The Essential Hierarchy of Self-Care Needs

There is no shortage of articles telling you the importance of self-care. Whether you’re a working mom running between soccer games and a job, an entrepreneur balancing building a business and maintaining your sanity, or just an average person navigating the roller coaster of life, odds are you could use more self-care in your life. But when we talk about self-care, it’s often spoken of as something to squeeze into our schedules if we have time. It can be viewed as selfish or unnecessary. After all, we aren’t going to die for lack of a bubble bath (though some nights it may feel like it!)

But self-care is about so much more than a few hours of stolen “me time.” Imagine for a moment Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. You know the one. It’s the pyramid we all learned about in school that outlines the basic needs of every human being. The pyramid has five levels: physiological needs, safety needs, love & belonging needs , esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. Once we’ve achieved everything in one category, we can move onto the next.  It’s easy to lump self-care into one of these categories. Perhaps you’ll feel inclined to add it to the esteem or self-actualization categories. In fact, self-care is deeply woven into each of these levels, and you cannot fully move onto the next level until that basic self-care need is met.

When you skip out on self-care for too long at any level of the pyramid, you will begin to notice in the form of mental or emotional breakdowns, weight gain or loss, acne, or other physical and emotional changes.

Maslows-Hierachary-of-self-care-Needs

I want to start a revolution in which women across the country and the world realize that self-care is not selfish. It is a core requirement of our being. Let’s analyze the pyramid to see why self-care is so essential.

Physiological Needs (Start Here)

At the base of Maslow’s pyramid, we all need air, food, water, sleep, and excretion. Glamorous, I know. If you are able to take time out of your day to read this blog, it’s safe to assume that these needs are being met. However, in order to maximize your physiological needs, you need to not only get enough sleep, but high-quality, restorative sleep. And instead of eating frozen meals, fast food, and pizza, you need healthy, wholesome foods. Both of these changes are a form of self-care. They are the most important forms of self-care, because they lay the foundation for your career, relationships, hobbies, and all other facets of your life. If you are getting a weekly massage, but you are ignoring your sleeping or eating habits, then you are not getting adequate self-care.

Safety Needs

In the safety category, we have security of employment, family, health, resources, body, and morality. At least a few of these require focused and deliberate self-care efforts. For instance, you cannot have security of health without doing something to care for your health and well-being. Make sure you are making time for exercise. If you are a religious or spiritual person who wishes for security of morality, you need to set aside time for prayer, church, or other spiritual activities. Though these things may not seem like self-care as we often imagine it, they are nevertheless facets of caring for ourselves that have nothing to do with survival.

Love & Belonging Needs

In this category, we have the need for romantic, platonic, and familial relationships. All of these relationships require time and effort. Take some time to identify which relationships give you energy and joy. Each week, take some time to focus on those relationships. Carve out date nights with your spouse or significant other. Have a weekly girls night with your best friend. Take the time. You will be rewarded in stronger relationships that will support you when you inevitably fall on hard times.

Esteem Needs

We all have the need for self-esteem, confidence, achievement, and respect from others. If you have a hobby or skill you truly enjoy, setting aside time for that activity will allow you to feel a sense of achievement and confidence. So take a cooking class, brush up on your Sudoku skills, or do any other activities that bring you confidence and happiness. If you lack in self-esteem, work on self-acceptance through journaling, counseling, or a gratitude practice.

Self-Actualization

We’ve made it all the way to the top of the pyramid! Self-care in this category is a big fat bonus. This is where you get to focus on creativity, reaching your full potential, and discovering the things that light you up. For top of the pyramid self-care, join a dance troupe and perform at your local theater. Try something new that scares you but will broaden your horizons, like bungee jumping. Travel. Paint. Get a massage. Meditate. Take a long, luxurious, deeply relaxing bubble bath just because you can. Whatever you do, do it with pure joy and love in your heart.

We all have basic human needs, and the greatest of these needs is to be adequately cared for. When we practice self-care, we are simply acknowledging that we are worthy of a full, healthy, happy life. When we ignore these needs, we allow ourselves to crumble and burn out. So, start at the bottom, and work your way up focusing on how you can properly care for yourself at each stage of the pyramid. You, your sanity, and your physical and emotional health are all worth it.


Nicole Marie Hunt is a sales and marketing copywriter for coaches, service-based entrepreneurs, and everyone else who lets their heart and personality shine through in their business. She is obsessed with the transformative power of language and the beauty of words. She loves animals, is addicted to coffee, and is still patiently waiting for her Hogwarts acceptance letter.

Learn more about Nicole at www.nicolemariehunt.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/nicolemariehuntcopywriting

Twitter: @stormy_violet

3 thoughts on “The Essential Hierarchy of Self-Care Needs

  1. Too many women do not take care of themselves, especially when they are caregivers (either of young ones, sick family, or elderly family). It can be a real challenge – for a while we may find ourselves lower down on the pyramid unless we seek out help. And sometimes, the help just isn’t there.

    • Very true. I think it’s important to at least be aware of our own needs and try to help ourselves. When caring for my terminally ill Grandmother there was nothing that could change the way I felt or make it an easier but snatched 10 mins sitting in the sunshine or meditating with a candle gave a few minutes peace. Sometimes those few minutes can make a difference to our sanity. x

    • Alana, that is so true. That’s why it’s especially important to build in time for self-care when you feel like you don’t need it. We build up a reserve of self-care to act as a sort of barrier to the biggest stressors of life.

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