Like our identities and intentions, our needs and values are usually experienced unconsciously and so we often become disengaged from what we really need and truly value. Instead, we allow pervasive advertising to convince us that our lives are empty and only a market driven solution can truly fulfil our needs. And the disconnected values that we are expected to live and work by are often deciphered from some ancient dusty shrine or workshopped out from a windowless boardroom.
Our needs and values are also contextual, rather than being some fixed hierarchical pyramid as suggested by Abraham Maslow. Our need for self actualization often diminishes as meal times approach and the need to eat becomes more prevalent. Just before lunch, our need for a sandwich may seem to be more valuable than a potential miraculous encounter with a deity. And then after lunch, we continue our ascent up the pyramid to self transcendence. Or fulfil the need for a post-prandial snooze.
The more we become disconnected and disengaged from our real needs and values, the more worthless we feel and the needier we become. No matter how much glittering treasure we accumulate, it seems like we always need more. And no matter how often we try to display our valuables to the world, it never seems like we are valuable enough. From a billionaire’s superyacht to a flash of crimson lipstick, our true needs and values become trapped and unspoken in the shouted trappings of success.
Our real needs unconsciously attract us towards what we truly value. Even as we chase our lifestyle dreams we find ourselves being drawn to glimpses of a bigger dream. A dream where we can give voice to our genuine needs and genuinely value our own worth. And what we all need most and value most is to love and be loved. If the L word seems too heavy, emotional or sensitive, we can use the word respect instead. Our biggest conquest is to respect ourselves and love ourselves.
As Victor Hugo said ‘The supreme happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved – loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves’. The more we respect others, the more respect we have for ourselves. The more love we give others, the more we love ourselves. The more we love and respect ourselves, the more aware we become of our value and self worth. Although there seem to be tempting correlations, our self worth doesn’t depend on our net worth; self worth is infinitely more valuable. All need is unrequited love for the self.