3. Subscriber Counts and Retweets
In the social media age, we are constantly being bombarded with numbers. The number of likes on a Facebook post, the number of Twitter followers, and the number of YouTube subscribers.
Some people become obsessed with these numbers because they equate them with success. The more followers or subscribers you have, the more successful you must be.
While this may not be an accurate way of gauging success, it is a way of measuring social status. And having a high social status is a way of boosting self-esteem. It could also open doors for you, such as getting you invited into exclusive events or as a guest on podcasts.
4. Titles and Salutations
Titles and salutations demonstrate your esteem in society. For example, if you are addressed as “Dr.” or “Professor,” it shows that you have achieved a certain level of expertise in your field.
If you are addressed as “Your Honor” or ” Your Eminence,” it signifies that you hold a high position in the hierarchy of your particular organization.
These titles and salutations are a way of showing respect to the person. And when you are respected by others, it boosts your sense of your own ability and power within society.
5. Holding a Record
A record that a person gets esteem for can be anything from a world record to a local or school record. For example, children in school athletics often want to be the person to break their school’s record for being the fastest runner or swimmer.
Holding a world record is a step up, and comes with higher esteem. It is a way of showing that you are the best in the world at something. Needless to say, this is a huge confidence booster. And it is something that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
World record-holders who we might say have high esteem include Usain Bolt (fastest 100m dash), Michael Phelps (most Olympic gold medals), and Miley Cyrus (most VMA wins).
6. Being the First at Something
Being the first at something is another way of gaining esteem. It could be being the first person in your family to go to college, or the first person in your town to start a successful business.
When you are the first at something, it shows that you are a trailblazer. You are someone who is willing to take risks and forge new paths. This is a highly admirable quality and one that will earn you the respect of others.
This is especially true if you’re the world’s first person to do something. For example, you’ll often see on television reports of someone being “the first woman to” do something or “the first person since” someone famous who has done something.
7. Career Advancement
A lot of people choose a career because it is respected in society. Becoming a doctor or engineer is difficult. For those that are persistent and smart enough to succeed in those professions, they receive a lot of recognition.
It makes their parents proud and in most social circles those professions are respected and admired. Those careers are honored in society and this respect becomes internalized. Respect from outside becomes respect from within.
A career choice is an excellent example of how people strive to achieve success in Maslow’s level four. People will go to great lengths to attain the respect of others. This makes us feel good about ourselves too, and according to Maslow, is a key component of our emotional well-being.
8. Cultural Respect
Every culture contains the concept of “respect”. Although showing respect can take vastly different forms, the underlying meaning of the term is very similar. When social scientists see a concept that exists universally in nearly every culture, it signifies the importance of the construct to the human species.
Living in a multicultural world also requires that we understand the nuances of respect and its many forms. This can involve a delicate balance. What happens when showing respect in a foreign country also means doing something completely against your value system?
The self-identity and self-esteem of a person is heavily tied to their culture. Not being respectful of a culture means not respecting the person that comes from that culture. As Maslow would agree, the respect of others for our culture is central to our self-esteem.
9. Recognition at Work
Being recognized for achievements at work will make us feel proud of ourselves. It gives us more confidence and the respect (and envy) of our colleagues. This is one reason that a lot of companies have “employee of the month” awards.
At the end of every year, large corporations will have banquets that honor certain employees for their accomplishments. These awards often come with a plaque or certificate. Someone in HR or perhaps even an executive will give a short introductory speech about the employee.
The speech will contain a lot of flattering remarks about the recipient, followed by a round of applause from the audience. This kind of recognition will be a tremendous source of pride to the employee. It will surely boost their confidence and make them feel better about themselves.
10. Status Symbols
One way of getting the respect of others is to drive an expensive car. Although not discussed a great deal, competition among neighbors is ever-present. Everyone is aware of what kind of car their neighbors drive.
The urge to show off with the purchase of status symbols isn’t just limited to automobiles. Women will buy famous luxury brand items from LV and Prada. The super-rich will often try to outdo each other with private planes and yachts the size of a mansion.
Owning something that has prestige is a way of boosting one’s own self-esteem. It is a way of gaining the respect of others by showing that you are successful. Whether it is a noble way of gaining respect is another issue entirely.
11. Technology and Gadgets
Similar to status symbols, having the most recent technology and electronic gadget is another way of getting the respect of others. In tight-knit circles there is clear competition for who has the most recent smartphone or game console.
Having last year’s model is a blow to one’s social status in the group. When a new version of a highly valued tech product is about to be released, many people will get in line the night before no matter the weather.
The importance of not being left behind and obtaining the latest model is paramount. To have an older model means being taken down a notch in social status.
12. Business Success
There is no question that having a successful business is a major source of social esteem. It requires hard work, dedication, and often a bit of luck. The rewards can be great both financially and emotionally.
People will often respect a successful businessperson because they’ve achieved something remarkable. For example, 60% of businesses fail within 3 years. This means that a successful businessperson has beaten the odds. They’ve shown remarkable skill, knowledge of the market, and ability to execute their vision.
These people have, furthermore, managed to escape the ‘rat race’ and don’t have a boss anymore. They’re the masters of their own destiny, which is an enviable thing to have!
13. Being Wealthy
Wealth is often seen as a sign of success. And when you are successful, you are usually held in high esteem by others.
While wealth does not necessarily equate to success, it is often seen as a marker of success. After all, achieving wealth usually requires a fair amount of talent, hard work, and dedication.
Being wealthy also comes with a certain amount of power. And with power often comes respect.
So, even if you haven’t earned your money through your own hard work, you’re still seen as someone who has something of value, and therefore seen with esteem.
For example, everyone knows people like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos, because their extreme wealth is something that a lot of people look at and dream about having for themselves.
Higher Level Esteem Needs Examples
Higher-level esteem needs refer to self-respect and self-satisfaction.
14. Strength Training
Going to the gym is good for one’s health. It is also good for our self-esteem. Making progress over time, being able to lift more and more weight, and getting stronger, also makes our self-esteem stronger.
It can also make other people respect us. If a person is fully committed to working out and becomes quite strong, with bulging biceps and shoulders as wide as a truck, people around us will be impressed. It is easy to see the admiration in their face. When that happens, we feel much better about ourselves.
Strength training is good for our physical health as well. When our body feels good, we feel good, and that also builds self-confidence.
A quick search of books on Amazon, using the term “self-improvement”, showed over 60,000 results. That’s a lot of books. A quick perusal of the titles reveals subjects about self-love, stopping negative spirals, mental toughness, and how to grow rich, just to name a few.
There are a lot of people that struggle with low self-esteem and want to learn how to get better. Reading a book that gives advice and a plan for how to gain confidence and improve your self-image is an option that a lot of people pursue.
These books are a perfect example of the centrality of positive self-esteem. It is essential to being happy and feeling confident.
16. Career Satisfaction
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has many applications to our careers. It seems that every level in his hierarchy relates to our lives at work.
For example, at the most basic level, employment enables us to purchase food and water. In addition, work is where we will establish connections with other people and feel a sense of belonging.
It is also where we get a sense of accomplishment. Working hard and overcoming difficult obstacles builds our confidence. When we see ourselves meeting challenges it gives our self-esteem a tremendous boost as well. It also earns us the respect of our colleagues and those in leadership.
17. Night School
What happens if after 10 years at the same company you find yourself still in the same position? We all want to be successful, but when that fails to happen, the impact on our self-esteem and confidence can be devastating.
However, sometimes it is difficult to climb up the corporate ladder because we lack specific skills or don’t have a graduate degree. This can be a very frustrating experience. It certainly can be a blow to one’s self-esteem.
So, a lot of people decide to go back to school. Attending night school or online courses can give someone an opportunity to move up in their career.
Definition of Esteem Needs
Maslow recognized the role of self-esteem and confidence and included them in his theory of human motivation.
In his hierarchy of needs, level four contains the concepts of self-esteem, confidence, achievement, and being respected by others. Esteem needs is the second-highest level in his hierarchy.
If these esteem needs are not met, then a person cannot attain emotional well-being. They will always be preoccupied with these deficits.
So, people are always trying to improve themselves, enhance their self-image and obtain the respect of others.
When we accomplish these goals, we feel better about ourselves. We become more confident and our sense of self is bolstered. When that happens, we are in fact, happy human beings, and can then move on to the next level in Maslow’s hierarchy.
Other Needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy
Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs is a 5-tier hierarchy showing the requirements for living a successful and fulfilling life. The tiers, from basic to growth needs, include:
- Physiological needs – these are the needs for survival such as food, water, and shelter
- Safety needs – these are the needs for security such as personal security, financial security, and health
- Love and belongingness needs – these are the need to feel love and companionship such as family, friends, and romantic relationships
- Esteem needs – these are the needs for self-esteem, confidence, achievement, and respect.
- Self-actualization needs – these are the needs for self-fulfillment and realization such as creativity, morality, and problem-solving.
Without feeling good about ourselves and having the respect of others, it is difficult to be happy. Most people are constantly striving to perform better, climb higher, and advance in life and career.
According to Maslow, this is how we develop a positive self-esteem and the respect of others. When we are successful it builds our confidence. When we have the respect of others, we internalize those feelings and we feel better about ourselves.
Maslow called these esteem needs and there are a lot of ways that people try to meet those needs. We go to the gym, read books about how to improve, acquire status symbols, or work extra hard.
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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.